Tough Ruck 26.2 Boston Traverses Bedford Bikeways Sunday

April 11, 2024

A unique taste of the Boston Marathon returns to Bedford on Sunday as the town again hosts a segment of the annual Tough Ruck 26.2 Boston.

As many as 1,000 participants will cover the round-trip course through Concord, Bedford, and Lexington, wearing rucksacks, with divisions for 15- and 35-pound packs.

The event, in partnership with the Boston Athletic Association/Boston Marathon, began in 2002 on the marathon course as a yearly highlight for the day before the race. Tough Ruck settled in Minute Man National Historical Park and contiguous towns in 2014. 

“We’re bringing a piece of the marathon back to where it all started,” said race director Sarah Sweeney. 

Finishers receive the first of the season’s official Boston Marathon medals.

Tough Ruck is a fundraiser for the Military Families Foundation, based in Swampscott. Each participant is required to raise at least $450, Sweeney said, and as of Tuesday, commitments exceeded $800,000. The foundation, run by current and former military members and spouses, offers direct grant programs and wellness and resiliency through “community empowerment” programs.

Sweeney said the event is “sold out,” with 1,000 registered from 40 states. She said 85 percent are first responders, active military and veterans or their families, and women comprise about a third of the field. The age range is from 18 to close to 70.

2022 Tough Ruck. Courtesy Image

Participants begin arriving at Fenn School in Concord at 5:30 a.m. for weigh-in and other pre-event ceremonies. The trek begins at 7:20 a.m., and the route eventually ends leads to the Reformatory Branch Trail, across the Bedford town line and Concord Road to Railroad Avenue.

The route follows Railroad Avenue across South Road to the Minuteman Bikeway, continuing into Lexington. At a point in that town the route reverses, and returns westbound on the bikeway and the trail. “Our folks become pretty stretched out, so the trails will still be available to the public,” said Sweeney.

Sgt. Ron Undzis is coordinating security and traffic control for the Bedford Police Department, reported Chief John Fisher. 

“The planning and staffing pieces seek to make the event safe for participants and minimize disruption to residents and guests,” Fisher said in an email. “Bedford is a welcoming community for military members, veterans, and their supporters.”

Undzis said Tuesday that plans call for traffic control officers between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on four
streets where the bikeway trails cross: Concord, Hartwell, and South Roads, and Wiggins
Avenue. Also, plastic cones will demarcate a special lane for the ruckers on the south side of
Railroad Avenue between the Reformatory Branch Trail and South Road.

Among area law enforcement agencies, Sweeney said, security steps on Sunday can “serve as a blueprint” for major happenings planned for a year from now, the 250th anniversary of the battles that began the American Revolution.

There will be a water and aid station set up at Depot Park, staffed by relatives of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police Sgt. Brian Sousa, who died unexpectedly in May 2022. 

“Bedford Depot is one of our favorite places along the course because of the excitement and energy among citizens there,” Sweeney said.

“It’s an all-day event and we welcome people to come out and cheer them along the course,” Sweeney said. 

The most experienced athletes will cover the 26.2 miles in about four hours, she said; others are expected to take as long as 11 hours. 

“There are some competitive folks, especially from college ROTC programs, that are competing for top times,” she noted. “Most of our ruckers are just looking forward to taking part in the event.”

“It has been very special to see how it has grown,” Sweeney said. “We are really humbled by the support. There are families of fallen service members flying in from as far as California.”

On April 15, 2013, Tough Ruck members near the finish line of the Boston Marathon joined first responders helping those injured by the terrorist explosives.

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