Meet Barbara Hemphill P’17

Meet Barbara Hemphill P’17

Barbara Hemphill P’17
Assistant Athletic Trainer
Anatomy & Physiology Teacher

Every afternoon you can find her in the athletic training room, racing around the field in a golf cart or on the bench in the gym or rink. For over a decade, Barb has treated injured athletes with compassion, experience, and a contagious laugh and smile. We sat down with Barb to learn more about her role as a Boston Marathon finish line medical volunteer.

Govs: You are both a teacher and an athletic trainer; can you tell us a little bit more about your hybrid role? How long have you been at Govs? What keeps you wanting to return to Byfield each year?

Barb: I spend about 75% of my time in the athletic training room each week, and the other 25% is spent either preparing for or teaching Sports Medicine - Anatomy & Physiology. This is my eleventh year at Govs. When I started here, I was teaching straight-up Anatomy & Physiology. About five years ago, (Academic Dean) Elaine White P’17,‘21 asked me if I would like to teach Sports Medicine instead, which I have been doing ever since. It is much more closely related to the athletic training side of my job. The kids really enjoy it, and in most years, the majority of my students are athletes and interested in learning more about injury prevention, nutrition, treatments, and injuries themselves. I am happy to say, I typically have at least one student each year who goes on to pursue a career in health science. It is those students and the opportunity to work so closely with student athletes that keep me coming back every year!

Govs: You are from Calgary, Canada. How did you end up in Boston?

Barb: After I graduated from college in Calgary, I decided to travel around the world. I had always wanted to see a kangaroo in the wild, so I decided to head down under to Australia for nine months. I saw a kangaroo on my second day there! I met my husband Stephen in Sydney. We traveled for fourteen more months before returning to North America. I returned to Calgary, and he came home to Boston. Originally we had planned to settle in Calgary but eventually, we decided to live in Boston.

Govs: Do you have a favorite season of athletics at Govs?

Barb: Honestly, each season holds its own joys. Fall is great because we are starting a new school year. Everyone is excited about being back at Govs, and energy is high, plus we get to be outside. By the time the weather starts getting cold, I am ready to move indoors. Winter is a long season because we have few vacations, and the days can be really LONG, but the sports are very fun to watch. By the end of the winter season, everyone is tired and wants it to just be over. Spring is an opportunity to get back outside and breathe fresh air, plus it is a sign that the school year is almost over.

My all-time favorite sport is JV girls hockey because those kids are out there simply having fun. I think most kids in competitive sports forget about that aspect of sports—simply having fun. 

Govs: The Boston Marathon is one of the largest annual sporting events in New England; how did you get involved? What is your role?

Barb: I went to school to become an athletic trainer when I was much older. When I was in my second year (2006), one of the third year students asked if I would be interested in being a volunteer for the Boston Marathon. That first year, I worked on the wheelchair sweep team, which is the group that scoops up athletes who are struggling after they have finished the race and are well beyond the finish line. Most of them just need help for a few minutes, but the ones in more serious trouble get taken to Tent B (the smaller of two medical tents). The next year, I worked in Tent A (the medical tent immediately after the finish line), helping athletes who were in distress as they crossed the finish line. I now work under the media bridge right at the finish line, helping athletes after they have crossed the finish line.

Govs: How long have you been a finish line medical volunteer? What motivates you to volunteer each year?

Barb: I have been a Boston Marathon finish line medical volunteer for 17 years! I took a year off in 2015, two years after the marathon bombing, because my head was just not in the right place. I really missed being there except for the weather, which turned out to be cold and miserable that year!

I enjoy watching people cross the finish line, particularly those running a marathon for the first time. The mix of emotions that crosses their faces, from giggles, which immediately turn into hysterical crying, then back to giggles and then amazement that they actually are done, is really fun to watch. I look forward to that every year!

Govs: Many of us have cheered along the marathon route but never been at the finish line? What’s the scene like at the finish line?

Barb: The first athletes to cross are the wheelchair athletes who absolutely fly to the finish.  Next are the elite runners who are simply exciting to watch. These athletes run 26 repeated miles faster than most people can run one mile as fast as they can. My favorite part is the post three-and-a-half-hour runners. These are not the elite runners but everyone else. One of the common occurrences of marathon runners, when they stop running, is their legs try to keep running but kind of become jelly-like. They walk, sort of, but it ends up looking like the Texas Two Step, or they start listing off at an angle. They can cramp up pretty quickly if they stop. The finish line medical volunteers jump in but ALWAYS from the side so you do not get hit with any possible stomach contents, we offer a shoulder, and walk with the athletes until they get their walking legs back. We talk to the athletes while they recover and then when they are ready, we send them on their way. Occasionally, there are more emergent situations, like an athlete passing out, cramping completely up, has exertional heat illness, or, rarely, a cardiac event, but the majority just need a little help to keep them going.

Govs: Do you have a favorite story from volunteering at the Boston Marathon? (e.g. meeting a famous person, an athlete’s triumph over adversity/injury, seeing Govs people, etc.)

Barb: Every year is memorable. If I know someone is running, I tell them where I will be. I always stand in the right side chute at the finish line to help them remember where I will be with “Women are ALWAYS RIGHT!” Last year was a big year for Govs runners, and I got pictures with most of them. I have had a couple of years where someone I know, but did not know was running, ran straight into me! Samara Gallagher ‘17 did that to me last year. It always makes me giggle. What are the chances when there are 30,000 runners and I am walking up and down the finish line chutes that I run into someone I know? One of the first years I worked in the chutes, I walked right into a woman who was a friend from my hometown, Calgary, Canada.

Finish line with Amy Block '06


Govs: Have you considered running it?

Barb: I have considered it. I ran the Disney Marathon in 2002, so I know how it feels to run and to finish. When I watch some of the runners as they cross the finish line, I remember…oh yeah, I don’t EVER need to do that again!

Govs: Thanks, Barb!


Finish line with Brandon Barcomb