Tuesday, April 24, 2012

EZ Memorial 5k

On the morning of April 19th, 2011 I was driving to work just like any other Tuesday morning, half awake and hoping my coffee would kick in before I arrive. That was until I heard a news update on the radio stating that a Kalamazoo Police Officer was shot and killed in the line of duty the night before. Immediately I no longer needed the caffeine to rouse my senses because I was shocked at what I had heard. This has never happened in Kalamazoo before and my shock quickly turned to fear as my best friend Bryan is an Officer with the department and he happens to work nights. In no time I was dialing his number and when he answered the phone after the second ring, I was never more happy to hear him say hello. We've been friends since joining the cross-country team together freshmen year, lived together for a bit and I was even the Best Man at his wedding. We've been through some crazy times together and I'm not ready for those times to end, especially not that way.

I was relieved to know that he was okay but I was still shaken and saddened by the news of the Officers death. It is a horrible tragedy. I've known many police officers in my life (not for the wrong reasons either! Thank you very much!lol) some have even been family. I am fully aware of the risk they take everyday that they go into work to provide a safe community for my family and I to live in.

Eric Zapata is the name of the Officer that died that night, while coming to the aid of a fellow officer. He made the ultimate sacrifice, trying to make a difference in this world, and I know I can't even begin to do enough to thank him.

It's been a year since that horrendous event took place and last week was filled with memorials and events honoring the life of EZ. One of these events was a 5k race that is to be an annual event to raise money for a scholarship fund for individuals wanting to pursue careers in law enforcement. The EZ Memorial Run 5k was held at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. When they first announced the race, I knew I wanted to run it.

It was a fairly flat course with a small rolling hill near the middle. There were roughly 550 participants in the run/walk and many more cheering people on. The start/finish line was flanked by two firetrucks with ladders extended overhead forming an A-frame with a massive American flag draped between the two. It was quite an impressive sight for sure.

I wanted to get a good warm up in especially because it was just barely 40 degrees. I've noticed that I really don't feel loose until I'm at least 3 miles into a run so I decided to jog the course once as my warm up, change shoes and head to the start. I noticed during my warm up that the first half mile was straight into a fairly significant head wind.

The race started and the first few guys took off like they were shot out of a cannon! I noticed myself really pushing trying to stay with them. There was one guy by himself up front, two right in front of me side by side and I realized that I was in the best spot. I was using the two as a wind block for that first stretch. Just past the half mile I moved into third along side a friend of mine who normally would kick my tail in a race, but has been going through some burnout/over training lately and was just coming off from a break. I was feeling good and had my eyes set on the guy in first so I started to pull away from my buddy and began chasing number one. I finally caught him at the mile mark and looked down at my watch to see my first split (5:41) right where I wanted to be!

I was feeling great at this point and was able to keep truckin along but he started to drop back pretty soon after I caught him. I had taken the lead and wasn't going to give it up for anything! I'd never been in the lead of a race like this before, especially not this far in. The route was an out and back that went around a loop at the half way point before sending you back toward the start/finish. When I came out of the loop I was running towards the rest of the people in the race who were still on their way out and this was AWESOME because people were literally cheering and clapping for me! For me! I've never experienced so many people wishing me well cheering me on! At one point I was almost completely overcome with joy. I think this may have been the only way I was able to hold my pace. The support from the other runners and spectators really carried me to the finish.
I forgot to mention that the race was being led by a few motorcycles, two police bikes and two from a local bike club, and it was pretty cool chasing them down. I kept trying to get closer to them and actually almost caught them at the end! haha They slowed down to turn off the course right before the finish and they slowed down so much that I was gaining on them muy rapido! I could see the race director waving his arms frantically at them to get moving so I didn't have to run around them to get to the finish. I thought it was funny and part of me totally wanted to pass them!

Sure, Sure, Unsure...
As I approached the line I thought about how this was the first race I'd ever win and all I could think about was.....what do I do!?! should I put my arms up in a fit of joy? lunge forward like it's neck and neck? Trip and fall and finish second!? Well at the last second I realized they had a tape stretched out for me to break so I went with arms up over my head. It seemed like the right thing to do, if not...who cares, I just won a race!!!!!!! I can do what ever I want with my stinkin arms!

Collecting my trophy (good hair day ha eh...)
Glass trophy = doesn't show up well in picture

My time ended up being a new PR of 17:53, the first time I've gone under 18 minutes since high school, and even then I only did it once!  I jogged back out a little ways to cheer on some friends who were still finishing and then hung out to collect my sweet trophy. I got messages on my phone and facebook from friends all day congratulating me. I was whole heartily filled with happiness and had a smile from ear to ear. I even made the news briefly as they showed a clip of me crossing the finish! Oh and on top of my sweet trophy, I also won a pair of Brooks shoes! Baller! Anybody have suggestions on which ones I should get?

I had an amazing day, and thank you to those of you who sent me congratulatory messages on facebook and daily mile. I also want to remind you of the reason for this race in the first place, and maybe next time you see an officer, you'll thank them for the job they do. I'm sure they don't hear it often enough and after all, they keep the streets safe that we love to run on.

Rest In Peace, Eric Zapata.


  1. Glad to hear that your friend is safe. Tragic circumstance, nonetheless.

    Congrats on the win! It was really fun to read the report. I've experienced surges of energy that were spectator-related, so it definitely helps.

    Try kissing the ground next time. I've seen elite runners do that before.

  2. How freaking awesome!!! Congrats to you again! (And sorry I'm WAY late to comment on this! Can't comment on blogs from work anymore so that means my commenting has been severly lacking!) Excited to finally meet this coming weekend in K-zoo. Let's try to coordinate meeting up at the expo or something!!!

  3. Unbelievable dude. I was so happy to hear that you run that race. Nobody deserved it more than you. Keep up the good work man!