April 21, 2012 was a Sun Devil holiday. It was quite fitting, then, that the temperature in Tempe broke 100 degrees by noon. On a day where 28,000 people walked and ran in honor of Pat Tillman at Pat's Run, followed by the final Arizona State football practice of the spring, ASU pride was easy to find.
It began bright and early on Saturday, with my phone jarring me awake at 5:30 AM. I had been back in Arizona for three nights, but had intentionally avoided changing my mental time from Eastern to Pacific - it's a lot easier to wake up bright and early when your brain thinks it's 3 hours later.
After shoving two handfuls of Fresh & Easy branded cereal into my mouth, I changed into my SB Nation t-shirt and running shorts in preparation for Pat's Run. Staying with one of my best friends from college, we headed down to Sun Devil Stadium and were at the corrals by 6:25.
Things hadn't been going particularly well for me as of late in the training department; I got some kind of lung infection back in Washington D.C. and was really struggling with fatigue and asthma. Having recently been cured, I was aiming for a thirty-minute sprint.
Immediately, I was struck by how warm it was so early in the day. Arizona being unseasonably warm for a big race is a dangerous recipe, but fortunately everything worked out on April 21.
Pat's Run has a lot of fervent supporters, including Arizona State University, the Arizona Cardinals, Powerade and Chik-fil-a. It's quite heartening to see 28,000 people turn up very early on a weekend to pay homage to one of the most inspirational figures in the history of sports. It says a lot about taking action rather than merely considering it; making a difference now instead of planning to someday.
After being treated to a world-class trumpet rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, Kurt Warner stepped onto the stage to address the massive crowd. By the time the race officially began, adrenaline was coursing through my veins and I was ready to go.
Busting your ass during a race is never easy. You head into the event with a goal, a plan, a purpose. You break through the starting line like a man on a mission, dodging around others while rapidly trotting the opening mile. You feel agile, limber and unstoppable.
Those last few miles can really get you, though. Particularly when the sun is glaring on you with quite the force.
In the end, crossing the 42-yard line in Sun Devil Stadium made the entire event worthwhile. There's a special camaraderie from start to finish, and you feel connected to the memory of a great Sun Devil who left this world far too soon.
Five hours later, the ASU football spring game got started on Frank Kush Field. A couple of things run through my mind at this time: why does ASU allow 28,000 Pat's Run participants to leave campus? All those potential season ticket holders, fresh off the fanfare of Pat's Run, walk to their cars and drive away. Guess what? They're not coming back later in the afternoon.
This was the scene at Sun Devil Stadium, an unofficial 5,000 or so people huddled in the shade, hiding from the heat of the sun. It was a far cry from earlier in the day, and it would be a good idea for ASU to maximize their investment in Pat's Run by taking advantage of the huge crowd.
You can read more about the football aspects of the spring game in Brad's great recap. There's a lot of work left to be done on the field, but Todd Graham has the team going in the right direction.
Check back here tomorrow for a video montage of Saturday. It should be great!