Mattapoisett Road Race: How Do They Do It?

How does a small seaside village successfully run a five-mile race with 1,000 runners on the morning of the 4th of July? One word: Volunteers. There are over 100 volunteers who play a role in the success of this race.

There are the individuals on the Race Committee – all volunteers – who spend almost the entire year getting ready for the race. Everything about this race involves tremendous behind-the-scenes work. Current Race Director Bill Tilden ran his first race in high school, which led him to become a track coach and athletic director. He became a member of the Race Committee, and when Dan and Holly White decided not to direct the race, Bill quickly volunteered to take on the responsibility. According to Bill, “to be part of the committee that puts on such a tremendous road race makes me very proud.” But people don’t leave the race completely. Dan White still serves on the Committee, as do Bob and Doris Gardner who were there at the very beginning in 1971. The Race Committee gets sponsors, does PR, creates race applications as well as scholarship applications, maintains the website, makes scholarship decisions, ensures there are adequate volunteers on race day, and designs race shirts – the list is endless.

The night before the race, volunteers set up Shipyard Park, man the tents for registration, hand out shirts, runner numbers, and copies of the race route. Race morning comes early for the volunteers who are there to handle registrations and organize the start of the race. Morning duties also include unloading the fruit truck filled with 40 watermelons, six cases of bananas, and three cases of oranges. These volunteers then grab their knives and cut up the watermelon and oranges, which is a job that takes a couple of hours and produces sticky, sore hands. But at the end of the race, runners are so happy to find something to replenish their dwindled energy.

Along the race route, more volunteers are directing traffic, managing the crowd, checking on injuries, and providing encouragement. Ed Walsh has been a volunteer for 30 years for two reasons: “Scholarships” and he sees “many friends and former students.” And, in spite of his long association with the race, Ed has never seen the race begin or end, but he’s not complaining. In addition to the volunteers along the route, numerous residents are cheering the runners on, playing music for them, providing water and a refreshing spray from the hose.

Earlier the question was posed, “How do they do it?” It is done because so many people are willing to donate their time and energy to something they believe is important and to be out at the crack of dawn on July 4. As race committee member Caty Fuerman so succinctly puts it, “Who wouldn’t want to be involved in such a great event?”

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