In the Aftermath of Boston, “Pat’s Run” in Phoenix Takes on Greater Meaning
By Shelly Goode
As an amateur runner I love races; I save all my race bibs and write my time on the back of them. I think I have run about 13 races, large races, and smaller ones; each one is special. Running is the most democratic of all sports; there is virtually no financial barrier for participation, there is little equipment, no special venue is needed, Weekend Warriors race alongside elite runners, anyone can run, anyone can watch, there are no ticket fees, no limits on spectators, and the runners race through the public space of a city.
There is a specific race coming up that I am looking especially forward to; I ran it last year after becoming a Tillman Military Scholar…Pat’s Run. This race is special because it has grown from a small race, organized by Marie Tillman in Tempe Arizona to a massive undertaking by the city of Phoenix. Pat’s Run embodies so many things; community, sacrifice, 10 years of war, loss, heroism, veterans, scholars, and courage…so many things.
Many define courage as: not knowing what evil lies on the other side of a decision but deciding to go anyway. When the Towers fell on 9/11, Pat Tillman did exactly this; he placed one foot in front of the other and did not look back. Pat bravely left behind an exciting football career in Arizona that was both comfortable and profitable, for a very different life as an Army Ranger. In his own words: “It doesn’t do me any good to be proud. It’s better to just force myself to be naïve about things, because otherwise I’ll start being happy with myself, and then I’ll stand still, and then I’m old news.” When Pat Tillman made this courageous decision, he became part of the 1% who serves our nation. Pat ultimately lost his life in the mountains of Afghanistan placing him in another honored category: those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their nation’s freedom.
When the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon became a war zone on April 15, our nation was instantly propelled back to the emotions of 9/11. But this time there is a difference, after a decade of war there are many veterans and those still in uniform, who thankfully populate our communities. They live among us, are organized, are motivated to serve, are young, smart, and have not allowed themselves to be isolated. On April 15 2013, there were many of these 1%ers participating in their community’s largest event: the Boston Marathon. One of these 1%ers was 1LT Fiola, a Massachusetts native. Fiola has participated in the Boston Marathon three times, each time rucking it. This year he organized a team of soldiers to ruck the Marathon: team “Tough Ruck.”
Fiola’s team had just finished the 26.2 mile Ruck, and was sitting, exhausted near the finish line, when they heard the blast. These 1%ers, like Pat Tillman understand courage; and without knowing what evil lie ahead, they jumped into action. They did not run to safety, they rendered aid to the fallen.
As the Officer in Charge, Fiola immediately organized his exhausted team and jumped into action. He and his fellow soldier, 1SG Bernard Madore ripped down a fence that was separating the wounded from medical personnel and transport. Madore assisted children and helped with tourniquets while Fiola rendered aid to a man on fire, with a badly burned face.
After tragic events like Boston, often all people can do, is just do. Placing one foot in front of the other, doing, creating, participating, working, and running. This doing, doing anything, big or small is so important, it is what begins the exponential cycle of others doing, and in the end, simply doing creates real energy, real things, real buildings, real money, real organizations, real missions of help…doing, changes lives.
Marie Tillman, Pat Tillman’s widow is also a doer. When faced with the unspeakable tragedy of losing her husband, she also bravely left comfort behind and journeyed to a place unknown to her. Marie could have mourned the death of her husband privately and simply moved on with her life, leaving the Army part of her life behind. What she did instead placed her in the category of 1%ers. She placed one foot in front of the other, slowly doing, creating one small project at a time, refusing to let herself become isolated. All this doing has resulted in what is now a solid and reputable organization that bears the name of her late husband. The Pat Tillman Foundation, started by Marie Tillman is the result of a lot of doing, and has brought about tangible things like Pat’s Run and the Tillman Military Scholars Program. These two very real things serve a great need in our nation; they are not abstract, they are measurable energy, and they change our reality. Pat’s Run is the result of doing. After the evil in Boston, this weekend warrior and veteran cannot wait to get to doing, and race it.