Burgoyne: Pat’s Run exemplifies spirit of selflessness


Published in the Arizona Republic, Fri Apr 19, 2013 7:29 AM

By Shelly Burgoyne

My Turn:

As an amateur runner, I love races.

I save my race bibs, writing my time on the back. Running is the most democratic of sports. It is cheap, there is little equipment, no special venue is needed, amateurs race alongside professionals, anyone can watch, you don’t need a ticket, and runners race through the public space of a city.

There is one race I am looking especially forward to: Pat’s Run. It embodies community, sacrifice, 10 years of war, loss, heroism, veterans and courage.

Many define courage as not knowing what evil lies on the other side of a decision but deciding to go anyway. When the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, Pat Tillman did exactly this. He bravely left behind a comfortable and profitable football career in Arizona for a very different life as an Army Ranger.

Pat once said: “It doesn’t do me any good to be proud. It’s better to just force myself to be naïve about things, because otherwise I’ll start being happy with myself, and then I’ll stand still, and then I’m old news.”

When Pat Tillman made this courageous decision, he became part of the 1 percent who serve our nation. Pat ultimately lost his life in the mountains of Afghanistan, placing him in another category: those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation’s freedom.

When the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon became a war zone, our nation was instantly thrust back to the emotions of 9/11, but this time was different. After a decade of war, many veterans thankfully populate our communities. They live among us; are organized, motivated, young and smart; and will not be isolated.

Massachusetts Guardsman 1st Lt. Fiola is a 1 percenter. He ruck marched — a fast-paced walk carrying a heavy backpack — the 26.2 miles of Boston with a team of fellow soldiers. As they sat exhausted near the finish line, they heard the blast.

These 1 percenters, like Pat Tillman, understand courage. Without knowing what evil lay ahead, they jumped into action. Fiola and his fellow soldiers ripped down a fence that separated the wounded from medical personnel. They assisted children, helped with tourniquets and gave aid to a man with a badly burned face.

When evil strikes, often all people can do is just do; placing one foot in front of the other, doing, creating, participating, working. Doing is important. It begins the exponential cycle of others doing. Simply doing creates real energy, real things, real buildings, real money, real organizations. Doing changes lives.

Marie Tillman, Pat Tillman’s widow, is also a doer. When faced with the loss of her husband, she left comfort behind and journeyed to a place unknown. Marie could have moved on, leaving the Army part of her life behind.

But Marie, like Pat, is a 1 percenter. She placed one foot in front of the other, slowly doing, creating, refusing to become isolated. This doing resulted in an exemplary organization that bears the name of her late husband.

The Tillman Foundation has created tangible things like Pat’s Run and the Tillman Military Scholar Program. These things serve a great need in our nation. They are not abstract. They are measurable energy; they change our reality.

Pat’s Run is the result of doing. After the evil in Boston, this runner and veteran cannot wait to get to doing and race it.

Shelly Burgoyne, an Arizona native, is a combat veteran and Tillman Military Scholar.



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