- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 1, 2007

If life were fair, just and logical, Paris Caballero would be one of more than 10,000 runners in the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile in Washington this morning.

A rising star in Montgomery County Road Runners circles, the 24-year-old Gaithersburg resident was a prolific runner at area races, including last year’s Cherry Blossom, where he placed an impressive 36th in 56:02 despite a hip injury.

But life is not always fair, just or logical. At times, life can be harsh, cruel and senseless.

Life became that way for Caballero for a year and half, when the man whose life revolved around running took a major decline when he just could not recover from that hip injury.

On Feb. 1, Caballero, the runner with the endearing smile and Everest-like goals, committed suicide.

“There was a note on or near his computer — it was very clear,” said Jean Arthur, a close friend of Caballero’s and former president of the Montgomery County Road Runners. “The note said something to the effect that ‘If I can’t run, I don’t want to live.’ When I heard the news, I was completely knocked out of my senses.”

He left behind not just a loving mother and father, twin sister and two brothers but also a community of stunned runners who are left to wonder about the fallout of a running addiction.

“I don’t have my son because of his desire to be a winner as a long-distance runner,” his mother Darlene Stuart said from her Germantown home.

“He really enjoyed running,” she continued, “but I think he enjoyed it more intensely them most. Win races in Montgomery County and then branch off into the Olympics. He didn’t run much for the past year and a half. At Pike’s Peak [last April, a race Darlene also ran], he was injured.

“The injury was not getting better. There were no signs that it was getting better. He said it was getting worse. I am sure if he had given it a chance it would have gotten better. One doctor said it was a herniated disk. He had quite a bit of doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists coming at him.

“It was about he wanted to run. And his doctor was telling him maybe he needed to give it up. I’m not sure why he ended his life; you have aspirations, and sometimes you don’t meet them. At some point, he didn’t want to hope anymore. I’m not justifying what he did, because you can not justify suicide. Some people would say you could have handled it better, but that’s how he dealt with it.”

Caballero was new to the sport. It was his twin sister, Darlene said, who was the track meet enthusiast when they were children. By then, Darlene had retired from the military and moved her family from Paris’ birthplace in Burlington County, N.J., to Takoma Park to be near her family.

She said the family then moved to Montgomery Village when Paris was in the second grade. Paris was interested in boxing, not running, when he was in high school. It was not until he enlisted in the military and was stationed in Montana that he started to run for recreation.

“He found he enjoyed [running],” Darlene said. “There was nothing else to do in Montana. The only alternative was to run. I went to see him in Montana, and he said when I come to Montana I should run with him. And that’s why I joined the MCRRC. So when he came back home, he had the club to run with.

“It was something we could enjoy together. But this year, I won’t be doing Pike’s Peek because he won’t be there.”

It was when he came back home, was hired as a security officer and began running with MCRRC that he began to see how good he was as a runner, Darlene said.

“He would talk about [Dave] Haaga and Marty Horan, and he started to try to keep up with guys like them,” she said.

And the boy whose mother named him Paris after Leonard Nimoy’s computer character Paris in the television series “Mission: Impossible” would come to beat them all.

“He was a person who didn’t want to be average,” Darlene said.

In his short life, he was anything but.

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