A Match Made in Heaven
The Birth of the Kingstowne Striders & the Fill the Shoes 5K
By Amanda Farrar
I was running alone along Telegraph Rd on a frigid January morning in 2009. As I ran past two women running in the opposite direction, one of them handed me a business card for a new local running club. When I got home I checked out their Facebook page. I’ll admit, I was a bit intimidated by the profile pic of Kevin Shaw, the club’s founder, running a race. I was a very consistent runner at the time, but I wondered if I’d be able to keep up with these (seemingly) intense people! After confirming that they’d meet in any weather, except lightning, I decided to meet up with them. I met them on another frigid Saturday morning in early February. At that point I didn’t realize that they had literally just been founded a few weeks before I showed up, but I started showing up for every event (Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays were all we did at that point.) It was still just a very loosely organized group back then.
In 2005 my dad succumbed to pancreatic cancer. We were very close and his loss hit me hard. He was the reason I started running in the late 90s. I was feeling down and unhappy with myself and wanted to lose weight. He said “nothing gets weight off quicker than running.” He had been an off and on runner for a while and had taken me to Cherry Blossom fun runs when I was little, but I had never run as an adult. He inspired me to start running. Running quickly became one of the best things that had ever come into my life, so when I lost my dad I immediately thought about creating a memorial charity race in his name and I had already even thought of a name for the event. I had looked into it here and there, but it seemed so overwhelming and complicated, and I didn’t know where to start.
After I’d gotten to know Kevin, his wife Suzanne (who had fortuitously handed me the card), and the other runners and walkers, I had an idea. I mentioned my proposed 5K memorial charity race to Kevin during a post-run breakfast and he said, “I’ve always wanted to be a race director!” This set the wheels in motion. While I had run a ton of races by then, that was as much as I knew about races. But Kevin had not only participated in a lot of races, he volunteered at a bunch and had been involved in other running clubs in the past (Kevin’s vision of the club had always included an element of community service, so this event fit perfectly). I brought the idea, Kevin brought the knowledge, and the Kingstowne Striders brought the passion. With that, we created a board (I held the VP position for several years until I moved to Nigeria in 2013), opened a bank account, and started charging dues, mainly in order to join RRCA so we could become a 501(c)3 organization and have our events insured, all in one fell swoop.
Less than a year later, in November 2010 we were hosting the inaugural Jack T. Farrar, Jr. “Fill the Shoes” 5K to benefit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Every single Strider participated, either by registering to run, making a donation, or volunteering in some capacity (from disseminating flyers, gathering sponsors, packet stuffing, packet pick-up, to race day setup and cleanup). It was a real grass-roots effort and a huge success! My dad’s sister and her husband even came all the way from Tennessee to participate. Everyone had a great time and we actually finished in the black, so we were able to send a check, representing 100% of the net proceeds, to PanCAN. Over the subsequent years, I moved out of the country, Kevin and Suzanne moved to Colorado, and club membership turned over. I am very proud of the Kingstowne Striders for creating and maintaining (even while I was in Nigeria) a lasting tribute to my dad to help fight pancreatic cancer. I even hosted a shadow 5K event in Abuja in 2014. We have put on this race for 10 years now, every one being a rousing success, and have given over $46,000 to PanCAN!
Right now I don't run like I used to, but my heart is still full of love and pride for the Striders and what we were able to create.