BOSTON (CBS) – On a day when millions of eyes are fixed on the Boston Marathon, these are the 200 that are most important.
They are the Race Spotwatch and Spotters’ Network Team. Made up of 100 high school and college students representing 17 high schools and universities throughout Massachusetts, they are the eyes of the Boston Marathon for WBZ-TV from start to finish.
“They provide the color in places I can’t see,” WBZ-TV’s Lisa Hughes said, now in her fifth year as the voice of the Boston Marathon. “Their observations are invaluable. They make it possible for us to get information faster than any other media outlets.”
Many will be assigned at each mile along the Marathon route. Some will be at the finish line, while others remain in the WBZ studios in Brighton. The 100 spotters are responsible for tracking the progress of runners and relaying accurate and timely information back to the WBZ control room.
The information does not just include who is leading the races and what times they pass though. The Spotters also pass along observations for Hughes and the rest of the WBZ crew, like which runner looks determined to catch up, who has the biggest (and loudest) support group, and who looks like they’re going to have a tough time crossing the finish line?
“What they do is enhance our coverage,” Hughes said. “They are the eyes in the course when the race starts.”
Race preparation for the spotters begins weeks in advance. Two weeks before the race, they gathered for an hour-long info session at WBZ-TV in Brighton, learning what their jobs will entail and getting to meet WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton, along with the spotters network co-founder Fred Tressler.
The comes Marathon Monday.
For the spotters, their day starts bright and early at 7 a.m. at WBZ in the Spotters Network Studio. They each head to their respective mile markers, and go through separate rehearsals (broken up into three groups) before a final dry run just before race time.
The lingo is much different than one would expect. Men are now “boys” and women “girls” to avoid any confusion. Spotters radio in to the studio as soon as they see the lead vehicle approaching; identifying themselves, what mile they are located at, and which race they are reporting. They count down how many meters away the approaching runner (or group of runners) is until they pass by, which is signaled with a “Mark NOW!”
Luckily, the runners are not referred to by name but instead the number on their bib.
Hundreds of people give their all to make WBZ’s Marathon coverage the best there is, and the spotters are an integral part of it all.
The Spotters Network was founded in 1985 by Tressler and former Boston Marathon race director Tim Kilduff.
WBZ-TV is the only station with start to finish coverage of the 117th Boston Marathon starting at 8 a.m. Monday, April 15.