On Nov. 7, 2021, the Amateur Radio Club and other members of the NJIT community left campus early in the morning en route to the New York City Marathon. At the marathon, a group of ## amateur radio operators from across the university joined hundreds of others to volunteer as emergency communicators along the marathon’s 26.2 mile course.
This year, the New York City Marathon celebrated its 50th event, marking a return following the cancellation of the 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants and volunteers could be seen wearing special merchandise to commemorate the milestone.
NJIT’s Amateur Radio Club, K2MFF, has been volunteering at the New York City Marathon since ####, often providing a large number of volunteers for the event. This year, nearly 10 percent of the amateur radio operators at the event were part of the NJIT community.
Using analog and digital two-way handheld radios, volunteers were able to relay information of events happening on the course to “mile captains,” who could request medical and logistical help for runners in need. NJIT had volunteers in miles 21, 22, 23 and 24.
Mile 24 was the base camp for operators from the university. Led by Peter Teklinski, WW2I, associate CIO for Infrastructure and Security at NJIT, the mile makes up part of the Central Park section of the course. Despite the mile being at the end of the course, setting up its communication infrastructure began hours before the first wave of participants even began their first mile.
Amateur radios can operate entirely independently of existing communication tools like cell phones and the internet, making them a great choice for reliable emergency communications. That said, having powerful equipment, like the large antenna sported by mile 24 every year, allows for more reliable communication between the mile captain and the volunteers on the ground.
At mile 21, digital radios were used by volunteers to report issues on the course to their mile captain, John Romano, N2NSA, a long-time leader during the marathon over the years. Jonpierre Grajales, KD2OJR, a fifth year computer science and physics student, was one of the mile 21 volunteers.
“The marathon is an inspiring testament to humanity’s endurance and perseverance. Seeing people from all walks of life come together to overcome the 26 miles across the various boroughs of NYC and being able to aid them as a volunteer, through encouragement and technical support, has been a fulfilling experience.”
That encouragement could be seen throughout the course, and especially for participants rounding the turn past “the last bridge,” the Madison Avenue Bridge that connects the Bronx with Manhattan at the 21st mile marker.
While the race officially ended at 8:30 p.m., volunteers were released mile by mile as the majority of the participants had passed through. Mile 21 was released at 6:00 p.m., 10 hours after the race began, with the final NJIT volunteers leaving the course an hour later, heading back to Newark.
Grajales said, “Being able to use the skills that NJIT’s Amateur Radio Club has taught me at such a renown event is extremely rewarding! Seeing the faces of not only the participants but of their friends and families makes the hours standing in the cold worth it!”
If you are interested in volunteering at next year’s event, or are interested in learning more about amateur radio, please reach out to NJIT’s Amateur Radio Club by email at firstname.lastname@example.org!