When more than 12,000 runners take their starting positions this morning in Pat’s Run, Gary Culver will already have them beat.
The retired Air Force veteran from Goodyear will have already run 38 miles.
Culver, 54, started running at 8 p.m. Friday and has jogged through the night.
He is on his way to 42 miles in honor of Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal and ASU football player killed in Afghanistan while serving in the Army.
Tillman wore No. 42 while playing at Arizona State.
“The number really resounds with me,” Culver said. “The course is 4.2 miles long. But his number wasn’t that, it was 42. But I understand most people can’t run that far.”
He will complete his jaunt at the finish line on the 42-yard line of Sun Devil Stadium.
He will join runners from all 50 states, including some from Asia and Canada, said Perry Edinger, race director.
The event benefits the Pat Tillman Foundation, which works to inspire people to make positive changes in themselves and in the world around them.
Culver is racing in the event for the first time. However, he is an ultramarathoner and has completed races up to 100 miles long.
He logs more than 2,500 miles a year and has been running since he went to high school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where he grew up.
He said Pat’s Run provided the perfect opportunity to use his hobby to show appreciation for Tillman and the nation’s soldiers.
Culver spent 30 years in the Air Force as a chief master sergeant. That experience is why he said he identifies with what soldiers like Tillman go through.
“This war is being fought by the people in the military and their families,” Culver said. “Many people don’t realize the sacrifice and costs of war and what people forfeit. Tillman gave up millions of dollars to fight for his country and do something he believed in.”
The idea to run 42 miles came to Culver last year. But, he couldn’t do it because of work.
This year, he wrote a note with his application for the event, and race organizers jumped at the opportunity.
“This was a really awesome idea,” said Doug Tammaro, race spokesman for ASU. “We’ve had some remarkable ideas before but nothing like this. It’s unbelievable.”
In the past, Tammaro said people have completed the course in wheelchairs, and military members have run the race in full uniform and gear, including the black boots and backpack.
This year, several others have planned unique ways to honor Tillman.
A group of 90 Army servicemen from Fort Huachuca will fast-march during the run. Military members run regularly. But it’s the first time a full military unit will march, Edinger said.
The football teams from Glendale Mountain Ridge and Tolleson high schools will also participate.
Look who’s running
A number of notable individuals will lace up their shoes for Pat’s Run:
• Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt
• Oakland Raiders and former ASU quarterback Andrew Walter
• Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman
• The ASU women’s basketball team and coach Charli Turner Thorne