THE PATRIOT LEDGER
Josh Nemzer will be running in his 32nd Boston Marathon Monday and he was operations manager for the legendary event beginning in 1997.
Milton runner Josh Nemzer might be slight of stature (5-6, 135 pounds), but in the world of road race event organization, especially the Boston Marathon, he stands tall.
The wispy 59-year-old, who looks 15 years younger, has notched over 130 marathons, including 31 Boston runs, during his 37 years on the road, and honed his race management skills courtesy of the tutelage of his friend, Dave McGillivray, the iconic Boston Marathon race director.
The pioneering McGillivray, who is the president and founder of Dave McGillivray Sports Enterprises (DMSE), manages over 30 major road races a year, with over 75 consultants, one of whom is Nemzer’s son Aaron.
“I’ve worked with Dave since the early ’80s. I got into the event world when Dave, my business partner and mentor, gave me an opportunity to join him and his burgeoning company,” said Nemzer, a 1980 graduate of Northeastern University.
But Nemzer’s ultimate involvement with Boston took some cajoling.
“In 1985 Dave was named by the BAA to be the technical director of the Boston Marathon. And in that capacity, he was always after me to sign on to work the race. I kept resisting. There were plenty of other events to work on, and I just wanted to stay where I was because I enjoyed running Boston so much,” said the married father of two adult children, who has also completed nine Ironman Triathlons.
Finally, in 1997, the native of Brooklyn signed on to work the race, eventually becoming the operations manager for the legendary event. It was also the same year he began joining McGillivray and running the course after most of the runners had finished. It was something McGillivray had begun 10 years earlier.
“We’d venture out to Hopkinton, sometimes in the dark, and start to make our way back to Boston. It was a fun, easy run, said Nemzer, who currently averages 40 miles a week on the roads, mostly as a daily pre-dawn running partner of Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans.
But when the bombs exploded on Boylston Street in 2013, everything changed, including Nemzer’s place of employment.
“After the bombing, the amount of effort that was going to be needed to make sure 2014 was put together well, required someone to be able to devote full attention. Someone to work at it full time and have a laser focus on what was going on regarding all aspects of public safety. It was a position that at the time didn’t exist at the Boston Athletic Association. And they asked if I would come in and fill the newly created position of operations manager,” he said.
So the ageless marathon runner, who also teaches a spin class three days a week at the Boston Athletic Center, left the DMSE organization, and signed on as a full-time BAA employee, focusing on the changes needed to try and ensure, as much as possible, a safe run in 2014.
In the countless number of road races in which Nemzer has been involved, he considers the success of the 2014 Marathon weekend as the absolute pinnacle.
“It was the comeback. It showed the resilience, and commitment of being strong. And I hope 2017 is as good, if not better than 2014, and ’15,” said Nemzer, who left his BAA position after the 2015 race ostensibly to cut back on his hours, taking to heart the old adage “life is too short,” while at the same time establishing his own event management company – Nemzer Event Management LLC.
That way he keeps his hand in event managing, but on a dramatically reduced work schedule.
The marathoner from Milton, who will be on the starting line in Hopkinton to tackle his 32nd Boston, with the goal of running between a 4:15 to 4:30 time, also reflected how the sport of running impacted his life by creating his lifestyle, career, and more importantly leading him to meet his lifelong partner, his wife Rhea whom he refers to as; “the best athlete in the family.”
“Running was one of the reasons I was attracted to Rhea, and she hopefully, to me. We were both runners and I was introduced this way; hey, he’s a runner, and she’s a runner.”
“When I reflect on my career, I was simply a steward for an event that was there before me, and will be there after me. But to be able to contribute to Boston’s increased improvement was very important. And now that my son is working for Dave, I still feel very much connected to it. If I had to sum it all up I’d say simply; I’m a runner,” he said.
For Nemzer that says it all.