At 75, Chattanoogan Bud Wisseman just ran his 26th Boston Marathon
The sun hasn’t quite made it over the horizon on this crisp April morning, but 75-year-old Bud Wisseman is on a mission. He’s here at the Chickamauga Battlefield to get in a good run, the last before his annual trip to Boston, Massachusetts. You see, Bud hasn’t missed a Boston Marathon in the last 26 years. And while the weather is cool and a little foggy, Bud has lots of friends here with him to provide motivation.
“I started running back in ’78,” says Wisseman, “when the running boom was going.” Bud learned that he really loved the feeling he got when he just put one foot in front of the other faster and faster. Sure, running is one thing. But why in the world would someone want to run a marathon—more than 26 miles? “Pretty much everybody that runs regularly starts thinking about getting into marathons,” confesses Wisseman.
After a few years of just running around the neighborhood, he decided to try his hand at a marathon. He traveled up to Philadelphia to compete, but failed to finish. While humbling, it also made him more determined to succeed.
Wisseman had been for running more than a decade when he first considered the granddaddy of all non-Olympic marathons. The one they hold in Bean Town. At first, he didn’t even think he could qualify. “So, in ’89 I did run a qualifying time,” says Wisseman of his first trip to Boston. “It’s sort of a neat town. Red Sox, a lot of runners, good seafood…and I just wanted to go back.” And he did. Again and again, 25 times over the last 25 years.
He was there two years ago when terrorists set off two bombs along the race course. “Fortunately, being old and slow I was a couple of miles down the course when the bomb went off,” explains Wisseman. “I had no knowledge [of what was occurring]. I was all the way down to Fenway Park when I realized the road was filled up with runners and they were actually walking back.” Bud’s wife was only about three-tenths of a mile from the blast. But neither had any worries about returning the following year. The tradition would continue.
This year, however, was the first that Bud’s wife wouldn’t be joining him. She underwent open-heart surgery two weeks before this morning’s practice run. She would have to cheer him on from home. Bud says she’s his motivation. But with about a dozen local runners braving the chilly temperatures on the battlefield this day, Bud feels as though he can muster up the strength for at least one more marathon.
“You get old and slow,” says Wisseman. “It’s a lot more painful.” His left knee is wrapped, lending credence to his words. Wisseman runs “only” about 40-to-50 miles a week to prepare for Boston these days. Still quite a feat for a 75 year old.
Bud told The Pulse he was less confident in this run than he was for his first Boston Marathon. Yet he needn’t have worried. Wearing bib number 25548, Wisseman crossed the finish line on April 20 in 5 hours and 24 minutes, having achieved a pace of 12:23 per mile—and another personal victory.