Monday, April 15, 2024

75: Why has no one heard of Mark Bauman?

 Why has no one heard of Mark Bauman?

In the bustling world of marathons, where records are made and broken every year under the gaze of cheering crowds and super shoes flamboyantly crash the course, there exists a man whose name resonates much more quietly, known to only a select few Michiganders despite his remarkable achievements: Mark Bauman. A figure shrouded in humility, he has quietly etched his name into the annals of running history, yet remains largely unknown to the running industry masses and media hype. Today, as he set the world record for the most consecutive Boston Marathon finishes at an astounding 55, it begs the question: Shouldn't everyone know about Mark Bauman?

Mark with his wife after his historic 55th Finish April 15th, 2024 in Boston

Back in 1975, Bauman ran his fastest marathon ever by covering the point-to-point course from Hopkinton to Boston in 2 hours, 30 minutes and 32 seconds. These days, the goal for the 74-year-old Bauman is to reach the finish line in time to record an official finish. This standard is six hours after the final runner crosses the start line, which he met again today on Boylston Street. In addition to Boston, Bauman has run every Detroit Free Press Marathon since it began in 1978. He also has run every CRIM 10-miler in Flint and Frankenmuth Volkslaufe race, ever.

A product of Flint, Michigan, he found camaraderie in the sport during his junior year at Flint Ainsworth High School. Encouraged by his brother, Bauman ventured into cross country, laying the foundation for a lifelong passion. Little did he know that this initial step would propel him into a realm of endurance and resilience that few dare to tread, and more importantly in his eyes, that he would enable healthy miles for so many others in his lifetime.

His affinity for long-distance running became evident early on, overshadowing his prowess in shorter track events. While his track times may not have dazzled, his marathon feats spoke volumes, and his ability to enjoy high mileage through cold Michigan winters also impressive; racking up roughly 120,000 miles with nearly 1,500 of those in Boston alone. Bauman's love affair with the Boston Marathon commenced in 1970, back when an earnest coach's letter was sufficient for entry, and a few years before the founding of his running shop in 1974 (which remains the longest continuously operating running specialty store in the US). Through highs and lows, injuries and setbacks, he remained steadfast in his commitment to cross the finish line at Boston year after year, embodying the spirit of perseverance synonymous with the event that spells “heartbreak” for many due to its mischievous hills throughout and especially near the end.

But Bauman's contributions extend far beyond his personal achievements. In the heart of Flint, he cultivated a community of runners, founding the Riverbend Striders and organizing races that benefited thousands over the years. As the proprietor of Bauman's Running & Walking Shop, he served as more than just a seller of shoes; he became a beacon of support and encouragement for aspiring runners, offering guidance and camaraderie to all who crossed his path. I personally benefited from this growing up. My mother was a single parent, a high school teacher and track/cross country coach by trade. Every time any athlete needed shoes, including myself, Mark could work wonders to find exactly what they needed regardless of their budget. My mom thought the world of him, and later I would travel hours just to make it to Bauman’s for my first pair of marathon trainers toeing the line at the Detroit Marathon, where I would earn my own hard-fought “BQ”, or Boston Qualifying time. 

Despite the remarkable feats and unwavering dedication to the sport, Bauman remains a humble figure, content to let his actions speak louder than words. He categorically shies away from the spotlight, preferring to channel his energy into miles with his long-time running friends and helping new friends get moving in Michigan communities. It's this spirit, coupled with his genuine belief in the goodness of running and others around him, that sets Bauman apart from the crowd. Did I mention that he recently sold his famed running store to three fellow long-time employees for $1.00USD?

As he finished his record-breaking Boston Marathon journey today in the heat of Boston running for another 6 hour finish across the hills and into Copely Square, fueled by the support of his community and the camaraderie of fellow runners and family there to witness it, it might just be time his light shines as one of the last true unsung heroes of the running world. Mark may not seek recognition or accolades, but his legacy of runners filling the streets of Michigan resonates far beyond the finish line. Indeed, his story serves as a reminder of the quiet strength and unwavering dedication that define true greatness, both in character and in running.

So, why has no one heard of Mark Bauman? Perhaps because he doesn't seek praise, content to let his actions speak for themselves. While he has recently been inducted into the Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame, and everyone in Michigan running or a part of CRIM training programs know Mark, perhaps the national spotlight and media fandom is not made for figures like him. But today, as he adds another chapter to his marathon journey, it's time to celebrate the man behind the record, whose impact transcends miles and minutes. Mark Bauman, a name now etched in the annals of marathon history, is a testament to the power of passion, perseverance, and running community.

Article by Mark Lane-Holbert

Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame link

"We Run This Town" Bauman's Running and Walking Shop

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