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BOSTON — Dave McGillivray runs his Boston Marathons the same way he directs them: behind the scenes.
For three decades, after the race is over and workers are sweeping up the confetti, McGillivray has quietly stolen away to the start line in Hopkinton and run the entire course in the dark.
Monday will mark his 30th such “solothon.” He’ll be running it to raise money for a foundation set up in memory of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest of three spectators killed by bombs planted near the finish line in 2013.
The Associated Press caught up with Boston’s longtime race director ahead of next week’s 121st running of the marathon:
AP: How did your tradition of doing these solitary Boston Marathons in the evening after the main event get started?
McGillivray: I got the job as technical director of the marathon in 1988. I had run 15 consecutive Bostons up until then. Then I started running them at night after my job was done. So this will be 30 consecutive years running at night — and my 45th overall Boston and 146th official marathon. With all the training runs and birthday runs on the Boston Marathon course over the years, I think I’ve now run this entire course over 80 times.
AP: Which years stand out the most to you, and why?
McGillivray: Running or directing? If directing, that would be my first year. Then of course the 100th (anniversary race in 1996) when the field went from 9,000 to 38,000. And then 2014, the recovery year. If running, my first for sure was the one I’ll remember the most. Also, in 2013, I had to run it 11 days later, so that was pretty emotional.
AP: If you’re running the course after the marathon, you’re missing out on the electric atmosphere. Don’t you feel like you’re running the course but you’re really not running Boston?
McGillivray: That’s my little secret. I’m really not missing any of that. I ride a lead motorcycle during the race, so I still experience all of that. Then I store it in my head and when I run at night, I just pretend like it’s still all happening to me. I do enjoy the calm after the storm and the serenity and tranquility of the aftermath.
AP: But by the time you’re out there, the crowds are gone. Isn’t it a little lonely?
McGillivray: (Laughs.) Yeah, by the time I start running, people have been out there a long time enjoying themselves, if you know what I mean. By then they’ve had two or three. One time I ran past a couple guys and one yelled out, “Hey, you slug, why don’t you pick it up?” His friend elbowed him and said: “Shut up! That’s the race director.” I felt like Steve Martin in “The Jerk” when he sees his name in the phone book: “I’m somebody now!”
AP: Tell us about 2014. Did you feel like Boston was rightfully reclaimed after the tragedy of 2013?
McGillivray: It was epic. No one could have written a better script. All the tributes, great weather, huge crowds, expanded field and Meb (Keflezighi), an American, winning. We didn’t forget those who were profoundly impacted — but we did reclaim our race, Boylston Street and our finish line.
AP: Will there ever be a day when the race is so well organized you’ll be able to run it in real time with the rest of the 30,000 runners?
McGillivray: My No. 1 priority of the day is helping to manage the race for the other 29,999 runners, not me. It’s become my little tradition to run it at night now, although I must admit as each year passes by it gets a little tougher. I started this 30 years ago when I was in my earlier 30s; I’m 62 now. I’d like to run it again during the day with everyone else one of these days, but it might have to wait until I retire from directing it.