Friday marks the 18-year anniversary of Sun Devil legend Pat Tillman’s death while on duty in Afghanistan. Tillman’s legacy has lived on in the work of the Pat Tillman Foundation, which is set to host the 18th annual Pat’s Run on Saturday.
In honor of the event returning to Tempe following a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I spoke to Dan Futrell, the CEO of The Pat Tillman Foundation, about the importance of the event.
What does it mean to keep such a valuable event like Pat’s Run going for its 18th year?
“First of all, today is the 18th anniversary of Pat being killed in Afghanistan. And so being able to have this anniversary at the same time that we’re planning to welcome 28,000 people at the start line tomorrow morning is just super exciting and inspiring quite frankly. Over the last three months that people have been registering for Pat’s Run, all that we’ve heard from them is that they’re so excited to be back in person. It’s been three years since we’ve had Pat’s Run finish on the 42-yard line at Sun Devil Stadium.”
Does the event mean more this year given what the community and the world has endured with COVID-19?
“100 percent. Pat’s Run is all about community. And as much as we love seeing people share their videos and photos of runs from their neighborhood doing things virtually, it’s 10 times better to do this in person. So to be able to get through COVID, to be able to get through the other side of this and bring people back together it means that much more 100 percent.”
What do you think Pat would say if he could see what the foundation and Pat’s Run has meant to the community over the last 18 years?
“I try to be real careful. I can’t say what Pat would say. I never met him personally and the last thing I’m going to do is attempt to speak for him. But I will say this though, he’s somebody who lived his life in a way that really focused on connecting with other people, and really focused on pushing himself athletically in a variety of different ways. And he was really committed to service … I can’t speak for him but his presence continues to be active as we think about this foundation and the work that we do.”
What is the message to the community ahead of Saturday’s 18th annual Pat’s Run?
“Number one is we’re back. Number two is coming to this race allows us to continue to support exceptional veterans and military spouses. I love so much being amongst the crowd at the start line, along the course, getting people up the hill and down the hill, and back across Tempe Town Lake. Like all that stuff is so motivating. But what I feel even more deeply is the fact that us getting out there, and having fun, and doing this race helps us offer a million and a half dollars per year in scholarships to people who are really trying to make a difference and invest in themselves through education.”
Is there anything else I missed or you’d like to add on the topic of tomorrow’s Pat’s Run.
“Last thing I’ll say, tomorrow is meant to be fun. It’s Pat’s Run, as we know with 28,000 people. We’ve got runners, we’ve got walkers, we’ve got people out there with strollers and families. Please get out there if you haven’t signed up yet. We also have a lot of room for volunteers, so feel free to show up on race day and if you want to help us out by handing out water or setting up some T-shirts and what not that’s always appreciated. So if somebody is looking for something to do tomorrow morning around 6, 7 a.m. please come out and join us.”