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The 2018 Pat Tillman Run

by Randy Snow

Original to www.theworldoffootball.com, Monday, May 7, 2018

For me, this journey started in October 2016. I was watching the newest episode of A Football Life on NFL Network. The show was a profile of Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinals player who quit the NFL following the events on 9-11 and became an Army Ranger along with his brother, Kevin. Pat was killed by friendly fire in April 2004 on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.

At the end of the show, they talked about how his family had started the Pat Tillman Foundation and organized the annual Pat Tillman Run in Tempe, AZ. It is a 4.2-mile charity race that raises money for the foundation, which provides financial assistance to veterans and their families. (Patís number was 42 when he played at Arizona State, hence, the distance for the race)

For some reason, I immediately felt compelled to participate in the race, even though I have never participated in a race of this kind before. Sure, when I was in the military, many years ago, I was required to complete a 1.5 mile run or a 3-mile walk as part of an annual fitness program, and I hated it! After I retired from the military in 2002, I never ran again.

The Pat Tillman Run seemed to be calling to me. Itís all I could think about for the next few months. I dusted off the old treadmill in the living room and started walking. First one mile, then two, then three. In January 2017, online registration for the race began. My plan was to walk the course, but when I went to register for the race, I never saw the word ďwalkĒ mentioned anywhere. I was not prepared to run the race, so I got discouraged and ended up not registering after all. I also stopped training and the treadmill once again began collection dust.

But then, in the Fall of 2017, I started looking into the race again. This time, it was clearly stated online that this was going to be a run/walk, so I began training all over again. In December, I announced to my family that, at the age of 58, I was planning to go to Arizona in April to participate in the race. I was surprised but happy when my two oldest sons, Adam and Aaron, said they wanted to accompany me on the trip and also participate in the race. I registered online in January on the first day that registration was opened. The boys registered later in the week.

By February, I was doing the full 4.2 miles on the treadmill a couple of times a week. My wife encouraged me to also go on a diet along with my treadmill work, so I did. I dropped 25 pounds getting ready for the race.  

The boys and I flew from Kalamazoo to Phoenix on Wednesday, April 18. We picked up our race packets the following day in Tempe at a Sun Devil Stadium parking lot, where the race would begin. It included our bib number, with tracking chip, and an official race t-shirt. It was there that we found out that there would be over 28,000 people taking part in the run/walk. Sun Devil Stadium is where Pat Tillman played college football for Arizona State as well as professional football with the NFL Arizona Cardinals.

After picking up our race packets, we drove across town to the suburb of Glendale. We went to University of Phoenix Stadium, were the NFL Arizona Cardinals now play. We took some pictures by the Pat Tillman statue and the reflective pool outside the stadium, We also visited the team store and tried to take a stadium tour. However, we missed the 10:30 AM tour by about 10 minutes and the 12:30 tour only had one spot left, so we were not able to do a tour.

We then went to lunch at Maxís, a Glendale restaurant and sports bar that I had been to a couple of times over the years. I wanted the boys to experience it because of the fact that there are hundreds of full size football helmets from all over the country throughout the restaurant. Some are in glass cases and others are mounted on the walls.

The 14th annual Pat Tillman Run was set to kick off at about 7 AM on Saturday, April 21. We arrived at the stadium on race day around at 6 AM. Temperatures were already in the 60s and were heading into the upper 80s later that day. We were instructed to be in our assigned corral by 6:30 AM. There were a total of 28 corrals in all. Each one contained 1,000 participants. The fastest runners were in the first several and the slowest were in the last ones. This was determined by the time you put down on your online registration form when it asked for your estimated finish time. I was in the very last corral, #28. Adam was in corral #27 and Aaron was in corral #26.

Two and a half hours after the first corral started the race, my corral finally began the race. While we were waiting to get started, there was an announcement over the PA system that said over 6,000 runners had already completed the race. The first person to cross the finish line completed the race in just over 22 minutes!    

I have been to Arizona several times over the years and I know that the landscape in the Phoenix/Tempe/Glendale area is quite flat so all my training was done without any elevation on the treadmill. However, there were several ups and downs as I had to traversed on-ramps and off-ramps along the course. This made for some sore shins on my part during the race. There were so many people on the course that it was hard to set the kind of pace that I wanted. I kept getting frustrated trying to pass people during the entire 4.2-mile course.

As expected, Aaron left Adam and I in the dust, finishing the course in just over 37 minutes. Adam was second at one-hour and one minute and I was third at 74 minutes. While training on the treadmill at home, it took me about 85 minutes to walk 4.2 miles. I was very pleased with my finish time in the actual race.

In years past, the race ended at the 42-yard line inside the stadium, but this particular year, there was construction going on so the race began and ended outside the stadium. This was a big disappointment for me. I had envisioned myself crossing the finish line on the field many times during the months leading up to the race.  

There are other Pat Tillman Runs that take place all over the country on that same day. They are known as Honor Runs. But I wanted to participate in the original race in Arizona. Since I have a brother, sister and a cousin who all live in the Phoenix area, it was a no-brainer to go to Arizona as opposed to doing a run in Detroit or Chicago. And I am sure that the April weather in Arizona was much better than it was back in the Midwest that day. (A few days before we left for Arizona, there was still some snow on the ground in Michigan!)

Was it all worth it? Absolutely! The boys and I felt it was an honor and a privilege to be a part of this race and to support the work of the Pat Tillman Foundation. It is something we will take great pride in for the rest of our lives.

Would we do it again? Sure. Now that we know how the race works it will make it much easier if we decide to do it again. I would like to make this an annual event with the boys, but we will have to see if that is possible with our schedules.    

Related links;

Pat Tillman Foundation - http://pattillmanfoundation.org/

Patís Run - http://pattillmanfoundation.org/pats-run/

Maxís Sports Bar - http://www.maxsglendale.com/

The World of Football - Pat Tillman Tribute Page - http://www.theworldoffootball.com/Pat_Tillman_Tribute.htm


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