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A brother's worthy feat

It began in the stands of Fenway Park on the most gorgeous morning of this short spring with what everyone admits was probably a Budweiser too many. How it ended with a pair of bruised and bloodied feet and a bundle of money at the finish line of the Boston Marathon is testament to the fact that life never ceases to amaze.

His name is David Newton. He's 49 years old, even if he doesn't always act it. Yesterday, he found himself exactly where any right-minded Bostonian wanted to be -- sitting with friends in sun-dappled seats watching Manny Ramirez drop fly balls and belt home runs as the Red Sox pounded the Toronto Blue Jays.

And did I mention there was beer involved?

After the game, the group finds itself in Great Bay in Kenmore Square. The jokes are older and more tired. The laughs come louder and faster. Every once in a while, they duck outside the lounge to admire the world-class runners racing past the front door.

Newton, it's relevant to note, lost his older brother, Peter, to melanoma in May 1999. Ever since, he has hosted an annual skiing event in Vermont, known as Peter's FUNd Racer (petersfundracer.com), which has raised about $400,000 in the last six years for the Melanoma Research Fund at Massachusetts General Hospital and a pair of other worthy charities.

Back to Great Bay. One of Newton's friends apologizes that he has yet to cut his annual check for the fund, which is when this friend comes up with the proposal: If Newton runs the last mile of the marathon, he'll write a big check. And by big check, he means a really big check.

But there's something else. Newton has to run that last mile shirtless. And sockless. And shoeless. And, for good measure, he has to take his cap off his bald head.

One more thing: He has to get to the finish line in under seven minutes or no deal.

Another friend chimes in that he'll match the contribution. Pretty soon the cellphones come out. Buttons are pressed, calls are made. Questions are asked by those on the other end of the line, mostly two of them: ''He's going to do what?" And: ''Where do I send the check?"

Within 15 minutes, the group is offering Newton a grand total of $115,000 to the Peter's FUNd Racer, every dime of which will get funneled straight to charity. Now, only one question remains: How far will brotherly love go?

Newton has himself a problem. He knows how hard the runners at every level have trained to be in the race. He knows how many other marathoners are running the entire course raising all amounts of money for their own worthy causes. He doesn't want to demean anyone's efforts with his own silly shoeless display.

But he can't say no, not to that kind of money, not for a cause so near and dear to his heart.

So Newton retires to the men's room, where he cuts his trousers down to shorts. He pulls off his shirt. He peels off his socks and shoes. He's not a particularly big guy, but you don't exactly look at him and think Marathon Man.

And off he went.

A coconspirator distracted the cop guarding the barricade as Newton slipped through.

The elite runners had already come and gone. For that matter, so did most others. Still, the sidewalks remained lined with spectators cheering him every stride that he made.

''Go, barefoot man," he recalls them yelling, one after the other.

By the time he hit Massachusetts Avenue, his soles were a bloody mess.

When he hit Boylston Street, he thought some of his vital functions were about to shut down.

But he had 115,000 good reasons to keep up the pace -- and he did.

He crossed the finish line in plenty of time, deeply embarrassed, but knowing that somebody, someday, will benefit from his few minutes of hell.

He knew something else as well: His brother was laughing from high above.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at mcgrory@globe.com.

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