by Gene Marrano
Now in its 7th year, the annual Run with Grace 5K drew more than 150 runners and walkers to Patrick Henry High School last Saturday. Run with Grace was established after the sudden death of former Patrick Henry High School cross country and track standout Grace Lovegrove, who died after suffering cardiac arrest as a freshman at Christopher Newport University, while on a training run in 2005.
Run with Grace supports the PH cross country and track teams, and a scholarship established in her memory. Harrison Toney was the overall winner this year, but the biggest winner perhaps was the drawing power of Grace Lovegrove, and how more than seven years after her death she brought former friends and track teammates out to the Patrick Henry cross country course for a 3.1 race.
Among those who came were coaches and teammates from Christopher Newport, where Lovegrove was just a freshman. Grace’s mother Lisa was all smiles on Saturday as she helped keep things organized before and after the separate women’s and men’s races, and the one-mile fun run. “Every year more and more people come out – it’s a good neighborhood race,” said Lovegrove.
The scholarship that money is raised for goes to an “average kid,” said Lovegrove. The best students get academic assistance she said, while the best athletes also can get tuition assistance. Run for Grace is designed to help those in the middle of the bell curve. “We wanted a well-rounded kid who did well in school and who also was not necessarily a [varsity athlete].” The Foundation for Roanoke Valley administers the scholarship now, but the winner is chosen by a committee at Patrick Henry. Carilion Clinic has been a major supporter of Run with Grace, both financially and logistically on race day, as Lovegrove points out.
Even those without direct ties to Patrick Henry return every year to help, by running or assisting with registration, course monitoring, etc. “She would of loved it,” said Lisa Lovegrove with a chuckle about Grace, “she loved being the center of attention.” As the first grandchild and the only one for six years she got plenty of attention.
Grace was also about 5’8” and 100 lbs, which lent itself to the runway modeling she did on occasion. She “ate like a horse,” as well said mom; a caricature of Grace used on the race website depicts her holding a Cheerwine and a Hardee’s Thickburger – two of her favorite calorie-laden treats.
Tim Scott ran with Grace for just one season at Christopher Newport, but he comes back for the 5k anyway. “Her personality and just spreading the love that she showed everybody at CNU,” is why he returns to run. “I just want to continue to run with Grace every year that I can.” Cassie Stilley helped coach Lovegrove in cross-country at CNU: “She was really a part of the team right away. Everybody liked her – no enemies, no gossiping. She was really a good teammate to everyone.”
“It seems like it was just yesterday,” said Lisa Lovegrove of her daughter’s untimely passing. Run with Grace allows people to remember her once a year, and to raise money for two good causes at the same time. “Once a year people just stop and think for a minute- its Grace’s race…on her home cross country course. This is where we’re going to run it.”
See complete race results at runwithgrace.com or starcitystriders.com