Double duty for Baird brothers

Lake Placid senior Stuart Baird takes the baton from teammate Henry McGrew during a home track meet on May 11. Baird will compete today in the 4x800 relay at the NYSPHSAA track and field championships and then attempt his first marathon in Lake Placid on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

LAKE PLACID — Stuart Baird joined the Lake Placid track team as a junior just to stay in shape to be better at the sport he loves the most: the game of soccer.

But in the process, Baird, who is now a senior and will graduate later this month, found out he’s a pretty good runner too. This weekend, Baird will really be put to the test. Today, he’s competing for the second year in a row at the NYSPHSAA track and field championships at Union-Endicott High School near Binghamton, and the following day, he will be at the starting line of the 13th annual Lake Placid Marathon.

Along with his brother Andrew, who is in medical school at the University at Buffalo, Stuart will attempt to complete the race’s full marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

Baird has been an outstanding three-sport athlete in soccer, basketball and track at Lake Placid, and will attend St. Lawrence University in the fall and play on the Saints’ men’s soccer team. He said he really began to enjoy running a year ago after qualifying for the state high school track championships along with three other teammates on the Blue Bombers’ 4×800 relay.

“It all started last time I made states for track,” Baird said. “That’s when I really started getting into running. Soccer and basketball, those have been the two sports I really like. Track was the sport that I was least into. Ironically, it’s the only sport that has gotten me to the state championships.”

Tackling a full marathon will be a new experience for Baird. His longest trek to date was about three weeks ago when he covered 22 miles.

“I’m not really sure how it will go,” he said. “I’ve been going on 10-plus mile runs for the past four weeks and have since tapered off. That 22-mile run obviously hurt a lot. I ran 10 miles and then some friends joined me the rest of the way. They were fresh and I really had to keep up with them. It was tough, but fun.”

Baird will race with teammates Trent White, Henry McGrew and Scott Schulz in the state meet, and return home later tonight to hopefully be ready for Sunday’s trek through the streets of Lake Placid on a hilly course.

“It’s a little intimidating,” Baird said about racing on back-to-back days. “But I have confidence in my training and I’m hoping for a good time.”

Not only does Baird hope to set a new school record running with his 4×800 teammates today, he’s looking to beat his older brother Andrew to the finish line Sunday. Andrew, however, has experience over his younger brother. A 2010 Lake Placid graduate, Andrew has run marathons before and is also an Ironman finisher.

“He was involved in a lot of sports at Lake Placid — track, soccer, baseball, skiing,” Stuart said. “I’d love to beat him. I’ve been training and he’s been busy with med school. We’ve trash talked a little bit, but I’m sure he’s not too worried.”

Baird said his older brother and his mother, Cindy, helped provide him inspiration to run in the marathon. His mom, a teacher at the Lake Placid Elementary School, is an avid runner. He said his dad, also named Stuart, is more of a short-distance guy.

Andrew also credited his mom with getting him started as a runner, and said he hopes Sunday marks a new beginning when it comes to a family of runners.

“My mom has run 20-plus marathons in her lifetime,” Andrew said. “She hasn’t done one in a while, but every day, she’s up at the crack of dawn for 10-mile runs. She got me going. I’m really excited to be running with Stu. I’m kind of hoping this starts a precedent for us. In the future, I hope we can do a lot of fun things like this — train together, continue to do races together.”

Andrew said most of his training took place during January and February this year, but he hasn’t been running that much during the past three months due to medical school, which has included a hectic schedule that has him on call in and out of the operating room.

Andrew’s longest run so far took place on a frigid January day in Buffalo, when he covered 81 miles while attempting to complete a 100-mile ultra marathon.

“That was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Having to peel your frozen eyelashes apart really added a new dimension to running.” he said. “I wanted to see how far I could push myself, and I certainly found that out. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again.”

Prior to January’s race, Andrew has completed three full marathons and one 50-mile ultra marathon.

This weekend will require a lot of traveling in a short amount of time for both Baird brothers, and especially Andrew, who planned to arrive in Lake Placid late Friday evening and will be returning to Buffalo on Sunday after the marathon.

“I’m back to work on Monday,” said Andrew, who plans to graduate from medical school next May.

Andrew said he’s hoping the best for his younger brother and joked a little bit about their sibling rivalry, which really is a friendly one.

“I know Stu is in great shape and he’ll be quick out of the gate,” Andrew said. “He’s been training more, but I have experience on my side. I think Stu wants to break 3:30. I’m going to be really supportive of him in his first race. I think it’s great he’s trying the marathon, and wish him the best.

“I’m looking at about 3:45, but really, I just want to cross the finish line in one piece,” he continued. “If Andrew gets me this time, that will motivate me to not let him beat me again. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.”

Although Stuart Baird has this weekend on his mind right now, he’s ultimately looking forward to putting all those miles wearing running shoes to work when he dons the cleats for the upcoming soccer season.

“I’m planning to show up well conditioned and in great shape,” Baird said. “I’ve grown up watching St. Lawrence play. I’ve gone to soccer camp there and I’ve worked at the soccer camps there. It’s a school where I can look at playing right away. There were other options, but I could have been looking at sitting on the bench for four years. St. Lawrence is a school that seemed like a second home to me.”

The 13th annual Lake Placid Marathon kicks off at 8 a.m. Sunday with a mass start on Main Street in front of the Olympic speedskating oval.