Mark Buciak is this city's marathon man, and his lifetime determination makes him a Chicago classic.
Way back in 1980, as a sophomore in college, Buciak ran his first Boston Marathon - the most prestigious race on the planet. Little did he know that spring-time trip east would become an annual affair for the next 33 years.
"To run the Boston Marathon at 19 years of age as an official runner was beyond my wildest dreams," Buciak said.
Those dreams got wilder. In April of 1999, FOX 32 News did a story on Buciak. The former Gordon Tech and DePaul standout was about to become the youngest person ever to complete 20 consecutive Boston Marathons.
Today, Buciak is preparing for his 34th consecutive Boston Marathon. Only 17 people in the world can claim a longer active streak.
"I'll keep going as long as Bova's bakery is open," the runner said.
Bova's is a famous Italian bakery in Boston's historic north end, and Buciak's home away from home during marathon week.
"Bova Bakery has been open for 95 years and some of the best motivation for running a marathon," Buciak said. "They're open 24/7, so if you get hungry at 3 a.m. they're ready for you."
Maybe it was the incentive of those goodies or maybe a stubbornness to keep the streak alive, but in 2006 Buciak ran his most memorable Boston Marathon so far.
It was also his slowest. Why? Because against his doctor's advice, Buciak completed the course with his wife Barry along for the final ten miles - just 11 weeks after heart surgery to repair a leaky aortic valve.
"I've run a 2:30 marathon in Boston in 1983 as my personal best. I've run 56 marathons and 33 at Boston," the marathoner said. "I feel my biggest accomplishment is finishing the Boston Marathon 11 weeks after heart surgery in 2006."
Not even heart surgery will keep him away. It's the history and tradition, and especially the people who line the iconic route from Hopkinton to Boston that will keep Mark coming back - as long as God will allow it, Buciak said.
"If you're having a bad day they make it a good day," Buciak said. "If you're having a good day they make it a great day for you."
In case you're wondering, the late, great Johnny Kelly holds the all-time record with 61 Boston Marathons to his credit.
Buciak spends much of his time sharing his passion for running with others these days. He's the director of The Road to Boston Training program and coaches several charity running teams, including those from the Anti-Cruelty Society, the Diabetes Action team and Old St. Pat's church.