The crowd is continuing to grow as runners from all around unite, and two watchful eyes are looking down on Warren.
It's been a little over two years since Jordan "Jordie" McTavish passed away unexpectedly at age 21. His spirit lives on in all that he touched. A man of few words, Jordie had a way to make everyone call him a friend - or, in my case, a teammate.
For those who knew Jordie, he was an observant kid. He had a tall, thin build, with a scraggly beard at times, wearing his small-framed glasses halfway down his nose.
The late Jordan McTavish has inspired the Joggin’ with Jordan 10k
and 5k races, which are this Saturday in Warren (warrenymca.org).
When it came to running, he had a gazelle stride with arm movements all over, never lacking effort or determination.
At least that is the image engrained in my mind for the rest of my life.
It was one of the first high school track and field practices, freshman year. We had just finished running a set of hurdle sprints, mainly seeing who had the form to run hurdles - or not. I looked over at the starting line, after just finishing my last run, to see Jordie standing there. He tilted his head to the side, staring at me as if I had never really hurdled before. Then the sly smile came to his face, and he told me, "You gotta keep your trail leg up; if not, it's going to look like this" - showing me his bruised and battered ankle after repeatedly hitting it on hurdles in practice.
That same year, we headed to Oil City for our last regular season meet. I needed only a few points to earn my first Varsity letter (for my letterman's jacket). Jordie, knowing this, sat out the 110-meter hurdles race so I had a shot at placing and ultimately earning enough points to get my letter.
He knew how much the letter meant to me. I quickly learned one of my many lessons from Jordan; it was more than running, and winning races. He was the true definition of a team player, putting into perspective what really was important in his life, making those around him happy.
To him, I owe many of my track career accomplishments. Jordie helped get me to a goal I had set as a kid - becoming an NCAA athlete.
Growing up in a house with three other brothers and a sister, there is always some good "brotherly love." It was evident at an early age that Jordie would stand up for others.
"When we were younger, I would pick on younger brother Jacob," said Mitch McTavish. "Jordie would always threaten to set me straight. He always seemed to take Jake's side."
Despite his death you could say that he insisted upon determination and resiliency in his family. It takes a ton of work to produce a race. Everything from getting people to organize the event, to selecting a route, the McTavish's knew they had to have a race for Jordie.
"It was a difficult thing to start. Hours and hours of preparation are put in. I was really proud of Meghan and the countless others for the time spent in implementing the race," said Mitch.
As the third annual Joggin' with Jordan is approaching (this Saturday, June 15), Meghan McTavish, Jordan's sister, says the community support for the event continues to be wonderful.
"I think the race has continued into a third year because of the love and support the community has for our family as well as the happy memories they have of Jordan," she said. "The memory of his contagious smile and happy attitude definitely keep people running, walking, and jogging with Jordan."
This year, the family has passed the race on to be the YMCA, with the funds raised going for a youth health and fitness program at the YMCA called, "Kids be Fit."
"The support from the McTavish family through the Joggin' with Jordan race will support a program that will help children find fun in running and, in turn, we will see more kids crossing race finish lines with smiles on their faces - just like that of Jordan's," said YMCA Wellness Director Chris Dolan. A portion of the proceeds will also go to the cross country and track and field teams at Warren Area High School, of which Jordan was a member.
The race is being held on Saturday, June 15, with the 10k race starting at 9 a.m., and the 5k race and fun walk to follow. Registration can be done online at runsignup.com or by picking up a form at the front desk at the YMCA. The 10k and 5k races cost $15 pre-race or $20 on race day.
Jordie did not set limits, why should we?
"Jordie didn't set limits because he never wanted to sell himself short," said Mitch. "Despite his autism, he wanted to be, and successfully was, just like everyone else."
On June 15, no matter how exhausted I may be after this 10k, there will be no walking or coming up short. Even after his death, Jordie still has a way to motivate me, and touch lives.