FAIRFIELD — Despite the death this month of its namesake, the 36th Annual Doug Butt Run is set for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Laurel Creek Park.
Butt’s Oct. 8 death after a short battle with the blood cancer multiple myeloma makes this year’s event that much more important, say organizers as well as Butt’s family.
The NorthBay Elite Futbol Club took over the run from the Fairfield-Suisin School District when budget cuts threatened to shut it down a few years ago.
Wednesday’s run will be the first without Butt’s direct involvement.
“I know a lot of the PE teachers he worked with want to keep it going in his memory,” said Aileen Butt, Doug Butt’s wife.
And so, the run will go on.
In the past 35 years, thousands of kids have participated, with a high of more than 1,100 in recent years.
In each of those, Butt, a famed distance runner, could hardly help getting involved with every aspect of the event.
“Ever since he’s been involved he would lead the first few groups in their races,” Aileen Butt said. “Even with his PE classes, he wasn’t one to sit and tell the kids what to do, he’d participate in the activities with them, he’d lead by example.”
George Del Castillo of the NorthBay Elite Futbol Club said the run will carry on much as it has for years with staggered starts for the various age groups.
Kindergarten through second grade will run a half-mile. The course will be 3/4 of a mile for third- and fourth-graders and grades 5-8 will run a full mile.
Del Castillo encouraged participants to register on the club’s website, www.nbefc.com, to avoid having to fill out paperwork the day of the event. The full schedule of the day’s events is available there as well.
The races are separated into boys and girls as well as by age. Kindergarten and first grade will run together. Grades 2 through 6 will run individually, and seventh and eighth grades will run together.
Volunteers are also needed and they can sign up at the website.
Butt was always visible on the course, encouraging the runners and sticking to his main goal of promoting fitness for young people.
“He’d always be there to cheer them on, sometimes he’d be at the finish line cheering them on,” Aileen Butt said. “He’d lay out the courses, he was out there last year helping the NBEFC lay out the course at Laurel Creek Park.”
The run was held at Allan Witt Park for years, but it moved when NBEFC took over. The club holds its practices at Laurel Creek, making it easier to get access to the park.
Doubtless, Butt would be pleased to see the run continue without him.
“With the cuts in PE, he was big believer in physical fitness, so am I,” Aileen Butt said. “I believe kids need to get out and get some kind of exercise. With the computer age, they’re not doing much at home. They need to release their energy. This means a lot to me to keep it going to prove the value of exercise to young people.”