Special volunteer at NYC Marathon
Once again, the New York City Marathon is set to be the premiere fall sporting event in this town.
More than 50,000 runners are expected to traverse 26.2 miles through the five boroughs on Nov. 3 as they complete the final step of a monthslong, grueling journey to the finish line in Central Park.
Along the way, spectators will flock to offer their encouragement to their fellow New Yorkers and to those who have traveled from near and far to compete.
Truly, though, the MVPs of the day are the scores of volunteers who allow for a smooth operation on race day — especially the dedicated men and women who work the hydration stations to ensure the runners are getting much-needed fluids on the course.
Canarsie native Alix Day is the organizer of the Mile 4 hydration station in Brooklyn on Fourth Avenue between 64th and 62nd Streets. The former Holy Family parishioner has been in charge of that spot since 2016 and is extremely grateful to the 80-120 volunteers who help out at that station each year.
As a freshman at South Shore H.S. in 1987, Day ran on the track team and was inspired by his math teacher, Corinne Sbarbaro, and track coach, Phil Zodda, to help out at a marathon water station. Day must have enjoyed the experience, because he’s volunteered every year since – including the four years he attended Auburn University in Alabama.
“I’ve always volunteered and was a student who was involved in lots of programs,” said Day, who now lives in Lynbrook, L.I., and attends Mass at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ozone Park. “Giving back and being accessible and available to volunteer was always something I did. That was something that was instilled in me from my days at Holy Family in elementary school. It was a perfect fit.”
When he took over four years ago, Day, a financial adviser for Q6 Advisers, kept the process the same, because it had been working well for the almost 30 years before. He said setting up early and keeping things organized are the keys to running a successful water and Gatorade station during the Marathon.
At one time, Mile 4 was the first and largest hydration station on the Marathon course. Though no longer the first station, it’s still the largest as the three different starting routes all converge on that point. As a result, it’s a much-needed pit stop for many runners.
The water and Gatorade the volunteers provide is, of course, helpful. The station, however, is much more than that. The volunteers pride themselves in acting as a support system for runners attempting to conquer the mountain ahead of them.
“The support and encouragement can’t be matched,” Day said. “It’s energizing; it’s electrifying; it’s actually emotional for some. For many people, whether they’re running for a charity or a cause or their own personal goal, they’ve never undertaken a task of this proportion before.”
With still 22.2 miles to go at that point, that encouragement fuels the runners just as much as the fluids. Day said he loves seeing runners perk up when they hear their name called by someone they don’t even know personally.
“The Monday morning after the Marathon, my shoulders hurt from all the high-fives,” Day said. “The inspiration and the camaraderie never seem to wane.”
Each year, Day always looks forward to the “treat” of seeing runners wearing Halloween costumes along the route. He also enjoys seeing the familiar faces of family members and friends running in the race.
Though there’s not much down time that morning, Day will continue his tradition of taking a step back to realize the magnitude of the situation. After the elite runners pass through, he repositions himself at the top of the station in the middle of the island on Fourth Avenue.
“I just look out and await the masses … the wave of humanity,” he said. “The first few start to trickle and then it becomes more of a flow. And then it becomes a massive wave. At that moment, I take a deep breath and say, ‘This is cool!’”
Once again, Day is eager to cheer on his fellow New Yorkers on Sunday — and also to make sure to keep them hydrated so that they can do their best.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.