The quiet heroes
Each Abbott World Marathon Majors race is a seismic operation.
From the first barrier put out on the street to the final banana handed to the last finisher on the course; there is a team of experienced staff supported by an army of volunteers to make each event happen.
In the midst of this unique season where five of our six races will take place in seven weeks, we shine the spotlight on some of the people behind the scenes who help produce the races and experiences that no runner will ever forget.
Time to meet some of the quiet heroes of the Majors.
JOHN KUNKELER – BMW-BERLIN MARATHON
I am 73 and live in Berlin. I am the owner of a famous jazz club in Berlin.
I have been involved with the Berlin Marathon since 1997. I am a member of the organization staff where I take care of the course and its correct measurement. I am an A-grade measurer of AIMS.
I also take care of the music along the course. It started with 10 bands, this year we had more than 90 bands and 1,000 musicians performing.
For me it is not work - it is a pleasure and honor to be part of this event. Berlin has the fastest course in the world. After the wall came down, Berlin is still changing. It is interesting to see the changes in our city continue, but my most memorable moment was the year that the finish line came to the Brandenburg Gate for the first time.
ANDREW SMITH – TCS LONDON MARATHON
I am the Operations Director for the Virgin Money London Marathon and have been with London Marathon Events (LME) for 21 years.
I started with them straight out of university - David Bedford interviewed me in the pub! I joined in an administrative role and then moved into event operations. I was the Finish Director for 15 years and have steadily progressed to my current role. I also got to oversee the start and finish of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Marathons.
Our Vision at LME is about inspiring activity. The operations team ensure the stage is set and built for those everyday people completing the marathon and therefore inspiring people at the road side or at home.
One of my most memorable moments was organizing the finish for Michael Watson who completed the London marathon over six days in 2003. Michael, a former professional boxer, suffered life changing injuries in the boxing ring was told he would never walk again, so to witness the courage and determination he showed that day will live with me until the day I die.
The London Marathon means the world to me, it’s an honor to have worked on so many.
LARRY MAHER – BANK OF AMERICA CHICAGO MARATHON
My name is Larry Maher and I am from Bensenville, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. I am a native Chicagoan and I work as a salesman for a communications company.
My first involvement with the marathon was as a runner in 2001, as a runner which was also my first marathon. I have since run it two more times. My first involvement as a volunteer was in 2005. I served as a volunteer tour guide on the bus, answering runner questions and giving them information they would need at the Expo. The following year they assigned me to the information booth at the Expo. After several years I became a Key Volunteer at the Expo and on race day I serve as a captain of the Harrison Information Tent.
There are many “best parts” of being involved - I volunteer for a great staff, I serve with wonderful people, I deal with motivated, fit runners and help them accomplish a difficult task.
One of my most memorable moments was in 2017. I helped a woman named Jennifer retrieve her lost bib so she could run the race. After she ran the race, she stopped at my tent to say thanks. The following year she ran again and she showed up on race day with cookies for me.
In 2019, I was given the Volunteer of the Year Award. I was shocked, surprised and humbled. I volunteer with great people and to even be considered for that award is more than I could ever imagine. It made my year.
ALAN GRAZIOSO & PATRICIA ALVARADO NÚÑEZ - BOSTON MARATHON
We are Co-Captains of the professional runners’ fluids at the 15km mark for the Boston Marathon which is in Natick.
We met 23 years ago in Boston. I (Alan) am from a small town in southern Connecticut and Patricia is from Panamá City in Central America. In 2009 we decided to volunteer for the 113th Boston Marathon and this year we will celebrate 11 years as part of the team.
The best part of the Boston Marathon is the massive community of volunteers, runners, and officials that get together annually in a ritual fashion to make Boston’s great race happen. It is wonderful to see fellow volunteers’ welcome new participants, eat a few donuts, and get our tables and bottles ready for the runners who rely on us for their fluids. The anticipation and the excitement are palpable.
We have many, many memorable moments. One year, we had terrible weather and were hit by a thunderstorm and pouring rain around 7 am. We were freezing and wet but a local resident invited us to take cover on her porch. As soon as the storm passed, we were ready for the professional athletes coming our way.
We look forward to volunteering at the Marathon every year. It’s become our spring ritual. This coming marathon is extra special since we had the COVID-19 interruptions. We get so much satisfaction as Boston Marathon volunteers and we are very proud.
ETSUKO YAMAMOTO – TOKYO MARATHON
My name is Etsuko Yamamoto, I am 48 years old and I live in Tokyo with my husband and 13-year old son.
I oversee Volunteer Management and Charity Administrations at the Tokyo Marathon as well as being Director of Civic Relations – a new department established earlier this year. I am also a runner myself – finishing seven marathons. In 2007 I wanted to run the Tokyo Marathon but was too late to enter and instead applied for volunteer leader training. I ended up getting a full-time job in the Volunteer Staff Center with Tokyo Marathon and have enjoyed it ever since.
The best part of my job is getting to meet lots of people and working with the volunteers who are so important in creating the image and atmosphere of the marathon.
I was commissioned as a volunteer advisor to the Tokyo 2020 Games Organizing Committee since 2016. We received a contract to recruit 1,500 Paralympic Marathon course volunteers and I was responsible for the management and race-day operations.
I hope that when we host our next race it will be an opportunity to rediscover the powers of sports as we work together to overcome this difficult situation.
GEORGE STAMATIADES – TCS NEW YORK CITY MARATHON
I am 80 years young. I live in Dutch Kills, Queens in New York and I am a retired funeral director. In 1980, New York Road Runners (NYRR) reached out to civic groups for support. The Dutch Kills Civic Association loved the idea and we haven’t missed an NYC Marathon yet.
When we started, it was my job to recruit my volunteers and gather what we needed to manage the 15-mile watering station. We would ask neighboring businesses and residents for electrical sources for our PA system that provided music, announcements, and encouragement to the runners, sometimes in their own language. The night before the race we would go and check for anything that needed to be reported to NYRR.
The best part of being involved - where else in the world can you see the whole world run by you without having to pack and take your passport? You can also make thousands of friends in 12 hours!
My most memorable moment was when Mayor Ed Koch stopped by whilst running to ask “How am I doing?” We answered’ “How are you doing?” and he shouted “GREAT!”
I am looking forward to getting back with all the volunteers, friends, and the WORLD to have the best time ever this year.