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Preparing the course for the marathon

By Shira Springer
Globe Staff / April 15, 2011

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When houseguests visit, you tidy the rooms. But what happens when nearly 30,000 runners and roughly 500,000 spectators gather along 26.2 miles? How do you clean up for them? That is the challenge facing the eight communities along the Boston Marathon course and race organizers every spring.

“Not only are we responsible for making sure everything is safe for the runners, the spectators, everybody that comes to town, but we’re on camera worldwide,’’ said Mike Mansir, Highway Manager for the Hopkinton Department of Public Works. “We want to make sure things look the best that they possibly can, so everybody has a good impression. We want to be a good host to everybody.’’

Hopkinton officials keep awfully busy prerace, from sweeping streets to polishing the “The Doughboy’’ statue near the start to repainting traffic lines to hanging American flags along Main Street. Other communities also want to be ready for race day and their close-ups.

Coming off a long, harsh winter, town and race officials had to deal with sand-covered roads, pesky potholes, and other inconveniences. But with years of experience and constant planning, they have spring cleaning down to an efficient routine that generally ramps up a few weeks before the runners arrive.

Around April 1, town officials start inspecting the portion of the course within their jurisdiction. As the officer in charge of Brookline marathon planning, police Captain Michael Gropman and representatives from the Brookline DPW undertake multiple inspections of its roughly 2 miles of racecourse. Public safety officials also review worst-case scenarios.

“I go over the course at least four times,’’ said Gropman. “The first time we look for defects in the roadway. The next time we look for anything that might cause confusion. The third time we go over the entire barricade and rope plan — how many barricades will be used, how much rope will be used. Then, there’s a fourth time where I go over the course with commanding officers and we decide what is the appropriate deployment plan based on our after-action report from last year. Every year, we look at what we can do better.’’

Other communities have similar inspections, race-day plan reviews, and repair work, ensuring the route is smooth for all competitors, especially the wheelchair athletes.

“It’s a big day,’’ said Wellesley Police Lieutenant Jack Pilecki, whose town oversees about 4 miles of the course. “The last thing you want is a wheelchair going out of control because they hit a pothole. And you don’t want it happening in your town.’’

SHIRA SPRINGER

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