BY DAVID BLOCK
WEST CHESTER, PA--A lot of road races begin strong and after a few years fade and fold, but Brians Run is another story. For thirty years Brians Run has been the premiere 10K race in West Chester, PA. Based on the enthusiasm that the runners and volunteers displayed this past December 2nd at its 30th running, this race might still a permanent West Chester fixture 30 years from now. One reason for Brians Runs strong stamina is that the key emphasis is not about winning and losing, but about neighbors helping neighbors. Brians Run began as a result of a tragic accident.
In August 1978, West Chester Henderson High School football player Brian Bratcher became paralyzed during a football scrimmage. To defray the high medical cost, the people of West Chester put on a one-time 10K race that December, hoping to raise five hundred dollars, but to their shock, they raised twenty thousand.
Brian Bratcher was so overwhelmed with the huge outpouring of support, that he requested that Brians Run take place every year to help other people in need.
A lot of people have developed fond memories of Brians Run, including West Chesters current mayor, Richard Dick Yoder, who vividly recalled the first year that the race took place.
The finish line has always been in Farrell Stadium at West Chester University.
One of Brians Runs most dedicated entrants has been Bill Stahl who now flies in from Colorado almost every year to run the race. He first ran Brians Run in 1979 while attending the University of Pennsylvania. I liked how Brian wanted to have this race to help other people, said Stahl.
In addition to running Brians Run almost every year, Stahl has also raised money to help the race continue. Some Brians Run Race Directors have affectionately referred to him as the races Western Representative.
One of Stahls most memorable Brians Runs was when he ran the course alone in December 2003. When he flew from Colorado to Philadelphia, a severe blizzard had crippled the Delaware Valley.
When I got to the race, said Stahl, I saw in the parking lot a sign that the race was postponed. I said, Im here, I might as well run. I ran the course and got lost a couple of times because I never saw the course with a lot of snow before. I ran the course in about 48 minutes, but considering I was running through snow drifts by myself and made wrong turns, I was pleased with my time.
The cold didnt bother me because Im used to it. I live in Colorado. I wasnt used to the wetness. This year the course was slippery. I finished with ice on me.
Brian Bratcher, almost every year, has greeted the runners after they cross the finish line.
I enjoy doing that, said Bratcher. Its great how the kids who used to run Brians Run, now bring their kids to run it.
This past Brians Run, Bratcher, as usual, sat at the finish line. The inclement weather did not bother him, but it bothered the winners.
Nasty wind! yelled the first woman finisher, Aziza Aliyu, in broken English. Dont like it!
The Ethiopian native won for a second straight year. This year she went unchallenged as she clocked 34:17. The second woman to finish was Caroline Chepkorc who posted 35:11.
I was confident Id win after the second mile, said Aliyu as she ran to the gymnasium to dry off. Last year she was challenged. She posted 34:00 and on her heels was runner-up Teraza Yohannes who crossed the finish line in 34:05. Even though Aliyu had an easier time winning this year, the race was less enjoyable because of the weather.
This year the mens field was far more competitive than the womens division. It came down to the wire as Girma Tolla won with a 29:51 finish. Runner-up Worku Beyi trailed by two seconds, 29:53. Finishing third was Dagne Alemu, 29:56 and fourth was Jeff Eggleston, 29:57.
Tolla was confident that he would out-kick the pack in the final stretch after he ran up the last hill. I felt good at the end, Tolla said in broken English.
To learn more about Brians run: www.briansrun.org.