Three years ago, on what would have been his 36th birthday, Juneau resident Sue Lindoff lost her son while he was serving in the Air Force. Tech Sgt. Leslie D. Williams, who grew up in Juneau and graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School, was third-generation military and served for 16 years. He planned to make a career of it, Lindoff said.
Lindoff and her children struggled to cope with the loss of their son and brother, she said. Last year, Williams’ sister, who runs marathons, came up with an idea: to honor her brother, a runner himself, with a 5K that reached from one end of the country to the other.
“We were all having a hard time with the loss, and it was more like a healing for the family, and it just kind of took off,” Lindoff said.
What started out as a local family project quickly grew. Friends and family across the nation caught wind of the idea and agreed to gather to run a 5K at the same time as the Juneau group of between 30 and 50 people.
Williams’ family, friends and fellow servicemen and women in Anchorage, Washington, North Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, New York and California gathered groups of their own to run and walk in Williams’ memory, Lindoff said.
Another of Lindoff’s sons ran the race last year physically carrying the memory of his brother.
“Josh carried the weight of Leslie,” she said. He put the equivalent of Williams’ weight “in a backpack and carried that” for the entire race.
This Saturday, Jan. 25, marks what would have been Williams’ 39th birthday, as well as the second annual 5K in his honor.
“We had such a good turnout that we’ll try to make it an annual event,” Lindoff said.
The race takes place at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Dimond Park Field House. Runners and walkers can meet at the site as early as 10 a.m.
Donations collected at the event will go to the Wounded Warrior Project, a national organization that advocates and provides services for wounded veterans.