The 12th Annual Pat’s Run drew in a record crowd Saturday. Race coordinators estimated a whopping 35,000 descended onto Tempe to honor fallen Army veteran Pat Tillman.
That’s seven times more than the first race which drew in 5,500 back in 2004 after Tillman, a former ASU and Arizona Cardinals football player, was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.
Many of the runners are inspired by Tillman and many, like Brooke Walters, have their own story to tell.
Walters started running the race after her own husband, Army veteran Cory Jenkins, was killed in Afghanistan in 2009.
Walters says Jenkins, who served as a physician’s assistant, was on a goodwill mission when his vehicle ran over an explosive device that also killed three others.
“Pat's Run is a great way to remember him. When I run I feel like he's running with me and so it gives me a connection to him every time that I do it,” said Walters.
She had given birth to their first child--a girl--just 10 weeks before Jenkins' death.
“I tell her that he was brave, that he loved adventure and she's the same way,” said an emotional Walters.
When Walters got word, she remembered another soldier who had died: Pat Tillman.
“I didn't know very much about him, but after my husband died I wanted to do the run because I felt like there was a connection between the two of them,” Walters said.
“Those are the types of things that make this special. People find a reason to be here and it means something to them.” said Pat’s Run founder Perry Edinger
Edinger started Pat’s Run as a way to honor Tillman, who was also a close friend.
“For me every year it's very personal and very special.” said a teary-eyed Edinger
The former Head Athletic Trainer for ASU worked with Tillman when he was a Sun Devil football player, helping Tillman recover from injuries.
When Tillman went on to play for the Arizona Cardinals, Edinger trained him for a marathon.
“He was just a great guy and to lose him when we did and under the circumstances was really sad, but to give back and give people a chance to honor really makes me feel good. “ said Edinger
Proceeds from the run will go to help military families.