Just go for a run.
It was Cameron Bean's motto. It was his cure for any problem. Just go for a run. Clear your head. Improve your health. Lift your spirits.
Then Sept. 19, 2015, arrived. Another day. Another run around the Moccasin Bend area for the 28-year-old Baylor School and Samford University grad, who just missed qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Trials.
Only he never finished that run. A woman named Valerie Bray crossed the center line on Moccasin Bend Road and struck Bean, who died two days later, which happened to be seven days before he and his father Steve were supposed to swim, bike and run, side by side, in that year's Little Debbie Ironman.
Somehow, Steve found the courage to complete the Ironman without him, later saying of those final miles run in the dark near the Tennessee River, "I talked to Cameron the whole way. I said, 'Help me be as strong as you were. I'm so tired. Could you give me your legs?'"
On Saturday morning, for the fourth year in a row, Steve and Lisa Bean returned to Moccasin Bend to host the Cam Run, which not only honors their late son but generates thousands of dollars each year to help local high school and middle school track programs with expenses for everything from uniforms to shoes to transportation to meets, as well as funding a scholarship for track athletes at Samford.
"I think we've raised over $30,000 total," Steve said as the 700 registered runners for this year's 5k and the 100 or so kids who participated in the fun run were wrapping up their events.
"It's a great way to celebrate Cam's life. He loved life and he loved to run. I think this event has brought awareness to running and it's brought families out, which we need more of."
One of those families was the Wilders, whose 6-year-old daughter Weesie and 4-year-old son Wilder (yes, it's Wilder Wilder) both proudly showed off the medals they'd won for competing the fun run.
"I can hear my heart beating," a grinning Wilder said afterward.
His favorite part? "When I got to jump over the haystacks."
His second favorite? "When I got to ride the golf cart (from the parking lot) to the race."
Another one of those families was the Lebovitzes — running enthusiast and local business leader Alan, his community activist wife Alison and their youngest son Levi, a McCallie School sophomore.
All three comfortably finished the 5k, though Levi later admitted with a smile, "I'm not a big runner."
Yet they all understandably were impressed with Lisa Bean's words to the runners just before the start of the 5k.
"Best opening remarks I've ever heard," Alison said. "So touching."
What Lisa basically said was this, as she recalled later: "So many of us are missing loved ones, especially today. Run the race for those who are grieving."
She also read from II Timothy 4:6-8, which was printed on the back of the race shirts and says, in part: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
Added Lisa: "That scripture is profound for anyone who has ever lost someone they love."
The pain of Sept. 19, 2015, may never go away for the Beans.
"It's been almost four years and it seems like yesterday," Steve said. "It never gets any easier."
But how the Beans have channeled that grief has made it easier for thousands to just go run, including Samford junior Warren Fitzpatrick, who was awarded the first-ever Cameron Bean Memorial Scholarship this past May.
"It means the world," said Fitzpatrick, who's majoring in accounting and sports marketing. "Just hearing about who Cameron was, how his passion was so great. They say he left his heart out on the track every time he ran."
Before Saturday's race, Fitzpatrick met the Beans for the first time. He shook Steve's hand and hugged Lisa.
"A pretty cool moment," he said. "Hopefully they'll see a glimpse of Cameron in me."
To glimpse Cameron — to witness his passion, his faith, his dedication to running — was to wish instantly to be a better version of yourself. Just ask Bogie Schmissrauter, one of Cam's closest friends from his Baylor School days.
Now 32, Schmissrauter was talked into going out for track at Baylor at the end of his junior year by Bean and Red Raiders coach Van Townsend, who was lost to cancer in 2015.
"I ran cross country my senior year," Schmissrauter said. "I probably run 40 to 60 miles a week now. This day is a mixture of emotions for me. It's great to see all these people here. It's something Cam would have loved. But it's also sad."
For the most part, Saturday was anything but sad. It was a celebration and remembrance of someone who made the absolute most of his 28 years of life. And 5k winner Willy Fink also gave the 250 folks who made their way to the Girls Preparatory School track Saturday night for the Cam Run Magnum Mile a thrill by nearly becoming the first person to run a sub-four-minute mile in Chattanooga history. Alas, Fink finished with a time of 4:01.07.
But what the entire Cam Run event gave Lisa was inspiration for what she plans to print on the back of next year's race shirts.
"I think it's going to say, 'Who are you running for?'" she said early Saturday afternoon.
Here's hoping that whoever that is, that person was able to fight the good fight for many years longer than Cam was allowed to fight his.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.