A 50-pound log is getting ready to roll through this weekend’s Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.
But not exactly rolling.
Koby McGrew of Surprise is running Sunday’s half-marathon — 13.1 miles — while carrying the roughly 50-pound log in honor of fallen first responders.
The 45-year-old got the idea while preparing for last year’s race — which takes place in Tempe. Valley police had just lost one of their own — Salt River police Officer Clayton Townsend — in a traffic collision. Mr. McGrew himself is tied to the law enforcement community — his father was a military police officer, his sister works in the prison system and his girlfriend is the daughter of a fallen officer.
So carrying the log for the fallen made sense to him.
“Very supportive of the people who keep us safe,” he said.
The log is not just a log he picked out of his backyard. While Mr. McGrew was out on a hike in California, he would usually be the first to the end of a trail. His friends joked that he should carry a log, so that’s just what he did.
“We found this big old log and it ended up staying with us for the last nine miles,” Mr. McGrew said. “I carried it. We kind of passed it off. We got it back to the car and adopted it. And it was in my house and we just started bringing it to races.”
One day, Mr. McGrew was late for a Spartan race and didn’t make his elite heat. Instead he opted for the open rounds and took the log along with him.
When last year’s Rock ‘n Roll came around, the plan was to bring along the log and a flag. But Mr. McGrew forgot the flag at home. So he ran with the log, stopping along the way to talk to a few officers about what it was. They signed it too.
“Everybody was appreciative of it,” Mr. McGrew said, adding that people would ask if he was going to do it again next year. “I’m like ‘I gotta do it now, just like the barefoot Elvis guy.’”
For those attending Sunday’s half-marathon, keep a close eye on Mr. McGrew, as he doesn’t plan on rolling the log around. Instead, he keeps it on his right or left shoulder, with the occasional down time when people ask if the log is real.
“It never gets rolled. Always gets carried,” he said. “You gotta carry them, they’re fallen. You can’t roll the fallen, that’s not nice.”
Mr. McGrew keeps the log in his living room/home gym, taking the log for occasional runs around the neighborhood.
“He goes everywhere. He’s got miles,” Mr. McGrew said.
For those running the marathon, Mr. McGrew is happy to lend the log to you for a few strides, but then it’s back to him.
“You’ll tell them what it’s for and they’ll be like “Oh my dad died in the line of duty’ or ‘My dad was a cop, you mind if I carry it a little bit?’” Mr. McGrew said, to which he obliges. “Some people understand and maybe they feel like they’re carrying their fallen. I bring a marker and they can sign it. I have random people sign their loved one’s name.”
The Rock 'n' Roll Marathon is 7:50 a.m.-3 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 19, starting at University Drive and College Avenue in Tempe and finishing at Rio Salado Parkway and Ash Avenue.