In 2009, Rik Zortman lost his three-year-old son Armstrong to brain cancer. How can you honor a child who dies so young?
As a 44-year-old runner from Avoca, Iowa, Rik thought of a novel way — he would trace his son’s name in the streets during his next run. “Armstrong” appeared on September 1st, beginning a mission to trace the names of 100 children who have either died from or are fighting cancer during Childhood Cancer Awareness month. He also traces motivational messages — his Facebook page today displays “Thanks” and “Giving”.
Of course, the messages do not physically appear on the streets. Rik uses a mobile phone app called MapMy Run (http://www.mapmyrun.com/app/) which uses GPS-based technology to track routes. Planning the routes does require some time and creativity; he allots two blocks for each letter, and diagonal words usually are more legible. The shortest names have been “Bo” and “Al”, each needing a ten-minute run. The longest was “Savannah”, which required seven miles and one and a half hours.
Rik is still tracing and he does solicit names. You need to check out his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/humanetchasketch/), if for no other reason than the share in the honoring (Thanksgiving is a good time). There is also one-page article about Rik in the December 2017 issue of Runner’s World magazine (page 43).