Phil Brown Remembered at Memorial 5K

05/03/2017 - 05:04

By Mary Marcia Brown

Image of Phil.jpg The Duke Energy Hines Energy Complex in Bartow, Florida, was a moving sea of runners and walkers wearing green tee shirts on the morning of April 1.

Each week, my husband, Phil, started his workweek at Duke by wearing a green, two-button polo shirt. This was not a work-related requirement – simply a personal tradition that Phil had started a few years ago. Perhaps he wanted to see who was awake enough to notice the trend. Maybe he felt that green would be a lucky Irish start to each workweek.

The reverberation from the Irish bagpipes that were played at Phil’s funeral on March 6, was a resonating reminder of Phil’s strong Irish roots. Service attendees wore running shoes in Phil’s honor, and the men in Phil’s family, wore green shirts.

The green shirts at the ‘Phil Brown Memorial 5k’ on April 1, were slightly different. Embellished with winged running shoes and Phil’s name, these shirts floated around the starting line with an energy prepared to celebrate Phil’s life, and accomplish miles in his honor.

Countless stories were shared with me that morning. They brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes.

“Phil saved my life,” one man said to me.

He pulled out his phone and showed me a picture of himself from six months earlier. He was 60 pounds heavier.

“I was on 16 types of medication for Colitis, and nothing was working. Phil encouraged me to change my diet, eat all natural, and eat a lot of fruits,” the man, who works as a contractor at Duke, said.

He lost more than 40 pounds in six months, started running, and now needs no medication.

“I credit Phil for all of it,” he said, explaining that none of the many doctors he had seen, had ever inquired about his nutrition.

Another man, who was wearing HOKA running shoes, also approached me. He told me that Phil was an excellent Supervisor.

“He drove us to run this power plant, but he also drove us to try to live healthfully,” the gentleman shared.

He said that Phil had encouraged him to start running. He started somewhere around three miles and as his commitment to running continued and his miles increased, he said that Phil encouraged him to invest in a pair of HOKA running shoes.

“These things felt like clouds under my feet,” the man said, referencing his neatly tied HOKAs that he now wears during his runs of up to 17 miles.

The 5k course encircled the power plant. In January of 2015, Phil and I had participated in another Duke Energy employees and family 5k along that course. Phil was the Overall winner that day, and I chased him to realize a 2nd-place finish.

A local artist recently sketched a likeness of Phil, from that special day. I was able to have the image transmuted to the front of shirts for Phil’s family to wear to the Memorial 5k. The image of Phil, rested (literally) on my heart, as I ran for him on April 1. His love of running fueled my feet to finish in the midst of swirling emotion. Everything was a reminder of the last time I had run around that plant – with him.

Finishing the 5k, I looked at the Duke Energy tower that served as the background to Phil’s victorious finish a couple years earlier. He was filled with sheer joy that day. I also looked at the photos of Phil that had been strategically placed by the registration table. Seeing the banner, with Phil’s name (in green), waving above each finish line success, moved me to more tears.

I wanted him to be there. I wanted him to be part of it all. I wished he could see his nephew completing his very first 5k. I wanted him to see his brother running a 5k for the first time in 20 years, and I wanted him to see his dad doing what he always wished he would do – put his weekly running training to the test, by participating in an organized race. I hope that on some level and in some dimension, he experienced it. I hope he heard the stories, and I hope he saw all the smiles.

Among the smiles, that approached the counting clock, came Adrien – a man with a full-out sprinting finish, like no other I have ever seen. Prior to preparing for Phil’s Memorial 5k, Adrien was heavier and had not run in quite some time. Yet during Phil’s Memorial 5k, he placed fourth overall, and he looked great.

In fact, the entire group of more than 60 runners and walkers, looked great. More importantly however, their supportive, compassionate, loving, and giving energy felt great.

The run, which will now be an annual event in honor and in memory of Phil, raised more than $1500 for Phil’s alma mater, Williamson College of the Trades – the school where Phil ran cross country before becoming an accomplished ultra runner.

(Editor’s note: Phil Brown was killed March 1 in a head-on crash with a truck while riding his motorcycle to work. The truck was attempting to pass another vehicle. He was thrown from his motorcycle and died at the scene.)

(Mary Marcia Brown is a monthly columnist for Running Journal. She is a runner, fitness professional, and race director of the Tick Tock Ultra Marathon & Team Relay in Lakeland, Florida. Reach her at or by visiting


Image of Phil Brown created by local artist (from photo of Phil running at Duke Energy in 2015).

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