San Jose’s 408K “Race to Row” returns Sunday with more than 6,000 participants joining in the run and walk to pay tribute to local veterans and raise money for scholarships.
New for this year, a “Memorial Mile” honors San Jose native Pat Tillman, the late veteran Joe Bell and other local service members. 95-year-old veteran Bell made national headlines at the race last year as he greeted runners in front of a home on the race route in his military uniform. The scene turned into mutual appreciation as runners shook his hand as they passed.
Race organizer J.T. Service is hoping to expand on that impromptu tribute this year with more veterans along a “Memorial Mile” during the race this year.
“It was an organic moment when Joe was wearing uniform at home cheering on runners,” Service says. “It was a great moment of mutual appreciation for his service and them running. We want to recreate that moment for more veterans to give them the opportunity to feel that love of what Joe felt on the course last year.”
“It was such a big moment for him at the end of his life, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the 408k will somewhat be a memorial for him,” Service said of Bell, who died in January.
Organizers have partnered with the Pat Tillman Foundation to give academic scholarships to military veterans and their spouses. Tillman, a San Jose native and former NFL football player, died in combat after enlisting in the Army Rangers following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Veterans are invited to participate with hand-shakes, high-fives and pictures with runners as they are honored for their service at the Memorial Mile. Veterans interested in participating in the race are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 8K run starts at 8am in downtown San Jose near SAP Center and finishes at Santana Row. The memorial mile will be during the fourth mile of the run at Garden Street and Emory Street near the San Jose Rose Garden (close to where Bell greeted runners last year).