Yesterday was day nine for me. The headline story on the Albuquerque evening news Thursday night was about the weather. Apparently the cold temps and fierce winds were part of a storm front that would be with us for a couple more days. Oh joy.
I bundled up in some extra layers and was out the door for an early start. Matt drove me down to Hwy. 380, dropping me at the spot where I’d finished on Thursday. I was clipping along at a decent pace, probably because my blisters were relieved for the even surface the asphalt provided. As I approached Matt (who had pulled the truck into an open area about mile three) I saw three runners coming down the opposite side of the road.
They spotted the truck and its “Walk New Mexico” signs and crossed the highway to visit with Matt. They were curious about what we were up to. I knew they had to be doing a coast to coast run as they pushed two strollers complete with rain covers.
Two of them have known each other since middle school. They met the third in college. All ran track and field. They came up with the idea of a coast to coast run about three years ago, but were finally doing it – for a reason. My Matt and I were each given the equivalent of a large business card. On one side was the photo of PFC Philip J. Diaferio. He was a friend of the running trio’s. I’m going to print exactly what the card says:
“PFC Philip Diaferio of Endicott, New York passed away on November 24, 2007; three months shy of his 21st birthday due to an automobile accident while home on leave from Iraq. A Memorial Scholarship Fund has been set up to honor him. All proceeds will be used for a scholarship granted to a selected graduating senior from Union Endicott High School in Endicott, NY. Philip’s family would be forever grateful if you could help contribute to this fund and help keep Philip’s name alive. Thank you for your support.”
If you are interested here’s the scholarship information:
PFC Philip J. Diaferio
Memorial Scholarship Fund
c/o M&T Bank
519 Hooper Road Suite 7
Endwell, NY 13760
The young men we met are: Ken Stannard, Andy Wahila, and Matt Durkin. They started their run in Savannah, GA and will finish in San Diego, CA. They’re running unsupported, so if you check out their website and they’re near your area, maybe you’ll help them out.
So much of the walk from Las Cruces to Santa Fe has been quite solitary. Matt and I have each other for company, but we have gone several times of 24 hours or more without seeing anyone else. Ken, Andy and Matt (Durkin) boosted my spirits. I told them I’d let the ultra-runners know what they are up to. I felt honored to meet them. PFC Diaferio’s story gave me pause to give thanks for the well-being of each of my own children. I said prayers for him, for his family, and for his courageous running friends.
May they be safe and blessed throughout the rest of their run.