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Campus emergency workers train to run Boston Marathon

Brian Foti (left) and David Barber, staff members in Facilities, train for        the marathon with a 16-mile run.
Brian Foti (left) and David Barber, staff members in Facilities, train for the marathon with a 16-mile run.
Photo / Laura Wulf

David Barber, wearing cargo pants and a garish wide tie, and Brian Foti in his tattered Pittsburgh Steeler jacket are familiar figures on campus.

Barber, an assistant safety officer, and Foti, an assistant environmental officer, dismantle hacks and respond to fire alarms and other emergencies, including the spate of anthrax reports last fall.

Nowadays, you may see them jogging in the afternoon along Memorial Drive. Barber and Foti are training to run in the Boston Marathon on April 15 for the Brigham and Women's Hospital marathon team.

"I want to cross the finish line with a pulse," said Barber, who turned 50 in November. The 33-year-old Foti said, "I want to finish faster than Oprah did." Oprah Winfrey ran the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., in 4 hours, 29 minutes and 20 seconds.

Barber and Foti, who normally run for fitness, were invited to join Team Brigham in January when two members dropped out. Having flirted with running marathons previously, they immediately accepted. Each must raise $2,500 for the charity by May 15. For additional information, contact Barber at

"The charity is focused on women and children in need," said Barber. "That's a big thing to me personally. It's a good cause."

Since January, they have been running shorter distances--four to five miles--three days a week and stretching it out on Saturdays. They have extended their Saturday runs to 16 miles and will be doing 20 by April. The marathon distance is 26 miles, 385 yards.

Barber, who was a 138-pound sprinter in high school, donned his running shorts again in 1996 to join his Safety Office colleagues for lunch-hour jogs. Since then, he has run several races, including a half-marathon. Friends scoffed when the burly 200-pounder said he wanted to run a marathon.

Foti was a playground athlete as a youth in Buffalo, N.Y. He too has run races shorter than a marathon, the longest was 15 kilometers (nine miles) two years ago. He also ran at lunchtime with his Safety Office colleagues. "I figured it probably wouldn't hurt my career to run with the bosses," he said.

They plan to run together in the Boston Marathon for as long as possible. Barber hopes that Foti will push him to run it in 4 hours, 30 minutes or better. Foti, whose parents and in-laws are coming from Rochester and Buffalo for the race, hopes to break four hours. Despite their bantering, they claim they are not competitive with each other.

"He pushes me to push myself," said Barber, who has been at MIT since 1993. Foti, who came to MIT in 1998, said, " I don't care about beating him. I compete against myself."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 13, 2002.

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