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BOSTON — Fenway Park has seen its share of runs over the years — but none quite like this.
Friday’s Fenway Park Marathon took 50 runners around the outfield of Boston’s storied stadium 116 times to cover the 26 miles, 385 yards. Organizers called it the first marathon race to be run entirely within the confines of a Major League Baseball park.
“I’ll have ‘Sweet Caroline’ playing on my iPod,” said Becca Pizzi, a competitor from Belmont, Massachusetts.
Longtime Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray organized the unusual event, which was staged while the Red Sox were on the road.
As a boy, McGillivray dreamed of playing second base for the Sox, but despite some success in high school, he was a little too short to have a reasonable crack at a professional baseball career.
So McGillivray turned to running, where he had some national success during America’s long-distance running boom in the 1970s.
He’s competed in several events where the finish line was inside Fenway — most notably a 1978 run across the continental U.S. that began in Seattle’s Kingdome and ended within the hallowed walls of Boston’s storied ballpark.
“That sort of started it in my mind,” McGillivray told The Associated Press. “The stars were lining up and a pattern was forming. I thought, ‘Instead of running into it, why don’t you run a race within it?’”
Over its 105-year history, Fenway has hosted football games, hockey tournaments, European soccer friendlies, Irish hurling, rock concerts, movie nights and even ski jumping.
McGillivray approached the Red Sox Foundation, the team’s official charity. When he got the go-ahead, he floated the concept on Facebook to see if anyone in the running community was willing to participate.
“I just got slammed” with expressions of interest, he said.
To keep things manageable, McGillivray decided to limit the field to the first 50 runners who entered. Each had to commit to raising $5,000 for the foundation, which focuses mainly on improving health and promoting recreation for New England children.
Pizzi, 37, who won the 2016 World Marathon Challenge — seven marathons in seven days on seven continents — didn’t hesitate to sign up for Friday afternoon’s odyssey, despite acknowledging the monotony of running 116 laps on the crushed stone path around the park.
“The Boston Red Sox and running are two of my favorite things,” she said. “And we’re making history.”
Others in the field included Michael Wardian, a world-class ultramarathoner from Arlington, Virginia; Rick Hoyt, who was born with cerebral palsy and was pushed in his wheelchair by his father, Dick, for 32 successive Boston Marathons; and McGillivray, who’s served as race director for three decades.
Already, McGillivray is thinking big. If the Fenway race is a success, he envisions sequels in other big ballparks — maybe even a World Series of stadium marathoners.
“There aren’t too many hills,” he said, joking. “Not unless you run up the steps to the concessions.”