TAMPA – The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is what brought Kathleen “Katie” Pulliam and Dimitri del Castillo together.
Running is what helped bond them in love and ultimately lead them to matrimony.
Running is also the mechanism that helped soothe the pain of Katie’s loss.
The two were classmates and fellow graduates at West Point who were commissioned as second lieutenants and deployed to eastern Afghanistan, he at one base and she at another.
Katie described her husband, whom she married about four years into their courtship, as someone with an exceptionally sharp mind and a born athlete who was built like “a Greek god” and aced whatever sport he pursued.
It was she who introduced Dimitri to her favorite pastime and sport of choice. And over time, it not only enriched their together time but also strengthened their love for one another. They married on Dec. 29, 2010.
Sadly, the couple’s marital bliss came to an abrupt halt in less than six months. Dimitri, by then was a first lieutenant in the Army Rangers, was killed in action on June 25, 2011.
In his memory the family founded the 1st Lt. Dimitri A. del Castillo Scholarship for children or spouses of fallen rangers to further their education.
The foundation will be a beneficiary of the third annual I Will Inspire 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run on Feb. 15 at Florida Orthopaedic Institute, 13020 N. Telecom Parkway in Temple Terrace.
It is open to athletes of all ages and abilities, including participants in wheelchairs with walkers and even prostheses.
Its purpose and hence its name, say founders and co-chairwomen Catherine Pacifici and Mandy Manno, both of New Tampa, is to inspire people to live their lives to their fullest, no matter the disabilities or challenges they face.
“Participants leave with not only an amazing race experience but also life-changing inspiration,” Pacifici said.
About 550 people participated last year and since its inception in 2012 it has raised more than $12,000, donated primarily to organizations that support active-duty soldiers, wounded warriors and families of soldiers killed in the line of duty.
Other charities that will benefit from the event are the I Will Foundation, which helps athletes who have sustained severe physical injuries get back in the game; Building Homes for Heroes; and Support Our Troops, a Wesley Chapel foundation that ships donated items to soldiers overseas.
Manno said it was her neighbor, Lt. Col. Ty Edwards, who motivated her to partner with Pacifici, her fellow running buddy, to institute the race. Prior to suffering a head wound during a mission in Afghanistan, Edwards was a tri-athlete. He’s been a participant every year, albeit in a wheelchair.
“I knew I wanted to honor him … and this is it,” she said. “He was my inspiration.”
Participants of the race, which begins at 8 a.m., may register by logging on here. The cost for the 5K is $25 online and $30 on race day when registration begins at 6 a.m. The fee for the one-mile fun run is $15.
Race packets may be picked up from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 14 at Fit Niche, located in the Shops of Wiregrass, 28139 Pasco Drive in Wesley Chapel.
Those unable to participate in person my register online for the virtual race at www.active.com. At the top of the page enter the words I Will Inspire and set the city to Tampa. The cost is $15.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]