Erica Gutierrez

Series Race #13 of the 2023 Season of the RUNColumbus Race Series is the Running Against ALS 5K, 15K, and 15K Relay, and Erica serves as the race director. This race is deeply personal for Erica as it benefits her long-time partner Steve in the Columbus Police Department, who was diagnosed with ALS in February 2022.

How did you become a race director? I’ve always been curious and interested in how races were set up and everything involved. Last year when Steve was diagnosed with ALS, our Sargarent challenged our unit and stated it was time to find a way to help our own and his family through the rough times ahead. Even before the challenge, the thought of putting a race together to help Steve persisted. But what better to get something accomplished than to challenge an athlete? I had no clue where to start, and it is still a learning experience.

What’s the greatest challenge you face in your role? One of my most significant challenges is that I am not big on social media and am very private and quiet. This role has forced me to come out of my shell, and I can say that I am enjoying the new change in me. Another challenge is learning the ins and outs of looking for donors and sponsors.

What’s the greatest reward? The greatest reward will be the day we, as a running community, can provide financial support to Steve and, in the coming years, to the community and families fighting against ALS. Every time I see a new registration, I know it’s a registration closer to accomplishing what I’ve set out to do, and it brings joy to my heart as I know it will bring joy to Steve and future families.

Besides signing up for your race, how can runners support and encourage race organizers? Besides registering for the race, runners can be supportive by spreading the word. We, as runners, love to talk about all the races we have run and races we have entered for the coming year, so I hope, as runners, they can feel how important this race is to me and spread the word. If they know of a business or person willing to donate or sponsor, I would happily talk to them one-on-one.

What would you like runners to know about the race? I want runners to know that the race is in its first year, and it is to benefit my friend and work partner Steve. Steve and I are both police officers and enjoy the roles we have in our work. Steve and I think alike; that’s probably why we were able to put up with each other. Unfortunately, Steve was forced to retire early due to his ALS diagnosis. I hope this race will bring awareness to ALS and support Steve and future families in the coming years.

The reason behind the 15K and 15K Relay is that nine is Steve’s favorite number. So, I thought the 15K would be the closest to 9 and not cause a logistical nightmare trying to map out a route. The relay (challenge) was my way of getting, hoping to get more officers involved not only to benefit Steve but to benefit themselves as well.

Is there anything else you want people to know?  Steve and I have known each other since graduating from the academy. He was in the class immediately after me. We have worked together off and on over the years. Shift changes and days off would change throughout the years as well. Steve is one of those friends you can stop talking to for a long time but always pick up where we left off. Over the last several years, our friendship grew stronger. We were both finally on the first shift and had some normalcy. During the past several years, I had my setbacks to deal with, and Steve was always there with advice, a listening ear, or just a smile. I can always count on Steve to make a bad start to a day end well. Steve is a hard worker and has always worked hard for his family. Steve is very much a family and community kind of guy. My goal is that Steve will never be forgotten, and this race will always honor him by doing what he did best, being that family and community kind of guy!

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