In June 2002, Captain Matt Smith and Detective Dan Borrelli had just returned from a road race in Buffalo, NY, when the Police Chief suggested Arlington should host its own race. “We could do that,” Captain Smith remembers saying.
The origins of the Arlington 9/11 Memorial 5K Race can be traced to that conversation. Three months later, on September 7, 2002, the inaugural race was held. Captain Smith says he lost 10 pounds and plenty of sleep in the frantic days leading up to the race, but in the end all the worrying was unnecessary. The race was more successful than the organizers ever imagined. “We thought if we had 500 people it would be great,” says Captain Smith. In fact, 2600 runners participated, approximately $40,000 was raised for 9/11-related charities and a tradition was born.
The race is now an annual event in the DC Metro area, eagerly anticipated by the competitive and recreational runners alike. About 3,300 people participated in the sixth annual 9/11 run on September 8, 2007. “It really struck a chord with the community and it’s taken off,” says Smith.
To make sure the event goes off without a hitch Captain Smith and Detective Borrelli rely on a dedicated race committee, lots of volunteers, and the generosity of corporate sponsors, including the DoubleTree Hotel, Mr. Days Restaurant, Aramark, Papa John’s Pizza, Juniper Networks and Pacers Running Stores.
Nearly fifteen years after the September 11th attacks, the Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K Race continues to provide an avenue for local area businesses and residents to remember the victims of the attacks on 9/11. The race also honors the countless first responders and military personnel who responded that day and honors their continuous fight in the war on terrorism.
“To me,” says Captain Smith, “It’s a way to bring members of the community together to pay their respects, and hopefully also to have a good time. One thing I often hear from first time runners is ‘I’m coming back and I’m going to bring more people next year.’ To see the race have that kind of positive impact on people, that’s the best part.”