26th Todd Beamer Memorial Run provides inspirational performances
"Those things you do for yourself die with you. Those things that you do for others go on and on."
To anyone who has ever been to the Todd Beamer Memorial Run, those words are a familiar refrain. They represent the spirit and guiding principle of the event's namesake, who tragically passed away in 26 years ago in a heroic attempt to save his family dogs after they fell into an irrigation canal.
Since then, Bud Beamer has made it a point to ensure that his son's legacy goes on and on. And what better way to do so than by doing things for others — in this case, by putting on a race that brings hundreds of locals and holiday travelers together for some joyful July 4 jogging.
"He was a role model," said Beamer of his son, who was a coach and a teacher. "That's why we keep his spirit alive. It's not how much money you make, or the things you own. It's your character that is going to represent who you are when you're gone — and when you're alive."
However, after 25 years of races, Bud wasn't sure he would keep the Beamer Run going. There were rumblings that the 2021 iteration would be the final chapter for this annual event.
That's when Jamie Hurd and the MADras Runners organization stepped in.
"This last year, Bud thought he wanted to stop doing it," said Amber Searcy, a longtime medical assistant under Beamer who has helped organize the run for the past decades. "Jamie being a runner, she said, 'Absolutely not. This is something we need to keep having in Madras.'"
The transition makes perfect sense, as the MADras Runners are a local nonprofit organization dedicated to putting on fun runs for the community. With this being the first year that Hurd and her crew were in charge, though, they needed a little help from the old guard.
As such, Searcy stayed on to help with registration and with tallying up the results. It's a good thing, too, as the number of participants rose up to pre-pandemic levels.
"The last few years, it's obviously dwindled," said Searcy of the participation numbers, noting that the 2020 edition of the event — which was moved to Juniper Hills Park and provided commemorative masks instead of t-shirts — was the least attended run in the event's history.
Now, however, things are finally getting back to normal. In fact, things may be getting even better than they've ever been.
Take, for example, the performance from Mario Mendoza Jr. An extremely accomplished distance runner, Mendoza may be best known around these parts for setting a Guinness World Record in the Madras High School gym. Back in January 2020, Mendoza ran the fastest-ever 50K time on a treadmill.
Now, he owns the fastest-ever 10K time at the Todd Beamer Memorial Run.
Mendoza, who lives in Bend but works closely with the Madras community, including working with MADras Runners and the MHS track team, finished the race in 32:00.84 — almost three minutes faster than anyone else on Monday. It is yet another accolade for the highly-decorated distance runner, who has won multiple national championships and has competed on the world's biggest stages.
Asked for comment after receiving an award for his victory, Mendoza shifted the glory back onto his comrades who helped put on the run.
"It was not easy work," said Mendoza of organizing the four separate races that make up the Beamer Run. "I just want to say thank you for your patience, for all the volunteers, for all the people that have been out here doing a lot since this morning and in the weeks and weeks leading up to this event."
Mendoza's final shout-out went to one specific volunteer, Brandon Mader of Bend, who helped bring the Beamer Run into the cutting-edge digital age. Mader helped usher in a new aspect of this year's Beamer Run: chip timing. Hurd described the technological advancement as "a game-changer" for the event, giving organizers an easier way to track runners' times.
Beamer also noted that the event could not have taken place without some important sponsors. Chief among them is Bright Wood Corporation, which has agreed to donate $5,000 each of the next five years to help fund a scholarship for student-athletes through the Todd Beamer Memorial Fund and the Jefferson Scholarship Foundation. Norton Cattle Co. and RipQ Signs and Graphics — the latter of which is owned by Searcy and her husband — were other prominent sponsors for the race. (Editor's note: An earlier version of this story, which appeared in print, mistakenly noted Bright Wood's donation as being $1,000 per year for five years.)
However, with all due respect to Mendoza and Mader, the best part of this year's race was Jessica Haynes.
Haynes suffered a gunshot to the face in 2014, after which there were concerns that she might not survive. After laying in a coma for 12 days, Haynes experienced partial paralysis and initially could not speak or swallow. She has made a remarkable recovery over the past eight years, though, a journey that led to her signing up for the 2-mile race in this year's Beamer Run.
With family members and her physical therapist by her side, Haynes powered through the race in just under two hours. It was a powerful scene of personal triumph over tragedy.
"It felt good," said Haynes after the race. "It got easier as I went along. My physical therapist has been working with me on the treadmill. About a week before the run, we walked 1.2 miles of it. We were prepared and knew what to expect."
"That's good!" Haynes exclaimed after learning of her time of one hour, 58 minutes and 27 seconds. "I was expecting it to be over two hours."
As for next year, Haynes plans to be back again. She would like to do the 5K race but notes that she would have difficulty making the trek across the course's dirt-and-gravel roads.
"Bud joked about having them pave it for me," a smiling Haynes said of the 5K course.
Whether or not that pavement is ever put down, one thing is for sure — the Todd Beamer Memorial Run, which nearly rode off into the sunset after last year, will be back again in 2023.
As for other winners from the event, the day began with the 6-mile walk, which was won by Collin Spannaus, who edged out Gordon Wood by less than a second to become the top finisher. Shannon Montgomery and Emma Buckle crossed the finish line less than a second later, making them the top female finishers in the race.
The 5K race was won by Parker Diseth, a 15-year-old runner from Puyallup, Washington, who was on a family vacation for the holiday.
Diseth narrowly beat out the top female finisher in the 5K race. He finished in 18:14, just three seconds ahead of Justyna Mudy-Mader, whose husband Brandon was the one running the chip timing system.
"She was definitely pushing me," said Diseth after his win, noting that he could feel Mader behind him down the homestretch of the race.
Of course, Mendoza's record-setting time in the 10K was good enough to win. As for the top female finisher, that went to Talise Wapsheli, who just completed her sophomore year at Madras High School. Wapsheli's older brother, Isaiah, was the top finisher in the 19-and-under age group — giving these siblings plenty of hardware to take home from the race.
As for the 2-mile run, that one was won by Jacob Hurd, of Madras, who finished the course in 17:27. Meanwhile, the top female finisher in that race was Lynelle Danzuka of Warm Springs, who came in sixth overall at 19:59. Both youngsters, each of whom competed in last week's Little League All-Stars series, came from the 11-15 age group.
All in all, the 26th Beamer Run was a major success, and all signs are pointing to another good year in 2023.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.