Historic venue, unique event …

On track: Brower set for first marathon at fabled Fenway Park

Fifty participants to trek 116 times around iconic park's warning track
By Ken Waltz | Sep 14, 2017
Reade Brower

Boston, Mass. — Fenway Park's Green Monster is as iconic and historic to baseball as the Boston Marathon is to distance running. Now the time has come to essentially combine those treasured New England sporting sites/traditions and 60-year-old Camden resident Reade Brower could not be happier.

Brower will be one of 50 people who will participate in the first Fenway Park Marathon on Friday, Sept. 15 at 5 p.m.

It will be a dream come true for a Massachusetts native who has had a passion for baseball and Red Sox for a lifetime and love of running for decades.

"Epic, cool, iconic" were the words used by Brower to describe his thoughts about being one of the few to make the first "official" marathon-length journey around Fenway Park's warning track.

The event, to raise money for the Red Sox Foundation, will see the participants run 116 times around the warning track, which consists of crushed brick, that runs near the stands and in front of the inside walls of the park.

"I will run alongside the hallowed grazing ground covered by the great left fielders in my lifetime — Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and now Andrew Benintendi," Brower said.

Brower has had a passion for running over the years and often can be seen training on Midcoast streets or running in road races in the area. In fact, he has been a pivotal assistant organizer of many local holiday 5-kilometer races, along with obstacle scuttles and even triathlons.

But, late Friday afternoon, Brower will run 26.2 miles at Fenway Park and get plenty of views of the fabled 37-foot tall Green Monster wall in left field, the triangle area in center field, the track in front of the bullpens, Pesky Pole in right field and the ground in front of the dugouts and behind home plate.

Brower said one of the best parts of the event will be the fact participants can get ready in the visitors' clubhouse and also that his family and friends can come sit in the stands and watch him run.

"It’s pretty cool; all runners are being assigned a locker in the visitors’ locker room; we hang out there from 3:30 p.m. until ready for the marathon start," he said. "Should be a pretty cool event."

Brower has participated in other events at Fenway Park, most notably a cornhole tournament last year, but that was held outside the actual field. This time Brower will be on the same warning track run by the greatest Red Sox players of the past 100 years.

Brower has attended countless games at Fenway Park and has been on the field before, but never for the extended time he will be to run the warning track on Friday.

He expects to be on the warning track about five hours, but his marathons, depending on his preparation and state of overall being that particular day, have ended between 4:12 to 6:20.

Brower, the owner of many of the state's mainstream media outlets, including Portland Press Herald, Lewiston Sun-Journal, Waterville Sentinal, Kennebec Journal and Courier Publications/VillageSoup and Free Press in the Midcoast, is excited, but nervous about this "unique" marathon.

He has run in marathons before, but they have been on the streets of cities and towns across the country, never in a ballpark. Fenway Park has all the "luster and lore," he said, and he wants to be part of that new history.

"I am running with a cause, for a cause and perhaps just 'because,' " he said in a recent email to family and friends. "I wanted to do something special — epic — for my 60th year; something bigger than myself, and this fits the bill."

He ran his first mile at age 40 and the New York City Marathon on his 50th birthday, so the Fenway jaunt to celebrate 60 years of life follows that tradition.

Brower lost 43 pounds his first year of running and, from there, he was hooked on the activity for fitness and personal reasons.

This will be Brower's 11th marathon, as he has run that length race in Alaska, Boston, New York City, Chicago, New Orleans, Vermont, Norfolk, Va., Sugarloaf USA, Death Valley in Arizona and Nashville, Tenn.

Brower also has run hundreds of 5K, 10K and half-marathons the past 20 years.

He said he probably will run the Fenway Park Marathon barefoot, as he often does on the paved streets of the Midcoast in races and for training.

"I have done one [marathon] barefoot," he said. "There is no comparison with this race and street running — to train for this I went to Greenfield Estates in Camden and ran one-third-mile circle loop 48 times — about 18 miles; it was flat, but wicked boring and difficult. This race is at night so that is also 'different.' As for the streets of Boston, I would never run the streets; instead, I would head to the bike/running paths along the Charles River. You can get in five to 10 miles easily on those paths and it is barefoot friendly."

Brower added that he was able to test the surface of Fenway Park's warning track in a recent visit.

"I was there this past weekend on a Bank of America tour and we got to view batting practice from the warning track behind home plate," he said. "I snuck off to the side, took off my shoes, and gave it a try — before security gave me the evil eye. Some pebbles in the dirt that might prove problematic, but I will try it. I'll have some duct tape and some of the barefoot shoes for "just in case." I'm hoping it will be like running on a hard beach."

Each person who participates in the marathon had to raise $5,000 for the Red Sox Foundation, which Brower said has a strong reputation for its work in New England.

To sponsor Brower, go to: http://redsoxfoundation.racepartner.com/FenwayParkMarathon/ReadeBrower.

Entry into the event was first-come, first-serve. The runners will come from many states and other countries. Many of the participants reside in Massachusetts. It is believed Brower is the only participant from Maine.

Brower said there were no "elite" runners in the field in the list he saw; however, there are strong runners that could finish the distance in less than three hours. He said a few of the participants have done more than 100 marathons and, for a few, it will be their first race of that distance. He said he probably will finish in the bottom 20 percent of the field.

Asked why he runs, Brower's answers held a myriad of connotations — starting with the fact he can enjoy one of his favorite things — ice cream — and not feel guilty after burning a boatload of calories on his runs.

"Also for health, mental clarity and for the social component," he said. "Sunday group runs and Thursday night social runs keep me connected with young people and it has become a big part of my social life to be part of such a wide network of like-minded people," he said.

There is a chance of rain on Friday, which would make the long trek around the park's warning track a bit more tricky, but, of course, still doable.

Brower is no stranger to the running scene the past 20 years. In fact, when not running, he can be found assisting in the organization of fundraising running events.

He helped begin a 5K run series in the Midcoast to raise money for Go! Malawi, an organization founded by Union native Janet Littlefield. That helps send 50 orphaned African children to school in Malawi, where free public education ends after eighth grade.

Brower now is part of the charitable organization, One Community Many Voices (OCMV), a 501c3 based in Rockland, which hosts a variety of fundraising fitness events in the Midcoast.

Brower and his wife, Martha, live in Camden. They have three adult sons, Jesse, Lucas and Isaac, all of whom live in the Boston area.

The Fenway Park Marathon is the brainchild of Dave McGillivray, who, according to a story written by Rachel G. Bowers on Sept. 13 for the Boston Globe and Boston.com. He came up with the idea nearly 40 years ago in 1978.

According to the story, McGillivray was running across the continental United States — Medford, Ore., to Medford, Mass. — to raise money for The Jimmy Fund. His ceremonial start point was the Kingdome in Seattle. The end point was inside Fenway Park.

That idea — to put on a full race inside Fenway — sprouted and grew over nearly four decades. It stayed with him each time he finished a race inside the crown jewel of historic ballparks.

“Just the thought of putting on an event inside Fenway entered my mind, and I thought, ‘Well, maybe I can sort of put on a 10K road race,’ ” McGillivray said in the Boston Globe article. “Then I thought, ‘Why a 10K? Why not do something more epic, like a marathon?’ "

So the race director of the Boston Marathon, who has finished more than 140 marathons and will compete in the inaugural Fenway Park Marathon on Friday, first took the idea to the Red Sox about six or seven years ago.

Fenway Park has hosted a slew of events besides baseball in recent years, from musical concerts to high school and college football games, to NHL Winter Classic to Big Air jumps. So a marathon was the next step, so to speak.

The Red Sox will be out of town on Friday, playing the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., if that park and area are cleaned up and safe following Hurricane Irma.

Since the marathon will start at 5 p.m., Brower will start in daylight and end in darkness — with the park lit by its massive light towers. That should be a memorable experience.

With 50 runners trekking around the park's warning track, which is about 10 to 15 feet wide in some places and wider/more narrow in others, the faster participants certainly will lap the slower runners many times.

Unlike a marathon on the streets of a town or city, which is spread out, there will be no where to hide for the runners, who will be in full view of spectators all the time.

McGillivray said in the Boston.com article that he has about 10,000 volunteers for the Boston Marathon, but only a handful for Friday's event.

According to the Boston.com story, there will be one hydration station that runners will trek in front of 116 times. There also will be an aid station in center field.

Spectators are welcome, free of charge, and will sit on the first-base line.

Runners will have two bibs: A traditional one with their numbers on the front and an optional one with the runners’ names on their back.

The one factor that is singular to a marathon inside a ballpark, the Boston.com article stated, is the absence of mile-markers. That makes more crucial the timing mechanism to convey to runners their splits and lap counts.

McGillivray also told Bowers it will be interesting to watch how the venue affects runners. In point-to-point races, there are parts along the course that are away from spectators, giving competitors a guilt-free stretch to regroup, walk, or collect themselves. That will not be the case in Fenway.

McGillivray said he expects runners will stop every so often to get pebbles out of their shoes.

Participants will receive a commemorative medal.

Brower said he has watched many games in Fenway Park over the years with family and friends, but now they will sit in the stands and watch him run around the warning track — over and over.

'It's going to be pretty cool," Brower said. "Honestly, I have to go around 116 times along the warning track and probably about lap 10 they'll be bored stiff and will wander out of the park to the bars on Landsdowne Street. Ninety laps later they'll return and watch me stumble around the last 5K. It will be a grind; like most running and races — I'll be happy and glad — when it's over."

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Sep 15, 2017 14:23

Good luck Brower! You will be running in my home town of Boston and in my favorite ball park. Many times as a child I saw Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle which thrilled my young bones. Having been born and bred, educated and such, there in Boston, I relish this article and cheer you on.

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