‘Tough Ruck’ Soldiers Make the Best of a Tough Situation

After being banned from marching the Boston Marathon route, "tough ruckers" found a new place to carry out their tradition.

Veterans and active members of the military are making the best of the recent news that they won’t be allowed to march along the Boston Marathon course with their rucksacks by mapping out a new travel route through an exclusive partnership with the National Parks Service.

Stephen Fiola, organizer of the annual “Tough Ruck,” was shocked when he found out last week that soldiers wouldn’t have access to the 26.2-mile stretch from Hopkinton to Boston on Marathon Monday, due to new security regulations put in place by the Boston Athletic Association.

The new, stricter security guidelines set for this year’s Boston Marathon—in response to the bombings last year—keeps “props…including sporting equipment and military and fire gear” from entering any marathon venue, including the course and Athletes’ Village at the starting line. It also specifically bars cyclists and “ruckers” from the event.

Determined to carry forward with his planned march, where members of the military trudge the lengthy path carrying 40-pound rucksacks on their backs in honor of soldiers that died in battle, he worked out a deal with the National Parks Service so that Tough Ruck participants can travel along the Minuteman Battle Trail, part of the Minuteman National Historical Park through Lexington and Concord, on April 19, two days before the race. “We are going to ruck 26.2 miles, and we are going to be doing it on the Battle Trail,” said an enthusiastic Fiola. “We have a partnership solidified with the Parks Service. It’s completely separate from the marathon.”

Fiola admitted that he was let down when he learned soldiers wouldn’t be able to experience the tradition of marching towards the Boylston Street finish line, as thousands of people cheered them on, but he is less concerned about where the Tough Ruck will happen, and more focused on honoring those that didn’t return home from war. “To say I’m disappointed—I am disappointed. But it’s not really what our message is about, it’s so much more than walking the marathon route. Now, we will be rucking back and forth in a similar way that the Minutemen of 1775 did it. It’s going to bring more people along to the event on Patriots’ Day, and to the event the National Parks service puts on,” he said.

He said now members of the military can enjoy both the Tough Ruck, and attend the marathon separately on Monday. “People wanted to stand on top of a mountain and scream and moan about what’s happening [with the ban], and I didn’t have the time for that. Right now, I’m all about ‘let’s figure out how we are going to get this and make this happen,’ and that’s what the Parks Service is going to allow us to do,” said Fiola.

For those that can’t watch the troops make the trek along the Minuteman Battle Trail, Fiola said he is working on a way to both live-blog, and record the march using a GoPro camera.

Further details about the march on Patriots’ Day are being worked out with the Parks Service. “This event is going to be kind of a big deal, because we are focusing on the fact that there’s a historic significance, and we will be honoring the soldiers of yesterday and today. It’s a historical honoring,” he said.