MIAMI (WSVN) - Thousands of runners from around the world beat the sun and hit the asphalt for a test of endurance that featured a heartfelt and powerful tribute to a South Florida police officer killed in the line of duty.
Cheering crowds witnessed the iconic Lifetime Miami Marathon and Half Marathon in downtown Miami, Sunday morning.
But for four law enforcement officers, there was more than one reason to celebrate.
Miami-Dade Police Officer Cesar Echaverry never got to fulfill his dream of running a marathon, but four of his brothers in blue did the next best thing: run the half marathon in his memory.
“Well, number 1, he probably would have smoked us in this race,” said MDPD Officer Justin Heller.
“A lot of emotions crossing the finish line and seeing Echy’s family here and being able to do this run for him and keep his legacy alive,” said MDPD Officer John Childress.
The man friends called “Echy” was killed in the line of duty days after an exchange of gunfire with an armed robbery suspect in Liberty City, Aug. 15.
Heller, a member of the department’s Robbery Intervention Detail, said he was with Echaverry when he was shot. He said the officer’s family was a major reason for deciding to run the half marathon
“We did this all for them. I wish Echy could be here to run that race with us — he was an avid runner — but if feels good to be able to do something for the family and share Echy’s story,” said Heller.
A combined 18,000 people registered for the marathon and half marathon.
Several groups ran for a reason bigger than themselves. The Miami Firefighters Benevolent Association’s nonprofit Never Walk Alone had a healthy contingent of other first responders, law enforcement, military and their families.
They’re using the race as a way to shine a light on post-traumatic stress disorder in their ranks.
“We see a lot on a daily basis, and we want people to know that it’s OK to ask for help, all right?” said retired Miami Beach Police Officer Traci Sierra. “It’s not a sign of weakness; it makes you the strongest person in the room.”
First responders from Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue were also on the route. They were dressed in full gear to show that shared suffering can help build a resilient team. They aimed to bring awareness to mental health.
Cellphone video showed Rivka Shotkin receiving lots of encouragement to push through.
“Use those arms! Use those arms!” people walking alongside Shotkin chanted.
A ski accident in 2021 left the 16-year-old from New Jersey paralyzed from the chest down.
Shotkin is part of Chai Lifeline, which offers support to children and families facing medical crises.
As for “Team Echy,” his RID colleagues wrote his name and badge number on their shoes, so the late avid runner was with them for every step of the way.
The officers trained four days a week for the last 12 weeks ahead of the half marathon. They said they just might tackle the whole 26 miles next time.
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