Numbers climb in the marathon Steep statistics: Even without centennial hoopla, Boston's big race requires enormous quantities of food, equipment, police and medical personnel and volunteers.

November 26, 1995|By Mary G. Ramos | Mary G. Ramos,DALLAS MORNING NEWS

Staging the Boston Marathon is an effort that resembles a major military operation.

In an average year, it involves almost 5,000 volunteers, 570 medical personnel, 500 barricades, 40 delivery trucks, 200 buses, 5,000 bags of ice, more than 1,000 uniformed police officers, 170 massage therapists, 70 physical therapists, 100 podiatrists, 20 tents, 400 tables, 200 two-way radios, 65 shuttle buses. And 8,000 balloons, 24,000 feet of ribbon, 130 country flags, 58 national anthems.

There are 13 YMCA water stations with 75 volunteers at each one to deliver almost 20,000 gallons of spring water and 20,000 gallons of sport drink in 350,000 cups to the athletes. It takes 750,000 watts of electricity to keep the broadcast media supplied with power. And most of the numbers will be tripled in 1996.

Spectators in 1996 probably will see this year's winners in action again. In the men's division in 1995, Cosmas Ndeti of Kenya won his third Boston Marathon in a row in two hours, nine minutes, 22 seconds. Uta Pippig of Germany won the women's, her second straight Boston victory, in two hours, 25 minutes, 11 seconds.

Carbo-loads

On the eve of the Boston, runners, their families and other guests enjoy an all-you-can-eat pasta dinner, which is free for contestants and at a nominal charge for accompanying family and friends. In 1995, the diners carbo-loaded on 5,800 pounds of pasta, 2,000 quarts of tomato sauce, 20,000 rolls and 4,000 pounds of salad.

A runner's bib number is assigned according to the official qualifying time submitted with the runner's application. At the starting point, roped-off corrals identified by bib numbers hold the runners in approximate order of their running speeds until the starting gun sounds. It may take runners in the back of the crowd 15 to 20 minutes just to reach the starting line. In '96, who knows how long it will take them?

Although the course descends a net 380 feet -- from 490 feet above sea level in Hopkinton to 10 feet at Copley Square -- there are hills on the course, the most notorious of which is the aptly named Heartbreak Hill. Actually a cluster of three or four hills, Heartbreak ascends 52 feet between miles 16 and 21, at a point on the course when many runners are about out of steam.

This difficult journey is cherished by those who make it. Unlike some other marathons, with clumps of onlookers interspersed with great gaps of no one at all, more than 1.5 million cheering fans line every step of the route at the Boston.

The runners pass through eight towns: Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline and Boston. And in each town, people are three or four deep. Between towns, they are one or two deep.

The watchers urge all the runners on with words and applause, not just the athletes they know. Some of them hold out food treats to the runners; others, particularly small children, hold out their hands to the athletes for a high-five.

Speeding up

The runners cannot always remember exactly what each town looks like, but everyone remembers Wellesley. That's where they are assailed by a deafening roar. It's the Wellesley College women encouraging the athletes. Most of the runners probably are encouraged to speed up just to escape the noise.

Some people who live along the race route hold race-watching parties, with grills, tables and chairs set up in the front yard. The food odors wafting across the race route sicken some runners, tantalize others.

Every year, unofficial runners join the official competitors. Some of these "bandits" run the entire route; others jump in somewhere along the way.

The Boston Athletic Association is devising plans to curtail the banditry in 1996 in an effort to keep an already crowded course from becoming gridlocked. Access to Hopkinton may be strictly limited to runners, volunteers, race officials and media with credentials.

Information about access to the start and finish lines will be detailed in the confirmation brochure sent to participating athletes in February.

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