Every year when getting ready for the Sound to Narrows race, Audrey Hemphill would have T-shirts printed up for her and her friends to wear.
They just didn’t wear them during the race.
“She was the instigator, the boss. She didn’t want them to get their new shirts sweaty and gross, so they would wear old shirts during the race and then put the new ones on afterwards when they went out for lunch,” her daughter, Nicci Randall, said.
Now, Randall — who is running the annual 12-kilometer run through Point Defiance Park for the first time — is the one making up shirts. Not to wear afterward, but to wear during the race, which she will be running to honor her mom, who died two years ago of bone cancer at 80.
“When she passed, we were trying to think of a way to honor her,” Randall, 58, said. “And she loved doing these races, and running in general so much, so we figured it would be a good way to get all of her friends and family together and do something special to remember her.”
The 23 members of “Team Audrey” will run Saturday’s race in honor of Hemphill. Randall says her mother was a prolific runner, and she made a lot of friends doing it.
Race organizer Danette Felt said she thinks running in honor of a loved one is indicative of why the Sound to Narrows has remained such a popular race and speaks to the spirit of why people run.
“Groups like Team Audrey, they are the embodiment of what this race is about. It’s about the community and having fun, and not just winning and losing,” she said.
Originally from Wales, Hemphill met her husband, Dale, in 1951 when he was stationed there in the Air Force. In 1955, they moved to Gig Harbor, where Dale was from, to raise a family.
When she turned 45, Hemphill decided she wanted to try something new, so she bought a pair of tennis shoes and went for her first jog.
From there, Randall says, her mom never looked back. Hemphill ran races all around the South Sound, including the Sound to Narrows, which she ran 12 times, starting in 1982.
She even got her nonrunning friends pounding the pavement as well, Randall said.
Lori Ann Reeder, another member of Team Audrey, is a board member of the MultiCare Foundation, the charity that the race benefits. She heard that Randall was running the race for Hemphill, and decided to jump right in, despite not having run much.
“The only thing is, I didn’t realize it was a 12K when I signed up. I thought it was a 5K,” she said. “So they might have to redirect me to the side, but other than that I’m excited and happy we’re doing this.”
When Hemphill died in June 2012, Randall was devastated. Audrey hadn’t been able to run for a few years, because of her cancer and back problems, but she continued walking until a few weeks before she died.
Hemphill stayed active so long, she eventually had to have both knees replaced.
“We were best friends, the closest,” Randall said. “She had always tried to get me to do things like run and later walk with her, and I didn’t, which I’ve regretted ever since.”
Team Audrey isn’t running the race to benefit bone cancer research — an oversight Randall attributes both to her inexperience and that she didn’t think so many people would be this excited about running for Audrey.
She says it’s an opportunity missed and more importantly one she intends to rectify, when Team Audrey runs the Sound to Narrows again next year.
“I’m already sure we’re going to run it again,” she said. “It’s given me something to do with my kids that I missed out on doing with my mom that meant a lot to her. That’s what this has given me that I enjoy the most.”