In 1994, the lives of the Parisian family changed forever.
On May 20, Ricky “Pit” Parisian, an off-duty State Police investigator, was killed while attempting to stop an armed robbery in the Great American grocery store next to the Southside Mall in Oneonta.
Less than five months later, the first 10K Pit Run was held.
That race was organized by Parisian family members to honor their fallen loved one, and now, after 19 more races, the event has grown into much more.
If they had been asked at the first race what the Pit Run would become, organizers said Sunday they never would have pictured what it is today.
“I was recalling in 1996 that it was (the Boilermaker’s) 20th race and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, 20 years. I don’t think we’ll ever get to that point,” Mark “Sid” Parisian said. “Even that fall, that was third year of the Pit Run, and I was thinking five would be great, but 20 is out of reach. I don’t think it would be possible anywhere but Oneonta.”
He may be right. The community — through volunteers, businesses and runners — has come together to support and grow this event. And the feeling is mutual.
Proceeds from the race and surrounding activities, which include a 5K race, a two-mile walk, a fun run for children and activities in Neahwa Park, benefit the Ricky J. Parisian Memorial Scholarship Foundation. The foundation was formed to provide scholarships, but, like the race, the foundation has changed, as well. The foundation has awarded more than $337,000 in college scholarships and grants to community youth-oriented projects.
The first event drew about 850 runners, many just to support the family. This year, nearly 1,100 took part in the runs and walk. Elite runners have shown up fairly regularly over the event’s history, and they were here this year. The men’s and women’s 10K divisions were won by elite runners — Haile Mengasha in the men’s division and Meseret Basa in the women’s division. Although the race may be dominated by those outside the area, the event is still focused on the community.
“It’s a celebration of Rick’s life, but it’s also a time of the community to come together,” Steven Parisian said.
And the community does come together, as evidenced by the crowds that line the streets during the race and gather in the park after it.
“The community has embraced it. Like Rick’s life, it has touched countless numbers of lives,” Mark Parisian said. “Thanks to the foundation, it will continue to do so.”
The Parisian family has shown that tragedy can be turned into something that benefits so many. We thank the Parisian family and its supporters for all they have done over the past 20 years.