When the runners line up for P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon on Sunday, the focus will be on a champion who won't be there.
Sally Meyerhoff, an Arizona distance-running star since her days at Mountain Pointe High School and a prominent U.S. female marathoner and triathlete, won this race a year ago. Less than three months later, she was killed when the bicycle she was riding collided with a pickup truck in a small town not far from Phoenix. She was 27 years old.
All the runners in Sunday's race will wear black ribbons in her memory. The women's marathon championship trophy will commemorate Meyerhoff.
"It was sad because she was looking forward to what was to come," said her friend, Sara Slattery, a two-time NCAA champion at 5,000 and 10,000 meters who will run the half-marathon in Arizona. "It still doesn't seem real. Every time I go home (to Arizona) I expect to see her running on the trails. She was too young."
Her mother, Cindy Meyerhoff, and Sally's brother, Daniel, will hold the finish line tape on Sunday.
"That's very nice," Cindy said. "At least it honors her. She was passionate about her running. She was a very determined person. She had high goals. She wanted to show everyone what she could do."
There also is a December 5,000-meter road race named after Meyerhoff and a foundation formed in her honor.
"It was started to help runners financially who have had problems like her when she was young," her mother said. "There were some runners who she coached who couldn't go to summer camp because it was too expensive. This is (partly) for young runners who need financial assistance. The money will go to kids who can't afford sports."
It also will "help other distance runners and triathletes pursue their dreams and achieve their athletic goals that Sally was so passionate about," she said.
Meyerhoff won nine high school state titles in track and cross country, then went on to Duke, where she became the only woman from that school to win the ACC cross country title.
Slattery, the 2007 Pan Am Games 10,000-meter champion, who narrowly missed making the U.S. Olympic team with a fourth-place finish at the 2008 trials, was Meyerhoff's teammate in high school and college.
"She was a very positive person," Slattery said. "She had her own style and personality. She wouldn't want anybody to be sad for her. When I think of Sally that's what I think of. I want to take those positive things for her and race on her behalf. That's what I'm going to think about in my race. I want to have fun. That's what Sally always did."