Lyle Micheli: 40 years at the Boston Marathon finish line

From marathon volunteer to injury prevention pioneer—it’s all part of Dr. Lyle Micheli’s mission to keep runners and athletes of all types on the field.

Sore quads. That’s one of Lyle Micheli’s memories from the 1975 Boston Marathon. But Dr. Micheli, Director of Boston Children’s Sports Medicine, wasn’t sore from running. As a medical volunteer at what was a “very informal” event in 1975, Micheli spent the day ducking and “limboing” under the ropes marking the last feet of the 26.2-mile run and making sure the athletes were OK to proceed beyond the finish area.

Since that day, running has gained tremendous popularity. The Boston Marathon has increased from a mere 1,000 runners in 1975 to 30,000 in 2015. Micheli has been at the finish line year after year as a way to give back to his beloved city and the historic race.

The medical tent has matured from an informal crew stocked with Bands-Aids, beef stew and water to a highly sophisticated organization, comprised of multiple teams of medical professionals with designated assignments.

Still, nothing prepared Micheli and other volunteers for 2013. “We weren’t equipped with life-saving equipment.”  Forty years earlier, as a member of the U.S. Air Force, Micheli had received evacuation training. It kicked in—he jerry-rigged a tourniquet from a runner’s jacket and triaged injured spectators.

Micheli will be on hand at the finish line again in 2015. While his primary motivation is community service, Micheli and Boston Children’s Sports Medicine staff and patients reap plenty of benefits from their commitment to the race. “We encourage all of our fellows to attend. It’s a model for mass casualty training.” Plus, the doctors learn by observing elite athletes.

In the last 10 years, for instance, the science of injury prevention has emerged. “We’ve learned how various running techniques and different shoes contribute to injury risk. We’re using this information to guide our Injured Runner’s Clinic at The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention in Waltham.”

For more on Micheli’s other accomplishments in the 1970s, learn how he improvised an innovative solution to solve the challenge of reconstructing a torn ACL in growing children.