Bud Wisseman Makes His Mark In Boston

Retired TVA Engineer Completed His 25th Straight Boston Marathon On April 21

Thursday, May 1, 2014 - by John Hunt

Bud Wisseman doesn't believe in doing anything halfway.

The 74-year-old retired TVA engineer has been running since November 1978.

He would be the first to admit that his pace has slowed considerably in recent years, but he did something nobody else in Tennessee has ever done last week when he completed his 25th straight Boston Marathon.

His time of five hours, 31 minutes and 31 seconds was his slowest marathon ever, but crossing the finish line in the world's oldest and most prestigious 26-mile, 385-yard footrace was an incredible accomplishment for this slender fellow.

He was totally caught by surprise with a big cake at his home in Delaware honoring his accomplishment.  He was also presented with a certificate of accomplishment from the State Legislature, which made it even more meaningful.

Wisseman was there a year ago when that horrible bombing took place at the finish line.  His race ended before he was allowed to cross the finish line, but he still got credit for it.

Bud, whose real name is Edwin Lawrence Wisseman, is from Delaware and still has a brother and sister that live in that area.  Bud and Sonia took some time to be with them following their latest trip to Boston.

Wisseman took his first step as a runner on November 11, 1978. 

"I ran from here to the end of the street and back twice in my Converse All-Stars," he recalled of that first mile back before the running boom hit.

He slowly worked his way to his first race, which was a 10K in Maryville in early 1979.

"I just wanted to be sure that I didn't finish last, but I came back and ran the Rock City 10K a week later," Wisseman said, his first 6.2-mile race time of 45:18 still vivid in his mind.

It didn't take long for the long-distance bug to bite as he ran his first marathon in Philadelphia in 1980.

"It was the Penn Relays Marathon and I did a 4:44, but it was 81 degrees.  I felt so bad that I couldn't even drink the water without getting sick.  I came back the next year and redeemed myself with a 3:40, but it was also only 58 degrees that day," Bud said during a visit at their home in East Brainerd Wednesday afternoon.

If you know anything about Bud and his way of doing things, you know that he's a nut about keeping detailed records of his running.  He only logged about 75 miles that first year, but since that time a whole lot more.

His cumulative total at the end of 2013 was an amazing 57,656 miles.  What's even more impressive is that he took a day off from running on Feb. 19, 1988 as he was resting on the day before the International 8K Run at the downtown YMCA.

He hasn't taken a day off from running since!!

If you're counting, that's 26 years and 70 days since he took a day off.  Counting Leap Years, that's some 9.568 straight days where he's run at least one mile.

"I do a whole lot less mileage now and I even walk some.  It all started when I was trying to qualify for Boston the first time and realized that I needed to average about 40 miles a week instead of 30 and that it would take running seven days a week to do it," he explained.

His records include lots of pictures with the people he's run with, including a large group who gathers at Chickamauga Park every Saturday for a long run. 

"There were some real horses in that group and I don't want to list them because I'd probably leave somebody out and their feelings would be hurt," he continued, knowing that guys like Bobby Ogle, Carl Ellis, Ronnie Bryson and David Presley were regulars on those Saturday morning runs.

"It boils down to pictures and names of people in these books as most of them have become really good friends

Wisseman started focusing his marathon interest on Boston in 1989, right after his 50th birthday.

"At that time, qualifying times for men aged 50 was a 3:20.  My goal at Chickamauga in 1988 was to get within five minutes of that time and I ran a 3:26:16 that day.  Back in those days, Boston wasn't interested in a huge number of runners," he said, remembering that the field normally was less than 10.000 participants.

"Kathi Wagner called me and told me that they had just added 10 minutes to the qualifying time and I ran a 3:25:19 at Chickamauga that fall.  I ran my first Boston race in 1990 where I had a 3:59:17, but I came back with  3:30:45 in 1991, which was only one of two times that I requalified on that course.

"Boston always tears me up physically as it's a tough course, but the challenge was there and that's why I always wanted to go back.  I hated the course, but it's one where you have to earn your spot at the starting line.  That's why it was always so special for me.

"My goal last week was to cross the finish line with the clock still running.  I got tired the last couple of miles.  I was hoping to run a 5:29, but I told my wife Sonia that it would probably be a 5:30 or slower.  I was just thankful to reach the finish line that day," he nodded.

Perhaps the most anxiety he experienced took place much earlier in the day, long before the first runner took off from Hopkinton.

They always transport runners to the starting line using school buses and it seems like it takes forever to cover that distance, but Wisseman knew that something was amiss on that trip.

"All of a sudden I realized that we had missed our exit and that we were going past the starting line.  I asked the driver about it and he realized that he had gone too far and we had to turn around.  Someone on the bus asked me if I was from Boston and I told them "No, but I knew my way to the starting line," he laughed at the memory.

"I've been blessed my entire life with a dear wife Sonia that has been by my side for a long time," he said, noting that they would be celebrating their 39th anniversary in October.

"I'm also thankful for a Godly mother who raised me in church and set good examples for me.  My father was a hard-working man who just stayed at it and part of that rubbed off on me.

"My goal these days is to just stay healthy.  I do a lot more trail running than I used to, but I've stayed with it all of these years.  The pressure was always there to keep the streak going, but I've always believed in prayer and I have a lot of people who pray for me on a regular basis," he added.

And what about 2015?  Is he entertaining the thought of another Boston next spring?

"The Lord has to let me live that long to start with, but if I'm still healthy when the time comes, I can't imagine that I won't be there.  I'm not thinking about that right now," he nodded

Bud Wisseman had now completed 53 marathons to date with only one where he didn't finish.  He's finished 25 at Boston, 20 at Huntsville, six at Chickamauga and those first two at the Penn Relays.

"The Lord has blessed me with good health as I averaged about 35 miles a week for more than 25 years.  I ran 1,506 miles last year, so who knows what the future holds," he concluded.

This fellow can sit and talk about running from now until the cows come home and he's got a lot of memorable stories to share.  Many involve his friends at Chickamauga Park on Saturday morning and many others center around his experiences in Boston.

He doesn't run nearly as fast as he once did, but who said that he needed to.  At least these days, he can enjoy the experience more without being in such a hurry.

But he's still at it after more than 26 years without a break.  And that's all that matters.

(This is the 11th in a series of runners in the Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Track Club.  If you know of someone who would make an interesting story, email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@comcast.net)


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