Last year, Bud Wisseman of Chattanooga became the first Tennessee resident to join the Boston Marathon Quarter Century Club, signifying 25 consecutive completions of the most famous 26.2 miles in the world.
Monday he made it 26 in a row -- at age 75.
Wisseman finished 26th in his age group and 25,821st overall. His time was 5 hours, 24 minutes, 37 seconds. It was his 53rd marathon overall.
"It was a nasty day," he said by telephone early Monday. "It was in the 40s and rained essentially the whole way. I wore gloves and a stocking cap for the temperature, and I had one of those disposable rain jackets and wore it the whole way until I got near the finish. I took it off then to make a better picture."
He never considered quitting, even with one of his great motivations missing.
His wife, Sonia, had accompanied him to every Boston race before this one, but she recently had bypass surgery. She's recovering nicely but was not cleared to travel that far, so her sister stayed with her and he began the drive last Wednesday.
"For the last 12 or 14 years she would be at the last turn before you head to the finish line. She would have a sign for me and I'd go in there and give her a kiss and then finish the race," he said. "I have goals and I'm driven to meet them, but the main thing that kept me going was seeing Sonia on that corner. Today I just tried not to think about it."
There are some perks to being in the Quarter Century Club that made this visit special, however. The best of those was riding the club's chartered bus to the race site -- instead of one of the hundreds of school buses used for shuttles -- and getting to stay on the bus through the bad weather until time to run. There also was a dinner for club members Saturday night.
Also, by having run 25 Bostons in a row, Wisseman did not have to qualify for this one, as he had each year from 1989 to 2013, by running an age-group standard in some other marathon.
As he said in the Chattanooga Track Club's quarterly "Jogging Around" newsletter about receiving the club's 2014 Long Runners Lifetime Special Achievement Award, Wisseman in 1990 started a pattern: "Survive the marathon, go home and run a qualifying time, come back next year."
A retired engineer who has lived in East Brainerd since 1971, he admittedly "is a creature of habit," so running the same event every year is not unusual. After all, he has run every day since Feb. 20, 1988 -- except for a couple of weeks after cataract surgery a few years ago and again last year after surgery for a blocked intestine. Even then he walked at least a mile or so daily.
"The Lord has blessed me with good health. If I didn't have that, none of this would've happened," Wisseman said. "Everybody needs to understand that good health is a great gift."
He lists his most memorable race as the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, Ala. late in 1993, with time running out to qualify for Boston No. 5.
"Every projection I made after 20 (miles), I was going to be over the time by at least a minute, but I couldn't go faster," he recalled in the CTC newsletter. "At 25.2 I focused on a girl about one minute ahead of me, and in the last 100 yards I passed her and crossed in 3:30.52. I qualified for my fifth Boston with just seven seconds to spare."
Lynda Webber, who presented Wisseman's "Long Runners" award at the track club banquet, said he is "a wonderful gentleman who also is very humble about his achievements and very thankful that he has been so blessed in life."
Wisseman said he and his wife started running together in 1978. He started running to the end of his street and back in his Converse basketball shoes.
"In a few days I got running shoes," he said.
And soon he was going way beyond his street. Eventually he joined the group that runs on Saturdays in the Chickamauga Battlefield. And the battlefield is where -- on Nov. 11, 1989, the 11th anniversary of his first day of running -- he earned his first Boston Marathon entry at the age of 50. His qualifying time was 3:25:19.
"I regularly see Bud running in the battlefield and am tremendously inspired," Betty Holder said. "I'm in my 50s and realize that Bud was just getting started in his 50s. I always say I want to be like Bud when I grow up. He's a running inspiration in more ways than one."
Contact Ron Bush at email@example.com or 423-757-6291.