He was an avid athlete who excelled at wrestling. In fact, nearly everything Chris Cowden did was fitness-related. He loved to lift weights, snowboard, run — anything that involved pushing himself to be his best.
Chris was one of those rare, charismatic people who made everyone feel as if they were his best friend.
“He had hundreds of best friends.” his older brother, Matt Cowden, recalled with a laugh “He was genuine and sincere, very humble and giving and always looked out for others. His compassion for all living things was legendary.”
Often, Chris would hit the streets of Guthrie, his hometown, for an afternoon jog. It was always the same route. An avowed animal lover, he occasionally would come across a stray dog and bring it home until he could track down the owner or find it a home.
“When he found one of these animals that had been dumped or turned away, he would rescue it,” Matt said. “Many of us often found ourselves the proud owner of a new pet. He was very persuasive.”
On May 17, 2008, Chris went out for a ride on his motorcycle. He never came back. He was heading west on Highway 105 just outside Guthrie when a car traveling east turned in front of him.
Chris died instantly on impact. He was 43 years old, leaving behind a wife and daughter.
At the time, Matt Cowden was fishing on the other side of town.
“Mom called and told me Chris had been in an accident. Her voice was strained and manic as she tried to tell me Chris was being rushed to the hospital,” Matt said.
“I headed for shore to load the boat when the phone rang again. It was my dad. I heard him say, ‘Matt, we lost him.’ All I remember next was running into the trees, screaming, somehow trying to hide from what I had just heard. But there was no hiding; my little brother was gone.”
The Cowden family began thinking of ways to channel their grief into something positive to honor Chris’ memory. The result was See Spot Run, a marathon through the streets of Guthrie, following the same route Chris used to jog.
All proceeds from the event, now in its fifth year, benefit the Free to Live Animal Sanctuary — a fitting tribute to a man who loved rescuing animals.
“Last year, we had 800 runners,” Matt said. “What we originally thought would be a small-scale race has grown into a sanctioned 5K and 10K run, and it attracts participants from all over the country. It’s also great to see the impact it’s had on Free to Live and the many beautiful animals that reside there.”
This year, See Spot Run will be held Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. in downtown Guthrie. Walkers and runners can register at theseespotrun.com.
“Last year, I remember standing next to my sisters, hugging each other and crying at the finish line, just amazed at what this event has become. Chris would be honored but incredibly embarrassed that so much attention has been focused on him, yet he would love the fact we are helping these animals,” Matt said.
“It’s sometimes hard to process that so many years have passed since we lost Chris. I know his presence is with us, especially at See Spot Run. He is a volunteer. He is a runner. He is the spirit of the event itself.”