- Associated Press - Saturday, May 3, 2014

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Jenn Goins entered the stadium as the workers started tearing down the barriers, two hours after the elite runners had finished, behind the kids’ race, seemingly No. 30,998 out of 31,000.

She approached the edge of the grass, set the brake on the wheelchair, helped a family member out and started the final stretch to the finish line.

It was a familiar journey; Goins had made it seven times before.

This time, nothing about it seemed right.


Her father, Sheldon Davidson, was not there.

An inspiration to her and the thousands who had watched his annual trek across Sun Devil Stadium, he died less than two months before this year’s Pat’s Run.

So instead of walking with her father in tribute to NFL star-turned-solider Pat Tillman, she made the short journey to the finish line with her mother, honoring two heroes with each step.

“It’s so weird to be here and doing this without him,” Jenn said, fighting back tears.

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There are times, maybe a handful in a lifetime, when we meet people who have an immediate and profound effect on us - successful people, motivational people, hardworking people who touch us by who they are or what they do.

Sheldon Davidson became one of those people to me by walking 42 yards.

I met the man they call Shelly in 2011 while working on the story about the living legacy of Tillman, the former Arizona State and Arizona Cardinals player who became an Army Ranger.

Davidson so admired Tillman for the person he was, the thoughtful and no-nonsense way he lived his life, that he felt an obligation to participate in Pat’s Run, an impromptu celebration of Tillman’s life that turned into the main fundraiser for the foundation in his name.

Davidson ran the first two on his own and kept going even after suffering a stroke in 2007, becoming the inspirational capper to the day as he labored his way to the finish line every year.

Davidson didn’t do it for recognition, the pats on the back that came after he finished, the media coverage that eventually came with it.

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