After participating in the first two Pat's Runs, I was looking forward last spring to yet another adventure in what is one of our state's most inspirational and passionate athletic events.
Only trouble was I spent the day of the run gazing out of my Mayo Clinic hospital window while recovering from cancer surgery.
Missing Pat's Run helped me realize what a special time it had become for family, our friends and myself.
It is a morning we all gather near the campus of Arizona State University to celebrate the life of Pat Tillman and to better our own.
I remember thinking from my hospital bed that the most memorable part of the run is charging into the north end of Sun Devil Stadium and finishing on the 42-yard line, in honor of Tillman, who wore No. 42 while playing for the Sun Devils.
From my hospital bed, I relived the thrill of crossing the 42-yard line and recalling it was there where former Cardinals coaches Dave McGinnis and Larry Marmie delivered power-packed eulogies following Tillman's death April 22, 2004 while fighting in Afghanistan.
McGinnis told the crowd that Tillman's spirit was alive and well in the stadium.
"That lump in your throat, the tear in your eye, is Pat," he said.
Marmie also insisted Tillman's spirit lives on in the stadium where he had some of his finest days as a football player.
"He's on the sidelines, in the stands, on the field doing back flips and sitting on one of the light poles," Marmie said.
As a student at ASU, Tillman was known to climb the light poles above the stadium in search of a place where he could find solace.
In the Mayo hospital, I also remembered it was during the inaugural run, that the Arizona Cardinals gave out plastic wristbands in memory of Tillman and a runner wore a T-shirt inscribed, "Never Forget No. 40" (Tillman's jersey number while a member of the Cardinals).
Among the real "highs" of the run is that most leave the course feeling like an athlete, no matter how slow, small or unskilled they might be.
The run has attracted many of the Rim Country's finest including Payson's vice mayor Tim Fruth, Carolyn Fruth, Ashton Wolfe, Vern Havens, Henry Thomason, Steve Montgomery, school board member Rory Huff, ex-PHS basketball star Miles Huff, former Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind, Shannon Bilke, Kay Foster and others.
Wolfe once finished second in her age group, Carolyn Fruth was fourth and Kay Foster 16th.
Typically those who participate are not the hard-core runners with 0 percent body fat, high-dollar running shoes and state-of-the-art racing garb. Instead, the runners are usually a diverse field of young and old runners and walkers.
Some push baby strollers, some carry backpacks and others run in combat boots and high-top shoes.
They are the type of people Tillman would have loved.
Also during the run, it's obvious from race banter, the character, integrity, commitment and courage Pat showed during his life is an inspiration to everyone.
One runner, who I had never met previously, told me he was there because Pat represented certain things he admired like getting out and being active and accomplishing goals he had set his sights on.
After missing out on last year's Pat's Run, I'm anxious, excited and looking forward to the fourth annual event which will be held tomorrow, April 19, in Tempe.
I'm certain a motivating factor for me will be remembering last year's confinement in a hospital bed while others were enjoying the thrills of the day.
I now know, being healthy enough to compete makes me among the most fortunate men in the world.
Not too late
For those who have not yet signed up, registration will be available from 5 to 7:15 a.m. on race morning at Packard Drive and Rio Salado Drive. That's just adjacent to Sun Devil Stadium.
The race begins at 7 p.m. and the fee is $35. An untimed walk begins at 7:30 a.m. and at 9:15 a.m. a Kid's Run, which my grandchildren love, will be held.
As popular as Pat's Run has become, it's obvious from a recent failed attempt to name a section of SR 260 "Pat Tillman Highway" there are those detractors in the Rim Country who don't put much credence in Tillman's sacrifices and commitments as an American soldier.
I feel sorry for them. I think they must be the type of persons Theodore Roosevelt was referring to when he said:
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
The Tillman fund
The proceeds from all Pat's Runs, benefit the Pat Tillman Foundation that was founded after his death. His widow, Marie, said the foundation was created "to honor Pat's memory and carry forward his legacy.
"Our goal is to inspire and support others that live their lives with a similar spirit and strive for positive change," she said.
"Like Pat, the foundation bearing his name is deliberate in developing planned courses of action and will focus its initial efforts on educating America's next generation of leaders with the ethical foundation and critical-thinking skills they need to drive positive change in themselves and their communities."