Running for hope

Race for a Soldier returns

By Jessica Corey-Butler on July 7, 2016

In the Pacific Northwest, there are 15 half-marathons in the month of September alone. Jeff Bauknecht, who co-directs the Race for a Soldier Half Marathon and 5K happening for its sixth year Sept. 25, 2016 at 8 a.m., suggests, "Race for a Soldier is different, and has been different from its inception. Call it military support, call it community magic, or call it ‘a God thing,'" - the difference is palpable.

The race began in 2011, two years after Leslie Mayne lost her son, PFC Kyle Marshall Farr, to overmedication shortly after he was discharged from an east coast VA facility.   "What I decided after I got pushed off that cliff and scrambled back, ...was that I would help people like Kyle." The race, and subsequent foundation formation is, in her words, "how I honor Kyle."

Currently the Race for a Soldier is the keystone event for the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation, which has given more than $122,000 to local and national programs that help soldiers. Mayne says the idea for a race came after she realized, "it is incumbent on us as citizens to be a part of the solution." She asked herself, "what can I do?" and fell upon the idea of a race because, she explained, "it's intentional; you choose to do it."

The inception of the race happened as communities collided like so much stardust.  Bauknecht recalls working part-time at Route 16 Running and Walking, the running shop of Miguel Galeana (who is also the co-director of the race with Bauknecht); "Miguel asked, do you know someone named Leslie? She wants us to help her put on a race," Bauknecht remembered thinking, "What am I supposed to say, no?" And he did in fact know, and admire Leslie from their days working for the Muscular Dystrophy Association together, "we became coworkers and friends ... I hadn't seen her for a couple of years."

The response was overwhelmingly positive from everyone in the community, beginning with business owners like Peter Stanley, then owner of the Tides Tavern, on up to the mayor of Gig Harbor.  Bauknecht reflected, "I've never had the opportunity to work a race where we had to turn away volunteers. We set up cheer squads at one point ... Actually, local bands request to be a part of this; it's like a mini Rock & Roll Marathon."

Bauknecht said, "I've been putting races on for twenty-five years and I've never seen a race take off like that - we had twelve hundred entrants the first year." He remembered having a conversation with Mayne, "You realize we have something bigger than a race - we have the groundwork for a foundation."  The phrase "Permission to Start Dreaming" appeared through some sort of Kismet, and a foundation was born. "The race is a venue, a tool we're using to rally support for our troops." Mayne suggested the race serves as a way to "generate compassionate allies from the civilian world" through meaningful experiences and meetings during the race and beyond.

Toward creating a meaningful race experience for all, Mayne, Galeana and Bauknecht have a hope that eventually there will be half as many military-affiliated runners as civilians; registration is open now online at with what Mayne described as a "nice discount" offered to military members. There's also an option to join the event as a virtual runner; "we wanted to give people the option to run in the race even if they can't be here to do it," said Bauknecht.

Proceeds will benefit the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation, which is working toward creating a self-sustaining retreat for servicemembers and their families to heal. One more reason to get out and run.