Sharon and Eddie Gonzalez took it as a sign from above that a few open slots remained for the Skyway 10K on what would have been their son’s 25th birthday.
“It just happened. My fingers floated to the keyboard,” said Eddie. “It was no hesitation.”
His wife smiled in agreement.
“We would have never thought of doing it,” she said.
Neither is a natural runner, but the couple has been trying to exercise more since their son’s death. They have been jogging on the Courtney Campbell Causeway in preparation for the March 4th 10K race across one of Florida’s most iconic bridges.
The Skyway 10K will offer runners a chance to experience running at nearly 200 feet above sea level.
It will also offer the Gonzalez family a chance to honor their lost son. Jared Omar Gonzalez, an avid runner, was struck by a vehicle and killed while on a late-night run in the summer of 2016. He was 23.
“Handsome, very kind,” recalled Sharon, as she looked at a photo of her son from St. Pete Beach. “He always smiled all the time.”
The family nicknamed Jared its “gentle beast” because of his kind heart and muscular frame. His parents described him as a helper and giver.
When Sharon shattered her knee in a cycling accident, her teenage son began cooking meals for the family. He’d stay up late on the phone helping his friends through tough times.
He’s sorely missed two years after his death.
“We didn’t hear any sirens or anything,” said Eddie. “We literally had no idea that he was three blocks from us.”
Jared’s parents noticed he wasn’t home around 10 a.m. the morning after the accident. They assumed he was sleeping in late that day. His car and license were there but none of his friends knew where Jared was last seen. Police helped search but eventually told the family to check the hospitals for Jared’s body.
Eddie and Sharon found their son at Bayfront. He had no brain activity.
“What bothers me and hurts a lot is he was going across the crosswalk when he got struck,” said Sharon. “We didn’t see it happen, but we can visualize it happening.”
The Skyway 10K run is something Eddie and Sharon say would have been very exciting for a fitness buff like Jared. They signed up to run in his honor, knowing it will be difficult. Sharon is still recovering from her knee surgery and Eddie is legally blind.
Nothing was going to keep them from seeing the sun rise over the bridge during the 10K.
“10K uphill on that Skyway, it seems outlandish but I know we're going to make it. He’s going to push us,” said Eddie. “I can’t wait to get to the summit because it will be sunrise coming up and that will be so exhilarating.
“Go big or go home.”
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