Here are just a few of the stories and comments from the athletes inspired by Chase and how this has impacted their lives. We will continue to add to this list in the coming weeks so please revisit. With the support and inspiration of these athletes, we can all find ways to turn tragedy into triumph!
“I would say that my inspiration can best be summarized by saying that the events of December 14, 2012 deeply impacted me as they did the entire country because Newtown is a community just like many of us live in across the country. I live in a traditional community with parents & children everywhere. My wife is a 3rd grade school teacher. And I’m an athlete. All of these things captured Chase. In the days & weeks that followed the incident, I heard about Chase and simply reading his story (but even more importantly, see his face, you could tell he was competitive and had the will to win. If you talk to my friends and family and asked them to describe me I hope they would say two things: he loves his family and he loves to win. I didn’t need to know Chase to know those two things. You could tell he had a special bond with his family and he loved to win. He was going to be a superstar in business or in sports. I guess, in a nutshell, I saw the 7 year old me when I looked at Chase. And it both touched me and haunted me equally – - given how tragic the circumstances. I decided to do the only thing I really know how to do which is not just join a cause but help to lead it. My goal is to share Chase’s story, raise money to help Chase’s Place become a reality and ensure Chase’s friends & family know that he has touched many, many lives – - even those of people he may not have met.”
Both Brian and Kevin Bresnahan completed the NYC Marathon in 2013 to honor Chase. Brian doing so just after completing the Miami 70.3 Triathlon the week prior.
“On Sunday, August 18th, I finished my very first half ironman (70.3 miles) in honor of Chase Kowalski. Leading up to the event and not knowing exactly how to prepare, I had a lot of stress. I constantly tried to remember why I was doing this, honoring Chase and raising money for his foundation, really kept me going through the six month training process. The morning of the race at Lake Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire was beautiful. The lake was peaceful and the weather was amazing. As I stood on the beach listening to the National Anthem being sung and the quiet of the 2400 athletes gathered in their wetsuits to begin the swim portion, I had Chase on my mind. I was very very nervous to compete in this event, so I needed to remember Chase’s face to relax. As I entered the water and waited for my wave to begin, I felt terror! How was I going to get through this daunting task of hours worth of exercise? I kept thinking about all the people who were supporting me, and tried to remind myself I would be fine. As I began to swim and get into my stroke, I was kicked in the face by another swimmer and totally lost my focus. I had to grab onto a kayak because I could not relax or control my breathing and I was starting to panic. As I hung on that kayak and looked towards the beach, I could see Chase’s face – the look of determination he had as he competed in his own triathlon, and I all the people who had donated to Chase’s fund for me, and I was able to relax. Lake Winnepesaukee is absolutely beautiful and clear and as I swam to the first bouy, I imagined Chase looking up at me from below the water and smiling. It was such a relaxing feeling, as though he were with me telling me I would be okay. As I exited the water, had my wetsuit removed, and ran to my transition spot, I was thrilled to finally get to sport my Race4Chase Tri-suit! The water was cold that morning and required me to wear a wet-suit for the swim, so I was excited to finally really have Chase with me for the bike. The bike was brutally hilly, and for 56 miles to got to think about all the reasons I was out there doing this race – I thought a lot about Chase and the other souls lost on December 14th, I cried a few times, but was able to pull myself together and get through the bike portion. Once I entered the transition area again to start the run is when I started to get excited! I’m a marathon runner turned triathlete, so I knew this would be my strong leg! “We’ve got this, Chase!” I thought to myself as I tried my running sneakers tight and ran through the final transition area. On the run course, which was beautiful and very hilly, I had lots of people cheer me on, make comments about Chase’s adorable face on my shirt, ask me about the foundation, etc. It was great to finally get to talk to people about why I was out here doing this, and who I was doing it for. Coming into the chute to my finish I was aboslutey overwhelmed with emotion; excitement, sadness, victory, etc.! I saw my familiy and friends, who were cheering me on for the entire 7+ hours I was out there, gave my 5yo daughter a high five, and ran through the finisher’s chute. When my medal was placed around my neck, I kissed it and looked up to the sky, “We did it, Chase, we did it!” Then I absolutely lost it and began to cry, happy and sad tears at the same time. I was so happy I was able to do this for Chase, and but overwhelmed with the sadness that he won’t do it himself, someday. God bless Chase and the entire Kowalski Family. I am honored to have been a part of team Race4Chase, and look forward to prouding sporting my tri-suit many times in the future at other races! I have attached a photo of me after my finish with my 5yo daughter, Riley. ”
“The Camp Oest team had a great time running the Baltimore Marathon relay Saturday, October 12, 2013. All four of us have run in some fashion or another but this was the first real competitive run for all of us outside of occasional 5K fundraisers. We were talking before the race about how motivating it really was to do this and how powerful it was to feel like we had Chase there with us while we ran. A couple of us had people compliment us on our shirts. At least for me, I’m pretty sure everybody turned to read my shirt and it made me really proud to be running for Chase. Having participated in the Baltimore Running Festival was one of the greatest feelings I’ve felt in a long time. My mom is a marathon runner and I always wanted to get into it but I never fully had the drive to until I was doing it for Chase. I don’t think the experience would have been as incredible as it was if it weren’t for Chase and for your support. Sam and I are already planning to run the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach in March, and we’ll proudly do it as part of CMAK.
One of our runners, Zach, will not be participating in any more races with us since he will be going to boot camp next month and then beginning his tour of duty with the Marines. I know that Chase will continue to inspire him in his service overseas, and it will continue to inspire all of us when we return to Camp Oest next summer to make a difference in more kid’s lives to try to make the world a better place.”
Brian Pogue, of St. Charles, Missouri, wrote; ”Today I threw on a Race4Chase shirt and bracelet early this morning and raced a 7K in Cottleville Missouri. The weather was magnificent and I had one of my best min/mile paces. No complaints about today.” That sums up an attitude of determination that Brian works daily on reinforcing in his life. But, that was not always how he saw things. In the year before, Brian had trained to run in his first Iron Man Triathlon. He trained before and after work to complete his first two Iron Man’s and was in a position to complete the third in the end of the year, 2012. Somewhere in the fall, between his 2nd and 3rd Iron Man, Brain began to lose interest in running and slowly was becoming “a little lazy.” Realizing that at the age of 48, and at 5’9″, and tipping the scales at 200 pounds, he had become a “big ole fat boy” (in his own words) and needed to do something drastic to turn things around. Yet, he still lacked motivation and as he put it was “gaining, gaining, gaining…and putting on the pounds.”
Then, on December 14, 2012, the tragedy in Sandy Hook, Connecticut happened. Chase was only 7 years old when he lost his life with 19 other classmates and 6 teachers. Living a thousand miles away, Brian felt he needed to do something. To help in some way. After reading more about Chase, and Chase’s desire to participate in a triathlon in his short little life, Brian realized that there were “no more excuses” and he set out to get in shape and actually run in the triathlon that he had signed up to run in. With new determination and now clearly focused on getting in shape, Brian got serious and hired Jennifer Meyer, a level 2 USAT Triathlon Coach, to start training. Always keeping Chase in his fore thoughts and vision, Brian discovered Race4Chase and set out to create his own fund raiser with a final goal to give all the proceeds to the Kowalski family.
Not only has Brian become more fit and conquered a few more 5K races, he took off work recently to run in a Race4Chase 5K and then visit Chase’s playground in Normandy Beach, NJ. It was on the last part of this journey, while running a half marathon in Atlanta, GA that it was now getting a little rough, but in the end, Brian felt Chase cheering him on.
Brian writes “I just want to say that when it comes to Sandy Hook, I focus on that determined little boy who loved baseball, running and wanted to do a race where he could swim, ride his bike, and run all in the same race! Chase was and is my wake up call. My hero who made me realize that I needed to get serious about what I was doing in the sport of triathlon. I also realize there are 25 other victims and I think of them often. When the reality of Sandy Hook sunk in, I tried to learn something about each victim. It was a painful experience but it made me realize all the diverse talent that has been taken from this world. Where I identified with Chase, my hopes are that each person can at least identify with one victim and take action to show awareness and support. We can never forget these kids and teachers.”
Thank you Brian Pogue. You make our world a better place and all of us at CMAK applaud you. (Rhonda Feuz)
Erin Flanagan, a student at the University of New Haven from Madison, CT, is one of those athletes that Chase has stuck a special cord. Erin is on a quest to run a marathon in every State and is dedicating all of these races in honor of Chase. Thus far, she has completed marathons in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Texas. The All-American Marathon will be her next event and with a special twist. Erin will bring with her a Race4Chase baton which she will give to an inspired athlete she meets at the All-American Marathon requesting the recipient to take up the baton and compete in a challenging athletic event honoring Chase and the other students and educators taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary. The recipient will be asked to pass the baton along to another inspired athlete in order to keep Chase spirit alive.
“Like Chase, I too have a passion for running and competing. After my first marathon in 2012, I set a goal to run a marathon in every state. This one in Fort Bragg will be my fourth and I am so grateful to be able to combine my love for running and competing with honoring Chase’s memory. I am excited to follow this baton’s travels and give others a chance to celebrate Chase’s life and be a part of a growing group of people who become part of a team that “turns tragedy into triumph.”
I thought I would share with you the events of yesterday’s Boston Marathon. I am choosing to focus on the positive and to focus on the love and compassion that was flowing freely from so many before and after the tragedy. Amanda was pumped, she was very excited and she told me that at the start of the Marathon there was a moment of silence for the victims of Sandy Hook. She said during that moment she felt Chase and knew without a doubt that she would complete the race. She said she didn’t care about how long it took her (not her typical competitive self) because this wasn’t about her but rather it was about Chase. With so many people contributing to Chase Kowalski Memorial Fund she felt she had already won.
We made our way to Heartbreak Hill (about mile 20.5) which is where Amanda asked us to cheer her on. There were hundreds of people cheering and encouraging the runners. Many random acts of kindness. Without exaggerating, hundreds of acts of kindness. People passing out water, fruit, and Gatorade. People waving signs,helping the weary, and offering support. The woman next to me randomly yelled, “YOU’RE AMAZING!” to hundreds of runners. We were all thrilled to be a part of the event.
When Amanda passed us, she beamed with joy, and gracefully sailed on past us. I thought, Amanda’s legs and Chase’s wings…and she was lost to the crowd. Love wins.
We walked to the “T” to head downtown to meet Amanda at the Recovery Area. The crowd was huge so we had to wait for a while before we could get on, we then proceeded downtown. By the time we got to Kenmore Square, which is the stop for Fenway Park, it was clear something was wrong, because we stopped and didn’t move. No one had cell service because we were underground. After a few minutes it was announced that everyone had to exit the station, someone said there was an explosion downtown. The next 20 minutes was mayhem. Numerous trains were stopped and everyone was trying to exit. The street was jammed because the Marathon was happening in front of the “T” stop so there wasn’t any place to go. We finally made our way out and started walking down Longwood Ave. We knew that Amanda was safe, and that her mother was near her. We spoke to a bus driver who told us everything was grounded. The only way out was to walk. That is what we did. We slowly made our 5 mile journey back to the car. We traveled a deserted Marathon route most of the way. Surreal, no cars, very few people except police and Armed Serviceman in fatigues. After about 2.5 hours we got back to the car. Our soon-to- be 5 year old son, was a real trooper.
In the car, I was able to access cell service (my battery died) and touch base with everyone. We left Boston and hooked up with Amanda for dinner. She heard the explosions and witnessed the smoke, and although she said she never felt afraid many people around her did panic.
Upon finishing dinner, the waitress wrote the following on our check, “LOVE YOUR LIFE EVERYDAY!”
Greg is the perfect example of being inspired by Chase to start training. Here he is pictured with his family having completed his pledged 250 miles to the MillionMiles4Chase program. He is a close co-worker of Stephen and an active participant in many Race4Chase events.