On October 16, 2010, the Rutgers football program suffered the biggest loss in program history — a history that dates back to the very first college football game. Covering on a kickoff, defensive lineman Eric LeGrand collided head-on with Army returner Malcolm Brown, fell to the turf and was unable to get up. He’d suffered a catastrophic spinal-cord injury that left him unable to move any muscles below his neck.
But anyone who knows anything about Eric LeGrand knows about his spirit, his unflappable optimism and his drive to help find a cure for spinal cord injuries. And the following summer, the very first A Walk to Believe was held on the Rutgers campus. Hundreds of walkers lined up sponsors to cover a 5k, with the proceeds benefiting Eric and research programs. Each year, the event has grown, and it has raised thousands for organizations such as the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
And this year brings the biggest change in A Walk to Believe’s five-year history: For the first time, the 5K course has been certified by USATF and will be officially timed for runners. We caught up with Eric and event organizer Arlene Gonzales to get the lowdown.
Arlene tells us that graduating to an official 5K race was the next logical step for A Walk to Believe. The event has grown each year, but appealing to the New Jersey running community — especially folks with a connection to Rutgers — has brought a surge of interest. In the first week and a half of registration, entries were already up 30 percent from a year ago. And Eric isn’t surprised by that at all. He says, “It’s been a long, cold winter. It’s time to get out!”
We’re not surprised, either. Though there are scores of 5Ks around the Garden State every year, this one promises to be special. What can you expect?
- A beautiful course that starts and finishes right outside High Point Solutions Stadium.
- A pre-race inspirational speech from Eric himself. That alone is sure to spur you to a PR!
- The Rutgers marching band and cheerleaders positioned around the course to cheer you on.
- A post-race tailgate party outside the stadium with food, drinks and the famous DJ Yoshi spinning high-energy tunes.
Registration for the race — which will be held on June 7th — is open now at AWalkToBelieve.org. Arlene tells us that there will be no cap on the number of entrants, so even with the huge uptick in registration, you can still sign up. And though there will also be plenty of walkers, they will be taking a slightly different course, so you don’t have to worry about dodging them during the race.
Eric LeGrand has already inspired millions of people with his contagious smile and never-quit attitude. Doctors told him he’d be lucky to be able to breathe without a ventilator, but he’s made so much more progress than that. Not long ago, he even posted a video of himself moving his torso up and down unassisted!
But there’s so much more work that needs to be done, and you can be a part of it. Your registration fee goes toward spinal-cord research, and you can ask friends and family to sponsor you as well. Many of us at RunJersey.com will be there — running, volunteering or just cheering you on.
As Eric says, “Be part of history. It’s the start of a great tradition.”