Town Trails, Roads Host Endurance Event: Tough Ruck 26.2 

April 21, 2023

Compared to Monday’s Boston Marathon, the buildup was muted, spectators were sparse, and the route was circular.

But the more than 800 participants who marched, jogged, and trudged through Bedford and three neighboring towns on Sunday endured at least as much as the thousands who ran the Boston Marathon on Monday. 

For one thing, many of them carry loaded backpacks. After the 2013 terrorist bomb near the Boston Marathon finish line, officials have prohibited backpacks from the main race.

Indeed, Tough Ruck 26.2 Boston is held in partnership with the Boston Athletic Association annually on the weekend right before the storied race. Tough Ruck 26.2 finishers receive official Boston Marathon medals. Entry fees and donations benefit the Military Friends Foundation.

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The event is marketed to active military, veterans, and first responders, but civilians are welcomed as well. This is its second year in Bedford.

Bedford firefighters supported the ruck with rescue crews stationed in three strategic locations. Chief David Grunes said he used the occasion for disaster training. Police and Public Works Department personnel were also involved with the endurance event.

The 26.2 miles started and ended at Fenn School in Concord. Participants first entered the town on the Minuteman Bikeway from Lexington, then headed north at Depot Park on the Narrow-Gauge Trail across The Great, Springs, and Pine Hill roads to Fawn Lake. Then the route doubled back to Depot Park and headed west on Railroad Avenue to McMahon Road and the sidewalk on the south side of Concord Road.

The sidewalk ends at Caesar Jones Way, and for the remaining mile to the Concord line, the speed limit was reduced to 20 miles per hour and travel lanes moved slightly north, demarcated by plastic cones and creating safe space for the participants.

“We had about eight miles of our roads and trails involved,” said Police Chief John Fisher. (The back-and-forth between Depot Park and Fawn Lake was needed to achieve the 26.2-mile distance, replicating the Boston Marathon.)

Fisher reported that two officers monitored the Concord Road segment, with five others working traffic posts in areas affected by the Tough Ruck. The chief also was on hand for the event.

“Several of us got to see first-hand how using these events for training prepares us for real-life emergencies,” Grunes said. “Over the weekend, Bedford Fire personnel were part of a forestry task force that went out to Northborough and Berlin for a 100-plus-acre brush fire and the parallels were very relevant.”

The hundreds of participants who marched, jogged, and trudged through Bedford and three neighboring towns on Sunday endured at least as much as the thousands who ran the Boston Marathon on Monday. Courtesy photo by Floyd Aldana

He explained, “They had operational areas broken down to three divisions for three sides of the fire under one incident commander. On Sunday, we had the same set-up, with operational areas at the Depot, Sweetwater Avenue, and near the Concord line, working under one area commander for the event and a division commander for each operational area.” The unified command post was in Concord, “and we rotated some of our supervisors there so they could see how it functioned.”

“It was coincidence, but highlighted the value of taking the opportunity for training for large emergencies,” the fire chief commented. “The structure was very similar to that over in Northborough: different posts run by different divisions with different responsibilities.”

Firefighters rotated through the different command functions, Grunes said, and also practiced using multiple radio frequencies corresponding to components of the event. 

“We had the ability to move our resources to where the highest density of racers was. Public safety went where the congestion of runners was,” Grunes said. 

Bedford Rescue also covered Route 62 in Concord during the final hour of the event. 

Bedford paramedics and firefighters treated several participants. He added that physicians stationed in tents along the route were also busy, mainly treating blisters.

“Training during a prepared event is quite a benefit to us, and it’s so important for us to take advantage of them,” the chief said. He added that “we invoice Tough Ruck for the direct cost associated with our response.”

Public Works Director David Manugian said his staff was involved with “cones and sawhorses out to support police and fire, just as we support any road race in town.” DPW also deployed and collected the hundreds of cones used to alter the Concord Road traffic lanes. The cones were loaned by National Grid, a Tough Ruck sponsor.

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