The message lives on

Final Never Quit Run set for Nov. 6 at Jacksonville Beach


The 13th annual and final Never Quit Run will take place Nov. 6 at Jacksonville Beach.

Race director Erik Petroni announced that it will be the last run of its kind, a decision that he admitted was not an easy one to make, but it was one that had to be made due to extenuating circumstances.

According to Petroni, those circumstances were many and included a lack of willing sponsorship to help fund the event and an increased difficulty of promotion with Facebook limiting the amount of exposure through posts the event could have, citing that it was “too nationalistic with too many American flags represented in the posts.”

The run started to help raise support for both veterans and awareness of heart disease, stroke and cancer by promoting a healthy lifestyle.

It was created when Petroni’s father Gerard Petroni, who served as a captain in the Navy, suffered a massive stroke and brain bleed on Thanksgiving 2006.

Gerard Petroni was in a hospital unable to move or speak for six months, until finally Erik put a piece of paper and a Sharpie in his hand.

“I said, ‘Dad, if you could write just one thing on this paper, what would you write?’” Petroni said. “He struggled for about 20 minutes, but then scribbled the words ‘never quit.’”

That is why the event is called the Never Quit Run and it has been a way to preserve his father’s legacy and share his spirit with others who may be going through a tough time of their own in their lives.

His father was able to attend the first run but died in 2009.

“His never-ending love and encouragement for me is what led to all of this today,” Petroni said. “I hope I’ve made a difference.”

One of the things Petroni enjoys most about holding the runs all these years is when people come up to him and thank him for putting on the event and sharing with him how it impacted their lives personally.

According to Petroni, the event has taken on a family-like atmosphere and presents people with an opportunity to receive some uplifting support.

“Everyone’s encouraging one another as they run down the course,” Petroni said. “It will be easy for me to cry on the stage this year, but I’m so grateful for this great showing of American spirit, so that should keep me cheerful throughout.”

Despite the event being the last on American soil, it will continue but do so on U.S. military bases across the world.

“It’s more of an American message than it is a run,” Petroni said. “We must never underestimate the influence we have on others.”

No registration fee will be required for military personnel to take part in the military base events.

“We are continuing to do it for the moral of the service members,” Petroni said.

One of the unique things Petroni has done over the years is stay true to the principles behind why he started the event in the first place.

That includes not serving alcohol or what is fried and unhealthy foods.

Part of the message Petroni promotes is that people consider a plant-based diet, which he encourages because it has been said to help prevent heart disease.

According to Petroni, his dad was in great shape, and it was a surprise to everyone who knew him when he first began having health problems.

“He was built like a tank, and it happened to him,” Petroni said.

Petroni said that at one point over the past decade the run was considered the largest beach run in history.

“It’s always been one of those events where many people who have never run before make it there first,” Petroni said.

This year’s run will begin with the National Anthen at 3 p.m. and the start of the race at 3:30 p.m. on the beach in front of the Four Points Sheraton Hotel and Seawalk Pavilion. Petroni encouraged people to arrive around 2:45 p.m.

He wants to continue to give back even after the final Never Quit Run. He has looked into turning his attention to initiatives that help recused dogs.

“This segment of my life has been the most impactful, and now I want to turn my attention to those who don’t have a voice,” Petroni said.