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Blackwell elated with 'Run for One'

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By The Staff

Those who follow sports often wonder what motivates some athletes to push themselves to their physical and mental limits.In the case of marathoner, Mark Blackwell, that’s an easy answer. His inspiration comes from someone who has touched his heart deeply – his nephew, the late Matt Blackwell. Over the past four years, Mark, a Lancaster native, has participated in several marathons in different locations throughout the Southeast.Once a year, he dedicates one of these 26.2 mile runs to Matt, calling it the “Run for One,” and raises funds for the foundation that bears Matt’s name. On Oct. 25, Blackwell took his passion for running to another level by completing a 51-mile course through the roads of Lancaster County.Beginning at his brother Larry’s Snow Drive home, Blackwell, who now resides in Alpharetta Ga., hit the road at 4 a.m. with Larry and USC-L athletic director Rick Walters by his side for the first leg of the journey.The course took Blackwell through the Camp Creek area to Buford High School then to Andrew Jackson High. From there the route went through Heath Springs, onto McIlwain Road, into the Douglas Community, up by the Lancaster Golf Club, then to Lancaster Memorial Park.After a brief pause at Memorial Park to pay tribute to Matt, the run continued down S.C. South 200 through Main Street to the Lancaster High School track.After a lap around the track, the run concluded at home plate at the LHS Baseball field.“This was an appropriate place to cross the finish line, a place where Matt loved,” Mark said.Matt, who wore No. 1 was a catcher on the LHS junior varsity baseball team just before his passing in the spring of 2001 when a car accident claimed his life.“None of this would have been possible without the other runners who joined me at points along the way,” said Mark Blackwell said. “Their support, encouragement and motivation kept me going from start to finish. It was a fresh wind.”The support runners included Larry Blackwell, Walters, 27 members of the USC-L baseball team, Mark and Laura Baker, Tony Yarborough, Teresa Mullis, Drew Mobley, Tori Jones, Preston Simpson, Anna Bradley, Jonathan Hinson, Jessica Weir, Lancaster High School cross country coach Josh Pauling, his wife Kristy and several members of the team.“During the last half of the run, some of the runners went beyond their scheduled distance and that was a tremendous motivating factor for me,” Mark Blackwell said. “Drew Mobley and Tori Jones actually ran the final 25 miles with me.“Also, the run would not have been possible without the assistance of Eric Jaillette of the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department.”Jaillette, a LHS graduate, played baseball for the Bruins and with the Lancaster Post 31 Legion baseball program.“Eric went the distance with me and the support runners, keeping the traffic moving smoothly along my route and paving the way for a safe run. Eric was a huge asset and was crucial to the run.“Eric gave up his Saturday to assure we had no trouble along the course and that all of us stayed out of harm’s way,” Mark Blackwell said. “My wife Claire and daughter Lauren were there the whole way, as well, driving the support vehicle and offering encouragement. Donna McKinnon, my brother Larry, and his wife Jan provided support all day by following along and transporting runners back to their starting points. A special thanks also goes to Larry Bennett, USC-Lancaster baseball coach Mike Prochaska and his assistant, longtime LHS Bruin coach Steve Williams. Coach Prochaska and coach Williams followed their team for over 20 miles. As you can tell, this event was truly a team effort,” Mark Blackwell said.Larry Blackwell said he was proud of his brother’s effort.“Words cannot describe how proud I am of Mark,” Larry Blackwell said. “It’s hard to fathom the amount of physical and mental toughness it took to accomplish this feat. Mark and all of us on the support team had the words ‘Remembering the Smiles for 51 Miles’ printed on the back of our shirts, and I’m sure Mark saw Matt’s familiar grin many times during his long journey.“Finally, to all of the Matt Blackwell Foundation supporters who donated to Mark’s run, thank you so much for helping him achieve this goal. Your generosity will help us to continue enriching the lives of youth in Lancaster County,” Larry Blackwell said.Mark Blackwell said over $10,000 has been raised for the run and a total of $22,000 has been raised from all the runs he has been a part of since launching this venture.