CHELMSFORD — Danny Shea has always loved the Red Sox.
His childhood was so filled with memories of trips to Fenway Park that the team has always sort of felt like a member of his family. His love of running is more recent.
So when the opportunity arose to be one of 50 runners in the first-ever Fenway Park Marathon on Friday night, he grabbed it.
“They’re a fabric of my life,” said Shea, 41. “With the relationship I had with my dad, it was one of those things, no matter what was going on, whether I lived in Texas or he was sick, or we hadn’t seen each other for awhile, no matter what, we always had the Sox.”
While the Red Sox won’t be there — they’ll be in Tampa Bay — he’s excited nonetheless.
Shea was the primary caregiver for his father, Gerald, who struggled with Alzheimer’s disease for a decade until his death in 2015.
The stress took a toll on Shea. Deciding he needed to get in better shape to ensure he would be around for a long time for his family, he took up running.
“It helped me cope emotionally and physically,” he said.
Shea still doesn’t consider himself a runner, despite the hours he puts in training each week on the track at McCarthy Middle School and the other races he’s run in preparation.
His wife, Lauren, said she’s proud of him for his dedication to running and being a good role model for their three children, Grace, 7, Leila, 5, and Matthew, 3.
This year, Grace ran the Carson Road Race on July 4 with her father, encouraging her to complete it, she said.
Last year, Shea ran the Boston Marathon for the first time, representing the Alzheimer’s Association.
“I’ve never been part of an event that’s quite as soul-shifting as that,” he said.
The Fenway Park Marathon is the brainchild of Boston Marathon Director Dave McGillivray, of North Andover, who will also be one of the 50 runners.
Growing up in Medford, McGillivray wanted to play second base for the Red Sox. That dream never came to be, but when he completed a run across the country for the Jimmy Fund in 1978, he finished it with celebratory laps around Fenway. He did that again a couple other times, and from then he’s wanted to run a marathon inside the park. This year, the Red Sox agreed.
McGillivray put the word out, and within a week had enough people interested. Wanting to keep the inaugural run small to make sure it worked well, he’s since had to turn away several more, who hope it becomes an annual event.
“It just shows that it’s not as crazy an idea as I might have originally thought,” McGillivray said.
To reach the 26.2 mile mark, runners must lap around the perimeter of the outfield warning track slightly more than 116 times. Running in circles in close quarters, Shea likened it to “human NASCAR.”
McGillivray can’t definitively say it’s the first time a marathon of this kind has ever been held, but he has yet to find proof of another. Boston may soon be followed by others — McGillivray has already been contacted by other Major League Baseball teams asking if he’d organize races in their stadiums, too.
Each runner is required to raise a minimum of $5,000 for the Red Sox Foundation, which supports the Jimmy Fund and other charitable organizations. Shea met that amount over the weekend, but he’s hoping to hit his goal of $7,500.
The race starts at 5 p.m. Friday and is free and open to the public. Spectators may park in the 73 Brookline Ave. lot ($10 fee) and enter Fenway from Gate D on Yawkey Way.