Carroll High School graduate Paul Bete participated in the demonstration by Ohio State Buckeyes student-athletes last week. Dozens of athletes from different sports kneeled for nine minutes in silence to honor the memory of George Floyd.
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Football players Tuf Borland and C.J. Saunders spoke to the group on the north side of Ohio Stadium. Athletic Director Gene Smith kneeled with the athletes.
“It was just powerful to be there along with all the other student-athletes and see everyone there for one goal,” Bete said. “It was a pretty big turnout, which was surprising for the summer when a lot of people aren’t on campus.”
The moment motivated Bete, who graduated from Ohio State this spring after spending the last two years as a walk-on member of the track and cross country teams, to do more and become an ally in the fight against racism.
Bete decided to run 56.3 miles from the Jesse Owens statue outside Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium to the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Wilberforce. His goal was to raise money to benefit the NAACP Foundation’s legal-defense fund. He wanted to raise $5,000 but ended up with $9,551 in donations.
“I though the idea of running 56 miles would be outlandish enough to really raise awareness,” Bete said, “and make people want to donate, especially people who want to do something but don’t really know a good way to do it.”
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Bete wrote in detail about his motivations on the website, RallyUp.com, where he launched his fund-raising campaign.
“For much of my life, I’ve avoided the topic of race,” Bete said, “And like many people of my background it wasn’t due to any explicit biases, but rather it was easy and convenient to not confront a system in which I was privileged and had an advantage to succeed. The murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police department, as well as the murders of countless other black people have been a wake up call. A call to no longer just condemn these actions in my mind or in talking with friends, but instead to go out in the world, protest, and take tangible action to stop the machine that allows these actions to happen.
“As a member of the Ohio State track and field program, my life has been shaped over my college years by strong black coaches/role models such as Karen Dennis and Khadevis Robinson. I had the privilege of competing with and getting to know dozens of black teammates whose constant strength in the face of adversity over the past weeks and years has changed my life and inspired me to do whatever I can to change the lives of others. In light of this, I will be using my ability to run that so many of these people have helped cultivate in me to raise money for the NAACP legal defense fund.”
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Bete started the run just before 7 a.m. Sunday and finished around 5 p.m. He followed the Ohio to Erie bike trail the whole way. He had never run more than 19 miles before and had run only five or six times in the previous month but felt fresh.
The heat bothered him in the last hour. He had support from two friends who biked with him the whole way and a car of other friends who met him five or six times throughout the run to bring him water and food. Some of the friends ran with him for part of the journey.
“The first 20 or so miles, I was just kind of running pretty easy,” Bete said. “It went by pretty quickly. I stopped once to eat and drink something, I got through 30 miles pretty easily without doing any walking breaks. After that, it was run a couple miles, walk a half mile and so on. There were some rough patches from 30-56. There was some five-mile stretches that were tough.”
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