Runner’s Life: Mother whose love runs deep to remember son gearing up for Gasparilla Distance Classic

Gasparilla

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A strong athlete, training for a marathon, one semester from graduating college: By all accounts, Ronnie Keeney was at the top of his game.

“He was extremely intelligent, competitive,” said Jeanne Keeney, Ronnie’s mother.

Like many, Ronnie was also competing with inner demons.

“Even though he was always athletic, he always struggled with alcohol. He had been sober for a while. He’d spent nine months at Lighthouse Ministries,” Keeney explained.

But the drinking came back slowly, mostly at night, and mostly alone.

“Ultimately, it took is life. It was Dec. 10, 2014,” said Keeney. “Obviously, it devastated me. I lost part of myself then,” she continued.

Keeney and her husband wanted to turn this horrible family tragedy into something positive. As a family of runners, it did not take them long to decide to start a race in his memory. Just 11 months after his death, they hosted the first Ronnie’s Run at Ft. DeSoto Park.

“My husband and I love to run, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. What my passion is is to not only provide awareness but resources to the community for drug and alcohol abuse,” said Keeney.

Venders from various support services set up at the race each year, and Keeney knows this disease affects almost every family in some way.

“People get tears in their eyes standing there at the race,” she recalls.

In its fifth year, about 1000 runners ran the 10K, 5K and 5 miles races.

Ronnie’s Run will have a booth at the 8 On Your Side Health and Fitness Expo ahead of this year’s Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic, sponsored by News Channel 8. Keeney will have deals for those who sign up for Ronnie’s Run there.

Keeney will then line up for the Gasparilla race herself. In fact, she will line up for two races.

She’s taking part in the Bud Light Orange Challenge which means she will run the 15K race on Saturday and the 5K race on Sunday.

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