Arrow-right Camera

Marathon ran into late luck

BOSTON – As he lay in bed in the middle of the night, less than six hours before the first wave was due to start the Boston Marathon, race director Dave McGillivray made a series of anxious phone calls to find out if the weather would match the dire forecasts.

“The decision at 4 a.m. was not to cancel it,” he said Tuesday, a day after the Boston Marathon dodged the worst of a nor’easter and started as scheduled for the 111th consecutive year.

“Everybody said we could never cancel it. Yes, we could,” he said. “It just wasn’t enough.”

High winds and rain buffeted the Northeast over the weekend and sent race organizers scrambling to take care of more than 20,000 runners, along with the thousands of volunteers and officials who are needed to put on the world’s oldest annual marathon.

McGillivray would not say how close organizers came to calling off the race.

“I know the mentality of runners. I’m one of them,” McGillivray said. “We think we can run up mountains and leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

The Boston Athletic Association, working with state and local governments, began coming up with contingencies: making minor changes to the course to avoid flooding or downed tree limbs; delaying the start by up to a few hours; or canceling the event altogether. Because of the logistics, postponing to another day is not possible.

But even as they planned for the worst case, the weather let up. It was 52 degrees with a moderate rain at the start, and though strong headwinds slowed the runners, they were not dangerous.

“Would we all be standing here doing attaboys if what had been predicted happened?” McGillivray asked. “I don’t know.”