Runners to honor Dru Sjodin at 5K
The pain of losing a young daughter and friend will never fade. But for Dru Sjodin's mother and a close friend, comfort is found in the support so many strangers have offered. For the runners who lace up their shoes in two weeks, a race is one wa...
The pain of losing a young daughter and friend will never fade.
But for Dru Sjodin's mother and a close friend, comfort is found in the support so many strangers have offered.
For the runners who lace up their shoes in two weeks, a race is one way for them to honor Sjodin's life.
The first annual Dru Sjodin Purple Elephant 5K Run/Walk will take place on Aug. 18 in her hometown of Pequot Lakes, Minn.
Michelle Janowiec, who knew Sjodin since elementary school, organized the event to honor her longtime friend.
She hopes that through running, people can help end the violence committed against women.
"(A running race) was my way of tying something positive to honor Dru," said Janowiec, 24, who works as a food broker in Minneapolis. "It's just something healthy for the community to be involved in to honor her."
For Janowiec and Sjodin's mother, Linda Walker, the event is a way to continue the 22-year-old college student's legacy.
"The more attention we can create for violence toward women and children is always important and always will be important," Walker said.
Four years after the University of North Dakota student was abducted and murdered, her family still copes every day with the loss.
"Your emotion ranges from depression to a lot of questions wondering why," Walker said, choking up.
Memorial events like the race help Sjodin's family, friends and the community heal from their tragic loss.
"It definitely helps me feel a little more connected to her," Janowiec said.
She remembers playing softball with Sjodin in elementary school and junior high, and attending Pequot Lakes High School together.
"I just picture this smiling, happy girl," Janowiec said. "She was always smiling, fun and open to everyone. She really had an effect on a lot of people."
The race will help keep the memory of Sjodin alive.
"I don't want (the community) to forget what happened," Janowiec said. "When something tragic like this happens, you can't let your memory slide away."
Proceeds from the race will go toward the Gamma Phi Beta scholarship, a $20,000 endowment awarded to a UND student involved with the sorority Sjodin belonged to.
Top finishers will receive medals that coincide with the race's theme: a purple elephant. Sjodin had a purple elephant tattoo because it represented compassion, strength and a nurturing spirit - traits she most identified with, Janowiec said.
A purple elephant statue also stands in Dru's Garden, a memorial garden in Pequot Lakes honoring Sjodin. The race will start at the gazebo next to the garden and the Paul Bunyan Trail.
Walker won't be able to make it to the inaugural race, she said, but "we give our blessings and we're grateful."
Janowiec, a runner herself, won't be running because she'll be busy helping run it. As of last weekend, only about 40 people had registered.
"It's been four years, but there's never a day where it becomes less tragic," Janowiec said. "My life since that day has changed drastically. We'll never forget Dru and we'll never forget what happened."
If you go
- What: Dru Sjodin Purple Elephant 5K Run/Walk
- When: Aug. 18; running race starts at 9 a.m. and the walking race starts at 9:15.
- Where: Pequot Lakes, Minn.
- Info: The entry fee is $20 before race day and $25 the day of. The top three runners in each age and gender division will receive elephant medals. Other items will be raffled off afterward. For more info or to register, go to www.cbrunning.com/runfordru .
Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 235-7311