MATUNUCK—It’s a sad but true commentary on most memorial races.
“With most races for people who have passed away what happens is people stop showing up,” veteran race runner Matt Pelletier said.
“People have families and you can’t make it anymore, your kids have soccer practice and it kind of just trickles away as the field goes from 800 to 500, then the last year you have 100 and it just kind of fades away.”
Rest assured though, the Run4Kerri does not appear to be going anywhere.
“This race is not,” Pelletier said. “It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I don’t see this race going anywhere. I really feel that this race is going to be around for awhile and it’s a good thing because this is a great race.”
The Run4Kerri started after the tragic passing of Kerri Bessette in 2001 while she was just a freshman in college.
A graduate of South Kingstown High School, Bessette had a passion for cross country and track and field, so after her passing her family set up the Run4Kerri.
“One thing we were lucky to have in our community is so many great volunteers and supporters,” Kerri’s brother, Scott said Sunday.
“It’s just good to keep her memory alive here. Most memorial races last a few years and we try to keep a top notch race here going with just friends and family and new people learning about my sister and the cause or the race.
“…We’re happy to still do it because people still ask us if it’s the end or when will be the end and there’s no end in sight. I’m 33 and I keep hoping to do it until the end of my life and keep pushing the memory and the scholarships.”
The race – which had its 12th installment Sunday morning in Matunuck – has evolved into more than just another memorial competition; it’s one of South County’s premier events.
“I would never miss this race,” Pelletier said. “If I moved away, I would fly back for this race and that’s shown in a lot of people who are here.
“We set up our vacations around this race. I’m getting married next summer and she’s like, ‘what do you think about the beginning of August?’ I’m like, ‘Run4Kerri, can’t do it.’”
As one of the premier runners in New England, Pelletier knows when he sees elite level competition and over the past few years the field at the Run4Kerri has only grown stronger.
“There was a time when I could come to this race and expect to win,” Pelletier said. “Now that [Kerri’s brother Scott] has put some good prize money up I show up here and before the race started I said I hope to get top 10. There’s a quality field here.”
Chris Zablocki of Essex, Conn, won the four-mile race with a time of 19:18 and at first it appeared as if he had shattered the course record after he turned in a sub-19 minute time.
As it would turn out though, the lead car had taken Zablocki on an incorrect rout for part of the race but after recalculating his time the Dartmouth College grad was still awarded the win by race officials.
“A little bit after the three mile mark the [lead] car said something about a right, so apparently what they said was, ‘you took a wrong turn but we’re going to make it right,’” Zablocki said.
“I just heard, ‘you’re going to make a right.’ They got to a tee, the car went left and I went right and they started yelling at me that I was making a wrong turn. I turned around and kept following the car.”
Last week’s Blessing of the Fleet winner, Sam Alexander, was second with a time of 19:31, while Pelletier was the first Rhode Islander across the line with third with a time of 19:37.
“Sam Alexander’s a speedster, there’s no way I could cover his moves,” Pelletier said. “Zablocki just had more speed than I do. I was actually surprised I finished as high up as I did.”
Julie Culley of Clinton, N.J. was the top female finisher with a time of 22:24, while Providence’s Diana Davis was the first female Rhode Islander to finish in third with a time of 23:51.