Danielle Ruttman laces up her neon pink sneakers, gearing up for a short training loop on the Chester County YMCA’s trail.
Jogging the nearly ½ mile path alone, her mind wanders to moments earlier when she drove into the parking lot — the place her friend and running buddy was shot to death by her estranged boyfriend last year.
“Every time I told [Jacinda] I can’t run a 9-mile run or I can’t run 10 miles or I can’t do a half, she would always tell me oh yes you can,” said 39-year-old Ruttman. “If I can do it you can do it. You just have to get out there and do it.”
Before Jacinda Miller’s untimely death, she and Ruttman planned to complete the Blue Cross Broad Street Run together.
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“I’m going to run for her instead,” said Ruttman, who is taking on the 10-miler for the first time Sunday.
For three years, the pair taught body combat together at the Y — combining karate, mixed martial arts and kickboxing into a 45-minute class.
“She was a spitfire,” she said.
Ruttman hopes others remember the mother of two for her love and passion for fitness and running instead of the circumstances of Jacinda's untimely death,
Just as Jacinda motivated Ruttman to go solo Sunday, the slain woman’s drive and determination inspired more than two dozen other women to form a running group called “Stay With the Fight.”
Many of the women are new to the sport, and say they’re running for Jacinda. And their twice weekly training sessions are preparing them for a new Chester County race — established specifically to keep Jacinda’s memory alive.
“They’re doing it for her and it’s healthy for them,” said Ruttman. “That’s exactly what she would have wanted.”
The ChesCo Half Marathon and 5K takes place May 17 in West Caln Township, where Jacinda ran often with friends like Ruttman or director of the ChesCo Half, Jess Rigo.
Rigo, a veteran of the Blue Cross Broad Street Run, took on the 10-miler in 2010 with Jacinda.
The 2010 race was a hot one. Rigo recalls Jacinda dashing through spouts of water from the hydrants that were set up since she was not a fan of the heat. Jacinda's determination sticks out to Rigo because despite developing a "huge" blister on her foot caused by her wet shoes, Jacinda kept going.
“At the finish line, her shoe was bloody and she had to visit the medical tent,” Rigo said. “(She) still finished at well under 9 minutes per mile.”
Rigo hoped about 300 runners would turn out for The ChesCo Half. So far, twice that number have signed up. Rigo and others who've helped with the race are thrilled that many people will honor a woman remembered by friends as "driven, determined and inspiring."