Sid Busch was the last one to complete the 15th Baltimore Running Festival, but he was first in the hearts of about 30 onlookers who waited for him at the finish line.
More than seven hours after the marathon had begun Saturday morning, Busch, a 69-year-old Navy veteran from Goose Creek, S.C., finished the 26.2-mile course in honor of American soldiers lost in battle.
Busch, who ran his 200th career marathon in Baltimore while carrying an American flag, was escorted by eight Baltimore police motorcycles and seven different relay teams who volunteered to accompany Busch.
"I have never had a helicopter fly over and yell, 'Congratulations! You're fantastic!'" said Busch, who served 26 years on Navy submarines. "They gave me a police escort the last four miles, and I understand all of these policemen are off-duty. They donated their own time. I met the family of the young man I was running for, and I met the family of a young man I ran for previously. I normally can talk a lot, but I don't know what to say. I'm just so floored. I'm honored beyond belief."
Busch, who ran with the pictures of Marine Cpl. Bradley T. Arms and Air Force TSGT Brian Theobald on the back of his shirt, met the Theobald family at the finish line. Theobald's father, William, was moved to tears by Busch's act.
"It's unbelievable what he accomplished today," said Theobald, 59, who drove from Pittsburgh in the morning. "He did it for the right reasons, for the fallen soldiers, and I think everybody should follow his lead. We've got to do more for the veterans, for the people protecting this country. That man's an amazing man. I'm at a loss for words right now."
Busch is unsure how many more marathons he will participate in, but he said he is driven by the memory of the soldiers who died for their country.
"What keeps me running is these young kids who serve in the military and think enough of this country that they gave their lives for our freedom and who do not get any mention whatsoever," he said. "I was tired of hearing about the Kardashians, and Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan. Yet in the bigger scheme of things, what they do means nothing to this country. These kids gave their lives so that we can live and run in a free country. Having served 26 years in the military, I thank them from the bottom of my heart."
Police commissioner in the race
Non-descript in a blue long-sleeve running shirt and black shorts, interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis looked like many of the other participants. But while many might not have noticed him, Davis — who ran the last leg of a four-member relay team that included Deputy Commissioner Dean M. Palmere and two other officers — said he was paying close attention to the police officers along the route.
"The thing that I was most encouraged about today was seeing the police officers on the traffic posts," he said. "A lot of them didn't see me or pick me out, but to see the police officers interacting with the runners, encouraging the runners, giving the runners high-fives, that was encouraging. And whether the police officers realize it or not, that's community policing. So I was really encouraged to see a ton of police officers on traffic posts interacting with runners and representing the city of Baltimore so well during this 15th marathon."
Davis, whose appointment was confirmed Wednesday night, said he was feeling good about his pace until he was passed by a pregnant woman in her third trimester. ("No kidding," he said.) Davis pledged to run in next year's marathon and be in better shape.
"Here's my promise. I will go on the record right now and I will do the half next year," he said. "I'm on record."
University of Maryland graduate finishes second
University of Maryland graduate Jeremy Bennie did not harbor any preconceived notions about his performance in his first Baltimore marathon.
"I wanted to go out and have fun," he said.
Bennie, a 21-year-old first-year law student at the University of Virginia, exceeded his own expectations by finishing second in the men's division. His time of 2 hours, 35 minutes, 16 seconds was almost five minutes slower than 2015 champion Dave Berdan's time.
Bennie said he followed the pace set by Berdan and 2014 titlist Brian Rosenberg.
"They ended up going out a little stronger than I did," he said. "I tried to be a little bit more conservative in the first half of the race and close as hard as I could. That's what my approach has been typically in marathons. So I think I was catching up for a lot of the race. They started really strong."