Family, friends keep running to remember Liz Duncan

April 10, 2012 

— Deep down, most of us endeavor to live in such a way that people will smile -- and perhaps become a bit wistful -- when they think of us after our time on this world has run out.

When it’s a young person, a son or daughter who dies, though, it’s difficult to hold back the tears as we look back upon that life and smile.

No doubt the family and friends of the late Liz Duncan continue to run, smile and cry, especially when they gather on April 21, which will mark the fifth annual Liz Duncan Memorial Run in Richland’s Howard Amon Park.

She died April 21, 2007, on a Seattle sidewalk after a teen driver reportedly lost control, jumped the curb and struck Duncan on a sidewalk near Washington Park Arboretum as she waited for some of her training companions to catch up. The accident occurred three days before Duncan’s family planned to help celebrate her 27th birthday.

Her athletic accomplishments were many. The Class of 1998 standout led Richland High to state tournaments in basketball, soccer and track. Then, she started in 68 matches for Washington State University soccer, helping the Cougars to a Top 20 ranking and a berth into the 2000 NCAA Women's Tournament along the way.

After a ministry in the Midwest with Athletes in Action, Duncan moved back to the Pacific Northwest to be closer to her parents and landed a dream job at Brooks Sports in Seattle. She was preparing to compete in the Chicago Marathon when she was killed.

Yet, the website that memorializes Duncan focuses on more important achievements, those bonds she formed with family and her natural charisma and genuine warmth that produced legions of friends.

Perhaps it’s not so astonishing that her legend continues to grow. Two years ago, a North Carolina college student who never met Duncan became so inspired by Duncan’s story that she flew to Pasco for the Liz Duncan Memorial Run.

Proceeds of this year’s event continue to be devoted to Athletes in Action. Cost to enter the 5K or 10K races is $20, which includes a T-shirt. Those who run the 1-mile event are charged just $5, but if they want a T-shirt, they need to pay an additional $15. Titanium bracelets cost $30, but they must be ordered by April 13.

One day, I’d like to see the tribute to Duncan that her friends at Brooks Sports created along the Burke Gilman Trail near Bothell — a bench, a plaque and a pair of bronzed running shoes.

And Brooks continues to honor her memory. The back heel of the Defyance 5 running shoe carries a tiny "LD" patch.

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