This was my seventh time running Pat’s Run and every time I can’t wait until after the next one. For those who are not familiar, Pat’s Run was started in honor of Pat Tillman, a former Sun Devil and Arizona Cardinals football player who left a million dollar contract to join the Army Rangers. He was killed by friendly fire in 2004.
Pat’s Run brings a lot of emotions and you can see it in the runners. Each corral is led by a Tillman Scholar, the individuals (who are veterans or military spouses) who benefit from the Tillman Foundation’s scholarships. You will see people running the entire 4.2 miles with an American flag. There are people who have prosthetic limbs running and this year I even saw a firefighter in full-on turnout gear running. It’s a race for runners of all skill level and the cause is so strong it is often people’s very first race. There is also a kids run, and thousands of children who were not even born when Pat was alive run .42 miles in his honor. It is truly special.
It is also incredibly large. My former boss at the ASU Athletic department is heavily involved in Pat’s Run and he said when they started the run they were hoping to get 3,000 runners. This past year, over 30,000 people ran in Pat Tillman’s honor in Tempe alone. There have also been a number of shadow runs across the country that are popular for ASU fans and others. It has truly become something special. There are 30 corrals and they are supposed to be separated by time but every year there are walkers that are in too early of corrals. It can be very difficult to weave in and out of people, but you just have to be patient.
The course has been the same every year I have ran it (a slight change this year, which I will touch on later). You start on Packard Drive in between Sun Devil Stadium and Sun Angel Stadium (ASU’s track). You head down Rio Salado towards Mill Avenue and cross the Mill Avenue Bridge, where you have a nice view of Tempe Town lake. Shortly after the first mile, you hit the dreaded Curry Road hill. The hill seems to go forever (sorry I live in a super flat area of town and rarely get the chance to run on hills) but then you get to head downhill. It’s also quite pretty and scenic during this part, there are nice views of Tempe and bluffs on the sides of the road.
Mile three is the hardest in my opinion. You are immediately weaving through a small part of a neighborhood and the course gets pretty tight. As soon as you get out of that, you’re on Rural Road and are going uphill. It seems more uphill than it actually is and the sun is usually beating down on you. You see Sun Devil Stadium in the distance but know you have a bit more to go. Finally you get off Mill Avenue and head back down Packard Drive, heading towards Sun Devil Stadium. As soon as you make the final turn and are heading up the ramp to get inside Sun Devil Stadium, you can feel your adrenaline pumping. You get through, run through the field, give the ASU football players a high five and cross the finish line on the 42-yard line. It is awesome.
Pat’s Run always give you nice high tech shirts and the color changes every year. This year’s was blue with the phrase Run With It on it. They have both male and female sizes. The expo at packet pickup does not have much but the expo after the race is always awesome. Kind Bars and Clif Bar were there handing out full size samples and Chick-fil-A was giving out large iced coffees for runners. The women’s basketball team hands out bananas and oranges and Muscle Milk will also give you samples at the end. There’s lot of good stuff post race.
This year, I wanted to PR. I had finished in 36:33 last year and wanted to improve on that. I did this year at 35:46, but the course was .1 short due to the construction inside Sun Devil Stadium. I think I would have had a slight PR regardless (I can run .1 faster than a minute) so I’ll take it! I tried to start at a slower pace but (according to the Garmin) ended up maintaining a similar pace the entire time. Regardless, I’m pretty happy with how I did. Our tailgating group always makes a big showing at Pat’s Run and we always have a good time meeting up afterwards and hitting up brunch.
If you live in the Valley and haven’t done Pat’s Run, sign up next year. Regardless of whether you are a walker or runner, this is an experience you don’t want to miss. The crowd is large but the passion and pride you feel cannot be beat.