Boston Marathon veteran Carolyn Fruth, a 46-year-old mother of two, paced a contingent of 21 Rim Country runners who participated in the Seventh Annual Pat’s Run.
On April 18 in Tempe, Fruth covered the 4.2-mile course — that wound along Tempe streets near the edge of the Arizona State University campus — in a Payson-best time of 31:11.
Fruth has competed in five of seven Pat’s Runs and her time was a personal record.
Also from Payson, 19-year-old Janell Blizzard was second among the Rim runners touring the course in 34:50.
Tim Fruth, Carolyn’s husband and Payson’s former vice mayor, was third among the locals in 35:29. Payson High School student Jared Varner, 15, was clocked in 35:43.
A real head-turner was the performance turned in by 71-year-old Henry Lopez who was timed in 36:51.
Gerry Foster, 44, formerly of Payson, but now a resident of Gilbert, finished in 30:08.
The run, which drew about 30,000 runners, finished on the 42-yard line on Frank Kush Field in Sun Devil stadium.
The length of the race, 4.2 miles, and the location of the finish line are symbolic of the jersey number 42 Tillman wore during the years he starred on the ASU football team.
After leaving ASU, Tillman played professionally for the Arizona Cardinals, but eventually left a lucrative pro contract on the negotiating table to enlist in the Army.
He was killed April 22, 2004 in Afghanistan. He was 27 years old at the time of his death.
Pat’s Run began as a grass roots effort by his family and friends, to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation that annually awards scholarships to military service members and their families.
The recipients are known as “Tillman Scholars.”
Tradition grows bigger, stronger
Each year the race has grown in both numbers and stature.
The inaugural run attracted about 5,000 entrants, but on Saturday the field had grown so large that some were finishing the race before others reached the start line.
The field, which included runners from 48 states, seven countries, included sports fans, students, athletes, military veterans and the New York City Fire Department sent a crew of six firefighters to pay tribute.
A Texas-based Army unit entered a squad-sized group of volunteers.
Some runners also competed in teams. Gilbert Mesquite High School sent a team and there were others such as the Bandidogs, Nerd Herd, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Gym Class Drop Outs and Calorically Challenged.
In the wheelchair division, 37-year-old Queen Creek resident Troy Davis was first in 18:15.
Some participants said they chose to participate to say “thank you” not only to Tillman, but all the others who have served in the military in defense of their country.
While the event draws some of the most elite runners in the country, it also attracts a diverse field that includes women pushing strollers, men walking dogs, pre-teens competing in their first-ever long distance run and a selection of costumed runners including one who wore a complete ASU football uniform.
As runners approached the finish line inside the stadium, they passed through Tillman Tunnel, were greeted by cheering ASU football players and could see themselves on the Jumbotron screen located at the far end of the field.
As invigorating as the tribute race was for most, there were other exhausted runners celebrating the course wasn’t longer in distance.
“I’m glad Pat didn’t play another position,” one said. “What if he wore an 80s number?”