KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Nearly 7,000 runners braved the chilly temperatures for the 9th annual Rock the Parkway half marathon and 5k races Saturday morning.
Burns & McDonnell and the KC Running Company mentions runners from more than 40 states say it's one of the fastest half-marathon courses in the region.
For many the 5k and half-marathon “Rock the Parkway” is a time to stay in shape or push themselves. But for the friends and family of Brandon Russell, it’s also a time to remember Russell and celebrate life.
“It’s what he would’ve wanted,” said Russell’s mom, Patty, as she looked around at the group there to support Brandon.
Her son died last year on April, 8, 2017, the same day as Rock the Parkway.
“He made it to the finish line. He finished the race and then collapsed,” said Steve Russell, Brandon’s dad. Russell now has a 487 tattoo on his wrist as a memento to his son. That was the bib number Brandon wore that race.
“We are a running family,” said Patty Russell, who laced up her sneakers for the run Saturday. Russell’s sister also ran in his memory, with a photo of him on her back.
Russell is a physician and said medically his sons heart had no activity after he collapsed. He said that type of sudden death happens to one in 60,000 half-marathon runners.
He and his son had run in three together.
Also in the Brandon Russell camp this Saturday was finance Taryn Klein.
"He was my best friend also, everybody loved him. there was nothing to not love. It was easy,” said Klein. She and Brandon’s mom Patty were the official race starters.
Last year friends and family started the Brandon Russell Memorial Fund. To date it has helped families at Christmas, helped some students attend St. Pius, donated to Children’s Mercy Hospital and they are working on building a classroom in Haiti in Brandon’s name.
“His thing was to bring people together. That’s what he’s doing here,” said Patty Russell.
Six weeks after his death, supporters were able to create the “Flash Dash” in Brandon’s name. The name came from Brandon’s favorite comic book hero, The Flash.
A second run is planned for May 19.
The goal is to inspire others to “Be Like Brandon.” Some of his friends and family even wearing bracelets with those words.
The Memorial Fund’s mission is to teach others to live with compassion, create lasting bonds and inspire people through fitness.
“Running was part of his life and he died doing what he loved. Not many people can do that,” said Steve Russell.
Russell said he believed Brandon had a small heart attack or went into cardiac arrest during the run.