“I was devastated. It took a long time for me to mentally wrap my head around what happened. Even now there are still too many emotions.”
Ten years ago, David Corbett, a third grade teacher and avid runner, lost one of his closest friends and mentors to suicide, John Kelly. They were running buddies and had met when they both joined the Mystic Runners Club around the same time. For years, the two of them would consistently attend the club’s Tuesday track workouts together, as well as the weekly Fun Run on Wednesday evenings.
“I really enjoyed his company. He had a persona that made people want to be around him. We were both getting more and more into running at the time and were training for the Boston Marathon. After a year, we really befriended each other at a much deeper level. We would hang out outside of running. He became more than a run club member for me. He became someone I looked up to.”
John and Dave planned a trip to Houston in 2012. They were going to volunteer for the marathon Olympic trials, and John was going to cheer Dave on when he ran the Houston marathon. The night before their flight, John called Dave to cancel the evening run they had planned together. This would be the last time that Dave got to speak with John.
“I’m 99% sure that I was the last person he ever talked to. When he took his life, I never saw it coming. I was young and perhaps a little naive. I think there were warning signs, but I hadn’t known any of the signs back then. It just wasn’t something on my radar.”
Dave says that losing John has changed his life profoundly
“John was such a caring and wonderful person. I try to embody him as much as I can. At the same time, I remember how John literally put everyone before himself, and I try to remember that I need to look out for myself and my own mental state, as well. Losing John also has made me hyper vigilant. I tend to worry a bit more about people I see going down paths where they are unhappy. I don’t want this to happen again.”
To keep this from happening to anyone else, Dave decided to convert his loss into something positive by planning a 10K race on January 22, 2022 to honor John after 10 years of going through life without him. He named it John’s Run and planned the route along a lake that they would often run together. Offered as a 10K or a two-person relay, more than 130 people signed up to participate to run in the cold winter weather in memory of John.
“I had five layers on. I don’t think the temperature got above 10 degrees. I saw so many people who cared deeply. They were willing to stand outside in the frigid cold weather for such a wonderful person. That really showed me the impact he had on others, not just on me. It made me happy but at the same time, I just wished we didn’t have to be here for this. It would be great just to still have John here. I kind of wish we never had to do these kinds of things.”
Dave raised $2,500 through John’s Run, and he invited Samaritans to come to one of the Mystic Runners’ fun runs on Wednesday evening to donate the money to the organization.
“People need to know that it’s okay to reach out for help. So many people think they can just deal with it on their own. People need to be aware that organizations like Samaritans exist that they can reach out to. It may feel like an impossible hill to climb at the moment. But I want people to know that the world will miss them if they are not here. I want them to know they are loved.”
Dave says that this will not be the last John’s Run – though he laughs and says he may try to plan the next run around John’s birthday (in June) so that runners don’t have to freeze again.
“I want the world to know what an amazing individual John was. Anyone can battle this awful disease. This disease does not discriminate against anyone. I just wish I could have done more – but I’m trying to do more now.”