Man training for race to honor fallen friend

COLOMA, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A West Michigan man has spent the last six months training for his first 5-K to keep the memory of a fallen friend running strong.

Josh Starters lives in Colorado now, but he made the two day long drive home to Coloma to do his first race.

And if that wasn't a challenge in and of itself, he's doing it all in full fire gear.

"It's emotional, I get emotional every time I train. He's been on my back the whole time," said Starters.

It's been a months long journey. Josh Starters carried 53 pounds of fire gear.

"I was searching and searching and searching for something I could do to honor him," said Starters.

Met Matt Schwartz as a young recruit. The two stayed together though basic, then parted ways.

"They run in their full gear because it's the least they can do. He gave the ultimate sacrifice," said Starters.

The two reunited years later by chance on an airbase in Wyoming. Both were Michigan boys, far from home.

"It was something I wanted to do back in Michigan," said Starters.

Schwartz was killed unexpectedly while he was deployed in Afghanistan.

"I started training 5-6 months ago, it was baby steps," said Starters.

Starters a veteran to the Firefighter Challenge. Those just a minute or two long.

Now he's running more than three miles over thirty minutes, pushing himself further than he ever has.

"I just kept upping my game," said Starters.

The Coloma community is jumping on board. Many former and retired military folks are ready to run alongside Josh.

Josh and dozens of others will be running at 8:30 Saturday morning. All money raised will go toward the Wounded Warrior Project.