Organizers of the 7th annual Pat's Run had to cap Saturday's participation total at 28,000.
The local event - which began with 5,000 runners in 2005 - may have hit its participation limit locally, so organizers are concentrating on growing the Pat Tillman Foundation globally.
In addition to the 4.2 mile run/walk event held in and around Arizona State's Sun Devil Stadium, 27 "shadow events" have been scheduled throughout the world. Each event raises funds for the Foundation to support a variety of programs created to pay tribute to Tillman's commitment to leadership and service.
Tillman, who wore No. 42 as a Sun Devil became an Arizona Cardinal standout until he left the NFL to serve his country following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He died in Afghanistan in 2004.
In the seven years since the Foundation's inception, 111 Tillman Military Scholars from 28 states have been awarded $1.3 million in scholarship assistance.
This year's race featured starting corrals based on participants' expected finishing time. Wojtulewicz said that aspect may help organizers add a couple thousand more to next year's field.
"How much of an impact did Pat have on people? Well, we have people flying in from 48 states, getting hotel rooms and paying entry fees to run four miles," said Marcy Wojtulewicz, deputy director of the Foundation. "This is overwhelming. I have never seen an event grow so fast. As a fund-raiser, you cannot describe this."
In addition to the 21 national shadow events coordinated by chapters of the ASU Alumni Association in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Diego, among others, there are also six troop runs scheduled in Turkey and Afghanistan.
Chris Rushin completed his first Pat's Run on Saturday. He is a Tillman scholar from Cleveland and a senior at Cleveland State University.
"I feel like I am part of two brotherhoods now," said Rushin, who also served in the military prior to enrolling at Cleveland State. "I have my military brothers and my scholar brothers.
"Without the scholarship I would still be hard-charging ahead with my education. But it has made it so much easier, and given me opportunities to meet the other scholars and people in the Foundation. You can't describe what it means to be a Tillman scholar. It's an honor."
With the race covering such a modest distance, Wojtulewicz doesn't believe the Tempe event can grow much larger. And she sees it as a good thing.
"The cap is to keep the event safe and to ensure the quality of the event. We want everyone to have their own inspirational moment during the race," she said. "Really, it can't get much bigger."