This post was written by Daniels Duhe, friend of Philip and winner of the 2017 Road Race.
I wanted to come to the Lutzie 43 Road Race in Marietta in June of 2016, but some various life things happened that summer that prevented me from making the trip. I was pretty upset about missing it, because ever since Philip’s passing I haven’t really had anyone around that knew him and could understand what his loss meant, not just to me but to anyone who interacted with him.
Philip and I had English Comp I and II together. We both came to Auburn at the same time. I knew who he was before I ever met him – I’m a huge Auburn fan, so I had seen the highlight of him catching a pass out of bounds and throwing it into a teammate. The play was selfless, which perfectly describes Philip and the way he lived on and off the field.
We weren’t best friends, but Philip was friends with everyone and always made me feel like our friendship mattered to him. People, myself included, just gravitated toward him. And it wasn’t just because of football, he was a happy person with a contagiously optimistic attitude about everything. Everything he said and did came from a good place; he was genuinely a good person.
I was so bummed I had to miss the 2016 Road Race, but I knew I’d make it to the next one. I started training for the 2017 Road Race shortly after the 2016 one had passed. I started running track when I was young – probably 3rd or 4th grade – and I noticed that I was pretty good because I beat most of the older kids in school. However, when high school came around, I started focusing on football because it was the “cooler” sport. I didn’t reinvest in track until I was a senior trying to decide on colleges and how to spend my next four years.
I ultimately decided to walk-on to Auburn’s track team, despite having some interest from a few smaller schools. However, upon arriving, I began to have some pretty severe leg pains and problems. I went to my orthopedist and he gave me the news that I had a genetic disorder called Chronic Exertional Bilateral Compartment Syndrome, and that I would need surgery if I wanted to continue training at a high level.
I decided to go ahead and get the surgery, but after six months of no running and minimal walking, I realized competing in SEC sprints (as I was always a 100 and 200m sprinter until last year) was no longer an option. I transferred back to the University of South Alabama, where I finished out my remaining three years of eligibility.
When 2017’s Road Race came along, I knew I had to be there. I had spent the last year training so I could pay tribute to my buddy in a way he’d hopefully be proud of. When you meet someone like Philip, you can’t help but be curious as to who he really is and where he came from. Having known Philip, I could tell his community and his loved ones played a large part in him becoming the hero he was.
As the race date approached, my Achilles started acting up again. This time though, it wasn’t going to stop me from making the trip I had been preparing for. My mom, Susan, and I decided last-minute that we were making the trip.
Once we arrived at the stadium the next day I knew we had made the right call. Everyone we spoke to that morning was more than welcoming and the entire atmosphere was reflective of the Philip I remembered. Winning this race really meant a lot to me as it provided a sort of catharsis that I was unable to find anywhere else. However, having a chance to speak to Mr. Mike and take a picture with Phil’s family members was the real victory of the day.
-Daniels Duhe, winner of the 2017 Road Race in Marietta, GA