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Deadline Fast Approaching For Football Road Race

By Brian Rosenthal

Adrian Martinez so much enjoyed his first Nebraska Football Road Race last year that the Huskers’ starting quarterback wanted to do whatever he could to make the event even better this year.

That’s why Martinez, entering his sophomore year, volunteered his services on the leadership team for the seventh annual Nebraska Football Road Race, to be held Sunday, July 14, beginning at 8 a.m. outside Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

“It’s been cool, going out different places and trying to spread the word, going on TV, things like that,” said Martinez, who joins sophomore kicker Barret Pickering and freshman defensive lineman Ryan Schommer on the leadership team. “More than anything, after last year, it was such a great event, that I wanted to be part of it more. I wanted to help get the team more involved.”

The history of the Nebraska Football Road Race is directly tied to the inspirational relationship created in 2012 between former Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead and pediatric brain cancer patient Jack Hoffman, who became famous as a 7-year old by running for a 69-yard touchdown in the 2013 Spring Game.

All proceeds will go directly to pediatric brain cancer research at the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“The road race is a special event that allows the football team to connect with the community, and not only do that, but support an amazing cause,” Martinez said. “It’s really a ton of fun, something that last year allowed me to be closer to my teammates, and also realize the type of impact we have as football players here at Nebraska.”

Online registration for the one-mile Fun Run and 5k run closes at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 10. The entrance fee until then is $25 for the one-mile Fun Run and $30 for the 5K. After July 10, individuals can register in-person at The Lincoln Running Company (cash or check only) for a late registration fee of $40 for the 5K and $30 for the one-mile Fun Run.

Fans can register for the races by going to huskers.com/roadrace. 

Nebraska fans who sign up also have a rare opportunity to meet and greet any player on the team and seek autographs and photos. Runners will also receive a commemorative race-day T-Shirt and Nebraska Football Road Race Bracelet.

Additionally, the first 1,000 registrants will be invited to watch an exclusive preseason Nebraska football practice or scrimmage in Memorial Stadium in August. More information on that event will be sent in an email after the race.

Last year’s event drew a record 801 participants and raised some $30,000. More than $150,000 has been raised through the first six road races, all for pediatric brain cancer research. This year, former Nebraska offensive lineman Spencer Long, now playing for the Buffalo Bills, has donated $10,000.

Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander will speak at the event on behalf of the football coaching staff, and Brent Gehring, a teacher from Papillion, will speak on behalf of the families of cancer patients.

Brent and his wife, Kathryn, who has previously run this race and will again this year, have a 7-year-old daughter, Emma, who recently began her eighth chemotherapy regimen and has undergone more than 20 surgeries.

When Emma was 7 months old, doctors diagnosed her with Piolmyxoid Astrocytoma, a brain tumor that originates in or around the optic nerve. Emma’s originated behind her nose and right eye and was roughly 1/3 size of her brain when they caught it.

Suffice it to say, the Gehrings are thankful for events like the Nebraska Football Road Race.

“Absolutely. Absolutely,” Brent Gehring said. “It’s kind of two-fold. As a parent in the fight, you see how important research and growth is. But one of the special things about these Nebraska events is that over our six-plus years of doing this, you develop quite a relationship with families who are going through the same or have gone through the same. So it’s kind of a therapeutic thing as well.”

This won’t be the first time Gehring has spoken about pediatric brain cancer and the importance of research.

“My message is usually focused on, as a country, we fix what we focus on,” he said. “We have enough resources, both financially and with doctors and hospitals, that when we focus on things, we can find cures. We can find solutions. My message is to spread this awareness worldwide.

“I always tell people it doesn’t always have to be about brain tumors. Find a cause that’s important to you, and find a reason and help make the world a better place with your efforts and with your time. As a high school teacher, I see kids do amazing things daily, and as adults, we can do more.”

Martinez, who said he’s always enjoyed being around younger children, knows the importance of his role during the race, too, when he and other Huskers will run the Fun Run with younger kids. Some may have been, or still be, affected by some form of cancer.

“It’s truly amazing,” Martinez said. “I think it really puts life into perspective for a lot of guys on the team, just how grateful and how much energy and passion some of these little kids can have after all they’ve been through. It shows we need to be thankful for where we’re at and the opportunity that we have.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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