Runnersworld - UPDATE: According to a representative from the B.A.A., “unauthorized participants,” like ruck marchers, will not be allowed on the course due to the increased field size of 36,000. However, 130 National Guard members will be marching the course, with bib numbers.
Through an exclusive partnership with the National Parks Service, Tough Ruck has relocated their march to the Minuteman Battle Trail, part of the Minuteman Historical National Park. The march will take place on April 19, two days before the marathon. A decade long tradition will be missing from this year’s Boston Marathon. Due to the new, stricter security guidelines released by the Boston Athletic Association last Wednesday, ruck marchers will not be allowed to make the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boylston because they are considered “unauthorized participants.” Active members of the military have participated in ruck marches at the Boston Marathon for years. Donning full fatigues and carrying 40-pound rucksacks on their backs, ruckers march the length of the course in support of families of fallen soldiers. However, according to the new B.A.A. restrictions, “units or groups such as military ruck-marchers and cyclists, who have sometimes joined on the course, will not be allowed to participate.”
Tough Ruck was one of the ruck marching organizations planning on rucking this year. The B.A.A.’s announcement of the new security guidelines came as a surprise to Tough Ruck founder, Stephen Fiola. “My first reaction was of course disappointment, but I understand that there are safety and security concerns,” said Fiola, a member of the National Guard who would have been rucking for the seventh time this year. “We knew that there were concerns, but we did not know that a policy was going to come out prior to the B.A.A. announcement.”
Last year, about 20 to 30 people marched with Tough Ruck, but Fiola said there was an increased interest in this year’s Boston Marathon. When registration for Tough Ruck closed on January 31, Tough Ruck had 746 registrants from 29 states. “The message is supporting our fallen brothers and sisters,” he said. “It’s not about raising money; it certainly isn’t about the Boston Marathon itself.”“The marathon is a marathon. It’s not a military event I understand that,” said Fiola. “But, there are ways we could have all worked through this. We could have all communicated.”
Lots of chatter about this the last week or so since the Marathon announced their new safety rules. Look it’s a tough situation. I think Stephan Fiola, the guy who organizes the Tough Ruck summed it up fairly and appropriately. Everybody gets that safety comes first. I don’t think anybody will debate that. It just seems like this is something the marathon people could have accommodated if they really wanted to. It just wasn’t that big of a priority for them. Like maybe allowing clear backpacks would have been a solution? Or giving these guys hats the morning off the marathon that clearly identified them as participants. Because I’m guessing what the marathon people were worried about is if they allow some backpacks people could just jump out of the crowd with backpacks dressed in fatigues and they wouldn’t be able to tell who was who. It’s a legit concern but again it goes back to the original point. If there is a will there is a way.
I guess my main thing is this. I sometimes feel like hardcore marathon people and marathon organizers think the marathon is about them. Like Boston should say thank you for them organizing the marathon in our city. The reality is it’s not their event. It’s our event. Without everyday Bostonians, both runners and non runners, the event doesn’t exist. Kind of like when the NY Marathon wasn’t gonna let Matt Brown participate just because they didn’t feel like spending 5 seconds to figure it out. That’s what this feels like. Bottomline is that it’s more important to me to figure out a way to let the Tough Ruck crew walk and honor fallen soldiers than to make sure the Kenyans have a great day. That’s all I’m saying.