TULALIP — The last time David Czajka ran the Marysville Strawberry Festival’s annual Berry Run/Walk, it nearly cost him his life.
“I was crawling to the finish line, and I wouldn’t give up,” Czajka said. “Then they swooped me up, put me in the ambulace and off they went.”
That was in 2004. Czajka suffered a heat stroke enduring the 89-degree temperatures that day.
More than 10 years later, the 45-year-old ran both the one-mile and 5K races June 12 as participation doubled in its second year at the Tulalip Amphitheatre. He finished ninth overall in the 5K with a time of 19 minutes and 40.1 seconds, finishing second in the 40-to-49 age group.
“I kind of got my courage up and came out and did it again,” he said. After the stroke, it wasn’t easy for Czajka to run consistently.
“For a couple of years I was kind of loopy in the heat,” he said. “And then I decided to start running again.”
He ran off-and-on for years, but dedicated himself to running every day for a year, which he did prior to this Berry Run.
He’s said he’s glad to have kept at running and is reaping the health benefits.
“I feel like I’m 27,” he said.
Czajka was among more than 100 hundred diverse runners of age.
Another was 59-year-old Dale Soden. Though an avid runner, it was his first Berry Run.
“I just wanted to represent Marysville and make sure I ran it this year,” Soden said.
Age wasn’t a factor for Soden, who also ran both races. He championed in his age group, placing 14th overall in the 5K in 21:37.
Also a trail runner, Soden enjoyed the shade of the trees provided by the course. He has goals to be a nationally ranked trail runner in his age group.
“I got plans when I turn sixty,” he said. “Running makes you feel young.”
A defining moment in his running career was when he nearly qualified for the 2013 Boston Marathon, the same year the bomb went off.
“People take it for granted,” he said “People should get out walk or run because life is short.”
The overall winner of the 5K was Pieter Andrews, who graduated that night from Arlington High School. He wanted to run with his cross-country team one last time before graduation. The senior plans to join the U.S. Marine Corps. Running has been preparing him, he said.
“A lot of the endurance and mental focus is a lot of what I’ll have to endure in boot camp,” he said. “And not giving up.”