More than 10,000 volunteers will line the streets of New York on November 6 to hand water and shout encouragement to runners trying to finish the world’s largest marathon.
Flavia Scarano of Italy and Sumei “Miyako” Xu of China will be among them. Both came to the U.S. to work as au pairs for families in the New York area through an exchange program that lets them experience America while caring for host families’ children and taking classes at nearby colleges.
“I think every runner in the world wants to run this marathon,” says Scarano, 27, who is excited to play a part in the race.
Nearly 10 percent of the volunteers at the 2016 New York City Marathon will be exchange visitors like Scarano and Sumei, all part of a program commonly called the J-1, for the type of visa that allows them to come to the U.S.
Volunteering at the marathon is “an opportunity to meet people from all over the world” while helping some 50,000 runners trying to finish the course, Scarano says.
Sumei, 24, from Shanghai, hopes to see, close-up, the willpower that runners muster to cross the finish line after 42 kilometers. “I will help them by doing everything that I can,” she said.
Exchange volunteers from many other countries will be there too, including Argentina, Austria, Australia, Brazil, Switzerland, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Spain, United Kingdom, Italy, Finland, Mexico, France, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Slovakia, Thailand and South Africa.
Vilma Rodríguez, 29, from Mexico, volunteered in 2015. She says she hopes this year’s groups remember to wear warm and comfortable clothes and, more important, that they “have a willing heart … to achieve the objective: being helpful with a positive attitude.”
Yingling Fu, 24, of Shenzhen, China, is going into the experience with the right attitude. She says she will cheer the runners, take lots of photos and simply “enjoy the moment.”