Pat's Run across country: 'Shadow Runs' grow in popularity

Pat's Run Shadow Run in San Francisco

While thousands of runners are taking part in Pat’s Run in Tempe, smaller “Shadow Runs” are held throughout the country to honor the life and legacy of Pat Tillman.

Jen Bergmark, who graduated from ASU in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation, is instrumental in organizing the shadow run in Los Angeles every year where approximately 100 people meet at the Rose Bowl to run 4.2 miles in Tillman’s memory.

“Pat played at the Rose Bowl as a Sun Devil,” she said. 

Bergmark runs to honor Tillman’s legacy for a man who worked extremely hard to maintain a good grade-point average, graduate from ASU early and give up a promising football career to serve his country.

“He put his country before himself,” she said. “Pat was a great man. He was a real role model.”

Participation in the run grows each year, including among veterans such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America members who ran last year.

“I ran with a girl who was my age, who served in a war,” Bergmark said. “They’ve experienced what Pat experienced.  We’re looking forward to them coming again.”

Organizing the run and participating with other ASU alumni is always a fun experience. Bergmark utilizes her expertise as an event planner and owner of First Pick Planning to organize the run.

“It’s a good bonding experience,” Bergmark said. “It’s the ASU Los Angeles Alumni Chapter’s signature event for the year.”

This year’s initiatives among the ASU Los Angeles Alumni Chapter include participating in Operation Gratitude to write letters of appreciation to veterans.

North of Los Angeles in San Francisco is another run held in honor of Pat Tillman’s memory that brings ASU alumni together. Sean Pate, a 1997 ASU graduate in kinesiology, manages the San Francisco Pat’s Run Shadow Run that attracts about 100 people who run along the San Francisco Marina in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“We get many ASU alums and military folk who want to participate and build camaraderie,” said Pate, who works in the Bay area as a public relations director for

Participants enjoy a relaxed event where they gather to run in Pat Tillman’s honor near where he grew up in San Jose, Calif.

“The runs are a great way to show support,” Pate said.

Tillman was a man of conviction who was cut from a different mold, he said. “I think the memory of Pat Tillman is what many people want to model their lives after,” Pate added.

Matt Cicinelli graduated from ASU in finance and economics in 2008. Now living in Washington, D.C., and working as a finance manager for Living Social, he started running in Pat’s Run in Tempe and was a Tillman Scholar during his years at the university.

During the time he served as a Tillman Scholar, Cicinelli worked with teams on community building projects such as Basketball Beyond the Barrios that focused on sports to build teamwork and positive relationships with peers. He also worked with a team that addressed childhood obesity.

Now he works to make the Washington, D.C., Shadow Run a success despite weather conditions that are typically more challenging than Arizona’s.

“Last year we had about 150 RSVPs, but we had a really bad weather day. We did a second one so people could come out,” he said.

Participants are hoping for good weather this year when they’ll run along the Potomac River to the Kennedy Center, back along the river and end at the Jefferson Memorial for a free jazz concert as part of the Cherry Blossom Festival taking place on April 21.

Cicinelli says he’s using this year’s shadow run as an excuse to return to running. A regular runner in the past, he ran the New York Marathon with Team Tillman in 2008.

“It was an amazing experience, running through all of bureaus and getting an interesting view of New York. You see all types of people running, like one guy in an Eiffel Tower costume.”

Running in the Shadow Run allows Cicinelli show his support for the Pat Tillman Foundation that supports veterans, their families and education.

“They’re able to directly impact the lives of veterans and their families,” he said.

Giving to others without thinking about oneself is one of the lessons Cicinelli takes from the life that Tillman led.

“It’s good to remember selfless acts,” he said. “No matter where you are or what your circumstances are, you always have the opportunity to do something for others.”