TILLMAN TUESDAY: An Inside Look at Pat’s Run and How it Came to Be
Pat Tillman Foundation Communications | By Jill Walsh, Communications Manager | April 11, 2017
Pat’s Run has grown from 5,500 participants in its first year to over 30,000 participants nationwide
Pat Tillman Foundation (PTF) can’t fulfill its mission to empower military veterans and their spouses without the generosity of our supporters across the country. Nationwide, over 400 Tillman Scholars are striving to impact our country and communities through their studies in medicine, law, business, policy, science, education and the arts. Every “Tillman Tuesday,” we are committed to highlighting the individual impact of a Tillman Scholar, focusing on their success in school, career and community — all thanks to your support.
In a special edition of Tillman Tuesday, this week we have the honor of learning about how Pat’s Run began and how it evolved over time through the race’s co-founders Alex Garwood, Perry Edinger and Doug Tammaro. Alex Garwood is Pat’s brother-in-law and a member of the Pat Tillman Foundation board since its inception in 2004. Perry Edinger was Pat’s Athletic Trainer and friend during his time at Arizona State University while Doug Tammaro was and still is the Media Relations Director.
Though their perspectives on Pat’s Run may differ in some instances, the one constant is that the annual event is about Pat.
HOW DID THE IDEA OF PAT’S RUN START?
Perry: “After Pat’s passing, Alex, summoned a couple of us together to have dinner and talk about the possibility of putting something together to honor Pat. After lengthy discussion and eliminating a number of endeavors, including rock jumping, light pole climbing, golf outings, we came up with conclusion that a run would be best. We decided it needed to be unique, just like Pat. So, the birth of Pat’s Run started.”
Alex: “Those dudes came to me with the idea (because I was with PTF). I think I said, ‘uh, good luck with that.’ I underestimated what could (and would) be accomplished and was the first person proven wrong. That’s all Pat. He started all of this — Pat’s Run, PTF and the Tillman Scholars Program.”
Doug: “My version is a few people knew we had to do something. What was it going to be? It had to be something everyone could do, so no triathlon. Golf would have been dumb as it didn’t relate to Pat. A ‘run’ seemed so cool but we also wanted people to understand you didn’t have to run, you could walk or jog or do whatever. Perry took control, we just followed his lead. I was hoping for 5,000 people. I was just a little bit off on my projections.”
HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE RUN GROW THROUGHOUT THE YEARS?
Perry: “Amazing and wonderful. The first year I thought that 5,500 runners were incredible. To think that 12 years later 28,000 people continue to honor Pat in this way is terrific. I remember a few years ago one of our numbers guys, Jared, told Alex and I that we would have 28,000 people at the run. I thought he was crazy but at the same time thought that would be fantastic. For that to happen is truly exciting.”
Alex: “People told Perry and crew that they’d never have more that 4,000 people. Ever. Not possible. And Perry and the Pat’s Run volunteers just said, ‘It’s Pat’ and made it happen. Not only does it grow (now maxed) it gets better and better — it’s more refined. I love that Pat’s spirit of always improving is evident in the run, too. As soon as it’s done we are always saying, ‘okay that was cool, now how can we make it better next year?’”
Doug: “To me the neatest thing is it has become an ‘event’ with live TV there and so much more than the run, but it also has stayed simple with some things. A big moment for us was last year — due to construction we couldn’t finish in the stadium, but it still was awesome. That was incredible!”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE DAY (Pat’s Run day)?
Perry: “I have two. First, as the light starts coming up over the horizon and people start showing up and I realize the run is going to happen that year. Second, when the gun goes off and the excitement of the runners taking off, it is hard to hold back on emotions.”
Alex: “I have two, too. First, I love taking Doug’s idea and going to the top of Sun Devil Stadium and looking at all the people. I love seeing the almost continuous circle (one year the leaders caught the tail end folks) of people, 30,000 people all together, all there for Pat. Second, I love being in the crowd and the feeling of common purpose — it feels like we can do anything — and it feels like Pat.”
Doug: “Now for me it is to see all the young kids, some of them named Tillman, crossing the finish line, knowing many of them weren’t even alive when Pat was. They now know his story and legacy. It is my favorite day of the year. There is tremendous relief when it is over, but the visuals are amazing.”
WHAT IS A PAT’S RUN DAY TRADITION YOU HAVE?
Perry: “I like to run the race by myself. Then I like to run the race with my wife. Then I like to run the race with Alex.”
Doug: “I used to go to the top of the stadium and watch the start from there, but with solar panels and the stadium construction last year I have had to make a change. I enjoy going to Rula Bula by myself when all is said and done and just look around, have one cold one, and see all the people wearing those great shirts enjoying the post-race fun. They are all shapes and sizes from all over. It means another year has been completed.”
WITH ALL THE OPTIONS OF RACES TO CHOOSE FROM, WHY SHOULD SOMEONE RUN PAT’S RUN, WHETHER IT BE IN TEMPE, AS A REMOTE RUNNER OR AT A TILLMAN HONOR RUN?
Perry: “That is simple. It honors Pat.”
Alex: “And, by honoring Pat you’re doing something for yourself and raising financial support for some very kick *** people.”
Doug: “It is our state’s greatest day, plain and simple. We have 35,000 happy people who are all determined to have a great day.”
ANY SPECIAL MEMORY THAT STANDS OUT TO YOU FROM A PAST PAT’S RUN?
Perry: “Standing near the starting line of the first Pat’s Run and 5,500 runners heading down the road to honor Pat for the first time.”
Alex: “Calling Perry on my phone at the start one year (he couldn’t be there) and letting the sounds wash over me and the phone (and Perry). The emotion that day was incredibly powerful. Joy at the success, sorrow and pain in missing Pat (and Perry) and the feeling of brotherhood and common purpose. It was (and is) a powerful cocktail.”
Doug: “The ASU football team helping Sheldon Davidson across the finish line. He has since passed, but his desire to honor Pat despite having a stroke and being in a wheelchair was overwhelming.”
***Registration for the 13th Annual Pat’s Run closes April 21 with the race taking place Saturday, April 22 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, AZ and Tillman Honor Runs nationwide. Pat’s Run is the signature fundraising event of the Pat Tillman Foundation and its Tillman Scholars program. Space is limited so register now as there will be no walk-up registration on race packet pickup days.