Runniversary isn’t a word, per se, but it is part of my runner vocabulary.
In March 15, 2010, Elyria police officer James A. Kerstetter was shot and killed in the line of duty. At the time I was working for the newspaper full-time. While I was off work the night it happened (a Monday), I covered everything following: the vigils, press conferences, family interviews, and funeral. Although I never personally met Officer Kerstetter, I felt like I knew him from hearing stories from fellow officers, family and friends. He seemed like an amazing person I wish I could of had the pleasure of knowing.
In July 2010, the inaugural Kerstetter 5k was held. They planned to hold it near his birthday, July 9. I knew of the event, but really had no intention of participating. The weekend prior to the race I was chatting with a few ladies I had recently met at Splash zone at the outdoor pool. I knew the ladies from spinning. They were both runners and at the time I had been running off and on to stay in shape. They mentioned that a group of them were running the race and said I should run it as well. I let the idea bounce around in my head for a day or two and then decided, yes I will run this race. It would be an awesome tribute to Jim and his family.
I think I ran once that week, on the treadmill at Splash Zone. I signed up the day before the race at the police station. The day of the race I was pretty nervous because I had never run an official race before. Although my time wasn’t the fastest, I remember more all the emotions surging through the pre-race ceremony and on the course after the gun went off. That day I dedicated that run to Officer Kerstetter and ran with him in mind. The course was tough, mainly the drop into a small park with a narrow drive and uneven terrain, I did my best and used Jim as my motivation to keep going.
As I ran down the hill on Kerstetter Way towards the finish line for the first time, the rush and overwhelming emotions that flooded over me was such an amazing experience. I completed my first official road race. And I did it to honor a man who lost his life doing his job to serve and protect.
And today, July 12, 2014, four years later, I ran the fifth annual Kerstetter 5k.
I was nervous waiting to start the race. But once the gun went off and we took off I just felt great weaving my wave through the crowd.
Can you find me in this photo? Source.
I ran the race with Jim in my thoughts and ran a strong race. I caught up with the Elyria PD, Lorain PD and OSP officers who ran in formation the entire 3.1 as I made the final turn back onto Kerstetter Way. It was a crazy mix of emotions running beside them as the crowd stood and applauded them as they ran toward the finish. Again, I became overwhelmed with emotions for the moment. I used it to push hard at the end to cross the finish line. I finished proud, just like I did four years ago.
This race, like every year will be, will be my way to continue to honor and remember Officer Kerstetter and show support to his family that he will not be forgotten.
This race also symbolizes my start in my running journey. I have promised to myself that I will run this race annually not only to honor Jim, but to allow myself to reflect on my journey and celebrate all I’ve accomplished, gained and experienced by choosing to make running a part of my life.
While in the past six months I’ve grown to enjoy other types of fitness workouts, I know running will always be apart of me. A way for me to relieve stress, give me time and space to think and allow me to enjoy the beauty of the world around me.