Boston Marathon race director runs coronavirus vaccination effort

Dave McGillivray
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A year into the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are painfully aware that overcoming the scourge is a marathon, not a sprint.

Enter Dave McGillivray, who knows a thing or two about endurance events — and logistics.

The race director of the Boston Marathon, which is on hold until fall, has been tapped by the state of Massachusetts to run mass vaccination operations at Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park.

Idled at his day job by the pandemic, he’s part of an emerging group of event organizers and other unconventional logistics experts who are using their skills to help the nation vaccinate as many people against COVID-19 as possible.

“It’s amazing how our event management skill set can be applied to running a massive vaccination site,” said McGillivray, who has been directing the marathon — with its many moving parts — for more than three decades.

The push for creative workarounds comes as virus cases surge nationwide, lines grow at testing and vaccination sites and tempers flare as government websites crash beneath the digital weight of millions desperately seeking appointments.

Likening it to a “wartime effort,” President Joe Biden announced last week that the U.S. is ramping up deliveries to hard-pressed states and expects to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer or early fall.

Road race organizers are a natural fit for vaccine distribution, said Jean Knaack, executive director of the Road Runners Club of America, which sanctions thousands of road races and triathlons.

“Race directors are the people with the skills needed to get this done quick and orderly,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “The event industry has skills that are being underutilized and should be accessed as part of the much-needed mass vaccination process.”

McGillivray says he’s grateful not only to use his marathon expertise to help end the pandemic but because the state vaccination contract has become a lifeline that’s helping to keep his company, DMSE Sports, Inc., afloat.

“We almost went out of business,” he said. “The pandemic put everything on hold. What we’ve now committed to is arguably our greatest mission ever — saving lives and keeping people healthy.”

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