Austin marathoner memorialized

Published 11:07 am Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Darren Lewis, who will be commemorated by a memorial run in his name June 2, crosses the finish line at the 1998 Hog Jog. He was running under-five-minute miles at the time. — Photo provided

There’s no better way to commemorate the life of Austin-native Darren Lewis than with a race.

Darren, who passed away in September of last year, was known as an avid runner. At age 9, he became one of the youngest to complete Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., and one of the youngest to run that distance in any race in the U.S., according to his family.

Now the Darren Dash, officially deemed the Darren Lewis Memorial Run, will take place the morning of Saturday, June 2 at Lafayette Park in Austin. Registrants can choose to participate in a half marathon, 5-kilometer run or “kiddie run,” with all proceeds from registration going to Desperate Tears Inc., an Austin-based nonprofit benefiting mental health awareness.

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“He walked in a room and lit it up,” said Darren’s sister, Dana Kvam. “He was always smiling.”

Darren was everyone’s friend, Kvam said. He was a big go-getter, and always said, “go big or go home.” The phrase will appear on the T-shirts given out to all participants at the race.

Darren Michael Lewis was born March 25, 1973, in Austin. He, Kvam, and their brothers, Scott and Brett, all were inspired to run by their father, Michael Lewis, who finished over 30 marathons. Darren followed his father’s footsteps and led a life of running.

He ran for Mankato State University while he was there studying psychology and business, and trained for the Olympics for a while before he got injured.

After graduating in 1996, Darren returned to Austin and started a painting business. As owner of Lewis Painting, he was well respected in the industry. He was proud of his talented team of coworkers.

“Everyone knew him,” Kvam said.

Shelley LeTendre, a marathon runner herself and the founder of Desperate Tears, said Darren was a hugely positive influence for her and a role model in the community.

“Darren Lewis is the one who put the passion in my heart to move forward with Desperate Tears,” she said. She helped Darren’s family organize the Darren Dash.

The loss of Darren, who passed away nine months ago, is still a fresh ache to his family members.

“It’s been hell,” Kvam said, though organizing the run has been a nice distraction. “We really knew that we wanted to honor and memorialize him.”

Darren’s children looked up to him and like to compete in track and field, Kvam said. His oldest son, 9-year-old Jayden, will lead the kiddie run portion of the Darren Dash on his bike, and his two daughters will follow on foot. Other family members will participate, too, including Leif, who will run the 5K, and Kvam and her brothers, who will run the half marathon.

Registration for the event is picking up, LeTendre said, with 200 people signed up so far and more on the way.

Fruit and water will be provided at the end of each run, and water stops will be available along the half marathon route. A catered meal from the Austin Hy-Vee will follow the half marathon around 11:30 a.m.

Half marathon runners will follow a path through Todd Park, behind the Hormel Foods corporate offices and back through Todd Park to the starting point in Lafayette Park. The 5K path is over to Mill Pond, two laps around the pond, then back to the start.

The cost for entry includes a T-shirt and varies depending on the distance. The half marathon, which starts at 8 a.m., is $35. The 5K, at 8:15 a.m., is $20. The kiddie run is $10 and will follow the half marathon.

Runners can register online at (search for “Darren Dash”) or by turning in a registration form at the YMCA of Austin. Those who register ahead can pick up packets from 5 to 9 p.m. at the YMCA on June 1 and at Lafayette Park the day of the race from 7 to 7:45 a.m.