Emotions run high in Hopkinton for Boston Marathon
Maury Matteodo is no stranger to road races with deeply emotional ties: The annual "Matty’s Run" has been hosted by Berkshire Community College for more than 20 years and is named in honor of his father, the late Maurice "Matty" Matteodo.
After graduating from Pittsfield High School in 1971, Maury Matteodo began a career at General Electric, which led him to move around the country with his wife, Debbie Barzottini Matteodo, who also is a Pittsfield native.
For the past 26 years, the couple has lived in Hopkinton, a town of about 15,000 best known as the starting point for the Boston Marathon.
The drama soon to be played out on Patriots Day is not lost on the former PHS gridiron standout. Hopkinton, the towns along the race route, and the city of Boston itself are all on alert this year as the event hopes to rally back from last year’s finish-line bombings that claimed three lives and injured dozens, many severely.
"I can remember last year very clearly," said Matteodo, now retired from GE and self-employed. "My wife and daughter had gone out to watch the start of the race, and when they returned, Debbie said to me that if someone wanted to do something bad, it would be quite easy to accomplish that because of the density of people at the start of the race.
"We went out for lunch later, and it wasn’t long before we heard about the events in Boston as they unfolded."
There is, added Matteodo, both a sense of pride and anger about this year’s Boston Marathon. In Hopkinton, you can sense the emotions. The race needs to be run so that the horror of last year can partially be put to rest. It’s for that reason, Matteodo said, that people want to be involved with this year’s event.
But, others aren’t as sure. Said Matteodo: "There is an element who are taking a pass this year."
Henry Allessio has seen a little bit of the world. The Pittsfield native who grew up in the Lakewood section of the city and his wife, Judi, also a city native who grew up near Berkshire Community College, have lived in Hopkinton for 34 years and watched the community double in size.
The fact that Hopkinton sits at the intersection of the Mass Pike and I-495 and still maintains a rural feel has made the town a real estate hot spot.
"I’m familiar with Grand Central [Terminal] in New York City and I’ve commuted on the Long Island Expressway," Allessio said. "I can tell you that compared to the Boston Marathon, those places are like Iowa cornfields."
The Allessios have been involved with the Marathon in one way or another during their three decades in Hopkinton. It’s been rare -- if at all -- that one of them hasn’t witnessed the start. They were fortunate in 2011 to secure seats in the VIP section at the race’s finish line. People in those same seats suffered severe injuries as a result of last year’s bombings.
It’s a thought and image not lost on the couple. Still, it’s the frenzy at the condensed starting area and not the sporadic pace of the finishers that now weigh heavily on their minds.
"Make no mistake, the start of this year’s race is going to be a security nightmare," he said. "The density of humanity is always extreme."
Allessio said if a terrorist was intent on creating a headline, then it’s the start in Hopkinton and not the finish line that would make the most sense.
"The vision that causes me to pause is when a few minutes before the race they place all the elite runners into an area to let them warm up together. It’s about two road lanes wide and close to 35 yards long. Think about the amount of elite humanity just in that area."
"Security?" Matteodo said, then paused. He was silently weighing the task of providing safety for about 30,000 runners at the start of the Boston Marathon in a town that boasts only about half that many residents.
"It’s not like Fenway Park or in Foxborough where the Patriots play," he said. "People are everywhere in the Marathon. Unlike places like Fenway, there isn’t really any point of entry to post a security check."
Matteodo said that many runners camp out the night before at a nearby state park. The elite runners, he added, get housed for the most part.
"It’s a staggered start," Matteodo said. "Divisions such as women, handicapped and elite start at different times. That helps a little."
There might be about 30,000 runners, Allessio said. "It’s really incalculable."
And that means there will be the usual gallery at the start near the Town Common that will number between 1,000 and 2,000. Within that group will be local police, state troopers and folks in "ordinary clothes," who, according to Allessio, will be sporting close-cropped hair and wearing Oxford shoes as they try to blend in.
There will be, he implied, plenty of security in plain clothes. There will be plenty of that and more all the way from Hopkinton to Boston.
"We had heroes from Hopkinton at the finish line last year," Allessio said. "Two nurses, Jeanette Corsine and Alicia Shambo, were working a triage tent last year at the finish line."
Allessio said the Hopkinton residents worked tirelessly in the wake of the bombings and saved or helped numerous lives. The duo performed heroically and were later recognized for their efforts.
But it’s a scene and notoriety that no one wants this year. Just the noise of energized feet gliding over the pavement will satisfy the Boston Athletic Association and Boston Marathon fans.
"It’s funny," Matteodo said. "The cleanup plan they have in Hopkinton is wonderful. Two hours after the race starts you don’t even know that a race took place."
It’s that silent success that those competing and connected to the Marathon are hoping for this year. It’s hard to imagine that anyone between Hopkinton and Copley Square wouldn’t want the same.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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