On Friday, spectators lined the Nittany Lion Track to cheer on the Life…Back on Track relay team as they completed the final leg of their 1,000 mile journey, in world record time, in honor of former Penn State pole vaulter Kevin Dare.
Finally, after five grueling days and crossing through six states, the relay team was greeted with “We Are…Penn State” chants as they walked their final lap arm in arm completing their 1,000 mile journey. The team completed its relay in just 95 hours, three minutes and one second, putting them 4 hours and 26 seconds ahead of the previous world record, set in 2002.
So many emotions filled the track as the runners and the Dares made speeches and shared stories about the race. There were tears and laughs as the runners were finally able to sit down and relax after putting their bodies to the ultimate test.
Ryan Foster, a 2011 Penn State graduate, has been working for the Kevin Dare Foundation and became more involved than he could ever imagine, he said. He and the rest of the relay team never met Dare, but were unable to find anyone who didn’t know him and had a great story to share. The runners soon realized that they had to do something to honor Dare for being the amazing person his friends and family will always remember him to be.
Life…Back on Track was started by Kevin’s parents Ed and Terri Dare after losing their 19-year-old son 10 years ago in a tragic pole vaulting accident during a Big Ten Men’s indoor track and field championship at the University of Minnesota. The foundation was originally started to raise awareness about pole vaulting safety.
“You always think when they’re doing athletics that they’re safe and you just never think something is going to happen, but we were there when it did,” Terri said with regard to the accident.
However, the Dares were told Kevin’s death was simply a “freak accident,” and they were unable to give schools the safety equipment they purchased. From there, the foundation turned into a scholarship foundation to help students whose only means of scholarship is athletics, but due to illness or injury they are no longer able to compete. Terri said that the students are able to attend any university of their choosing.
“There’s no statue. There’s no Kevin Dare pole vault pit. There’s no Kevin Dare track,” Foster said following the race.
“We said ‘What can we do for Kevin? What can we build for him?’ And we’ve given him this,” Foster continued.
Foster first approached the Dares about eight months ago and told them he wanted to a form a team to run 1,000 miles from The University of Minnesota where Kevin died, to Penn State where Kevin went to school and competed in track and field. Both of the Dares were shocked at Foster’s proposal.
Not only did Foster want to run the relay; he also wanted to do it in world record time. Foster said he knew a group of 10 runners in 2002 set the previous world record at an astonishing 99 hours, 3 minutes and 27 seconds.
With the goal in mind and nine other guys ready and willing to run their hearts out, they set off from The University of Minnesota for what would be a race to remember.
“Are you kidding, Ryan? Do you really think you can do that?” was Terri’s initial reaction to Foster’s proposal, “but they did, and then some.”
Terri said she will always remember her son as a protector and as someone who was constantly worrying about others. She said Kevin was watching out for the guys during the race because they were fortunate to not have any serious injuries.
Ed also knew Kevin was looking out for them when he realized that after driving through six states in five days, there had not been a cloud in sight.
Foster said one of his favorite parts of the race was finally finishing. By the end, everyone was tired but the guys knew they were finally going to accomplish their goal once they saw the ‘Welcome to Pennsylvania’ sign, he said. Being part of a team really kept him motivated to keep going because he knew that if he threw in the towel he would be letting the others down, he said.
“I hope Kevin’s looking down on us saying, ‘Damn if I could’ve been there with you, I would’ve held your hand and kicked your butt when you needed it,’” he said.