Boston Marathon: The physical back end

Boston Marathon: The physical back end

Every year, on the third Monday of April, Patriots’ Day, a marathon is held in Boston. Commonly known as the Boston Marathon, it began in the year 1897, inspired by the success of the first marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics. It is the world’s oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world’s best-known road racing events.


To plan such a big event, widely known, is a massive responsibility and a hefty job. David Nolan, the associate Clinical Professor and director of the Sports Physical Therapy Residency Program, voluntarily oversees the entire physical therapy care operation at the finish line for the Boston Marathon.

“It’s been really fun to be involved,” Nolan said, “You meet and treat athletes all over the world, and the runners are incredibly appreciative.”

Being a part of the core medical leadership team, Nolan has to start planning for the next marathon almost immediately after the previous one. Many students of the Northeastern University and other colleges volunteer alongside him each year. Through the fall till January, he is required to hold meetings to plan out the strategies for the next Boston marathon and to finalise the group of physical therapy professionals and students who will be delivering care on Marathon Monday.


Since the Marathon is 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 km), there often are cases of medical assistance provided to people with injuries or dehydration. Fatigue, cramping, and heat illness are among the common ailments his team treats.

“One thing that’s stuck out is that very often, if not every year, you meet someone who’s done 30, 40, 50 marathons, and they say Boston is the best. People are cheering for the whole course. You get the impression that other races don’t compare,” Nolan said, talking about his experience.

However, after the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013, the volunteers present at the event are left traumatised. “What made that so impactful is that the race had always been a happy, joyful time in the city, with people celebrating the amazing accomplishments of the runners and raising money for charities. And then you have an event that takes the innocence away.” Nolan and his team try their hardest to provide medical health assistance to these brave souls.


Now, he says, the people have come out in even more numbers than before to honour the lives of the ones we lost to the tragedy. The Boston Marathon has henceforth become a symbol of togetherness and a strong sense of community.


Devika Mulye

Devika Mulye

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