Winter never gives up on New England without a fight. But come April there are two sweet signs that spring has finally arrived: The Red Sox take the field at Fenway Park, and 20,000 runners gather in Hopkinton, Mass., to run the Boston Marathon. I'm there too – I've photographed the last 12 marathons professionally for various clients. Before that, I did it countless times for fun. But it wasn't until 2003 that I discovered Dave MacGillivray.
The Boston Marathon gets underway at noon in Hopkinton, Mass., as eager runners jog over the starting line.
John Rich / John Rich Photograph
MacGillivray is the Boston Marathon's race director. Since 1988, it has been his job to make sure that the world's most prestigious road race goes off without a hitch. Thousands of runners, hundreds of volunteers and about one million fans lining the 26-mile course through seven cities and towns – it's a big, big job. MacGillivray himself is a lifelong runner and elite athlete. Now in his early 50's, Dave has more than a lifetime of athletic accomplishments. He's completed 118 marathons, 8 Ironman Triathlons, and once ran across America (3,452 miles in 80 days) to raise money for cancer research.
On a day filled with personal and collective rituals, MacGillivray has one of his own: In the late afternoon, after most of the Marathon's participants have finished and his duties as race director are done, he returns to the Hopkinton starting line to run the 26-mile course himself. In 2004, MacGillivray's 18th straight year of doing this, I spent Marathon Day documenting his extraordinary achievement.
At 8:30 p.m. on mile 17 of the Boston Marathon, race director Dave MacGillivray runs with friends in the Newton Hills.
John Rich / John Rich Photography
Covering the marathon is a logistical ordeal. Security is understandably tight, and even those with credentials find access tightly restricted. Road closings make driving anywhere near the course a nightmare. But with careful advance planning, my assistant (and son), Duncan and I were able to keep up with MacGillivray for 15 hours. Very early on a warm Monday in April we drove out to the marathon start in Hopkinton and found Dave, who had been on the job since 6 a.m. Throughout the morning, I tagged along as he went through his pre-race rituals of things to check on and people to check with, while Duncan camped out on the starting line, saving me a prime shooting spot. Just before noon, as the main field of runners was about to start, MacGillivray hopped on the back of a motorcycle to follow the lead pack into Boston. We waited until the starting gun had fired, then Duncan and I hit the back roads from Hopkinton to Boston where I shot the winners as they crossed the finish line.
Dave MacGillivray checks the setup of the runners' corrals, near the starting line, early on Marathon morning.
John Rich / John Rich Photography
Around 3 p.m. I met up with Dave again in a Back Bay hotel room as he changed into his running gear. Then, it was back out to Hopkinton and the beginning of MacGillivray's own marathon run. He was joined by Team Trek USA, a group of his marathoner friends and colleagues, who were using the marathon that year as a training run for a charity relay across America later in the spring. We drove most of the route alongside them, except for a five-mile stretch where I leapfrogged by bicycle ahead of the runners to photograph them as they made their way through Wellesley and the hills of Newton. When Dave MacGillivray crossed the finish line it was his 33rd consecutive Boston Marathon finish. His best time was in 1978 when he ran a strong 2 hours and 30 minutes.
I arrived back home around 11 p.m. that night. Exhausted, I put my feet up. Then I thought about what Dave had done on this very long day. Suddenly, my feet didn't feel so bad.
Dave MacGillivray will be back on the job at this year's Boston Marathon, April 17.