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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- When Lexington Catholic student Zack Haffler received an award at his graduation, he had no idea how it would inspire him.
Haffler, who has never run a race, has been training for a month to participate in Monday's Bluegrass 10,000, a 10-kilometer race in Lexington.
His mission started shortly after he received the Joe Bieschke Memorial Award, given to a graduating senior who strives for perfection in all things.
Bieschke was a member of the school's cross-country team when he died in 1986 from cancer. A few months before his death, he participated in the Bluegrass 10,000 -- and crossed the finish line.
Although he was too sick to run, he limped the length of the course.
Haffler told the Lexington Herald-Leader he wants to prove he deserves the award.
Haffler, who just turned 18, said he doesn't consider himself a runner -- just a young man on a mission. He said he didn't know much about the boy who the award was named for so he did some research.
"I found an article online about what he did, and I was kind of touched by how someone in that much pain and struggle could do something so great," Haffler said. "I just looked at him and at myself, and it seemed as though I had never done anything that great. And so I felt like I ought to do something."
A few days later, Haffler got up early, put on his running shoes and hit the streets. He's been running close to every morning since then to build up his strength and endurance so he can pay homage to Bieschke.
"I just felt like I needed to do something to prove to myself, or to Lexington Catholic, that I deserved an award like that," he said.
Haffler's father, Larry Haffler, said his son's decision was a surprise to family members.
"He actually first told my wife, Donna, that he was going to run in the Bluegrass 10,000," Larry Haffler said. "I think she was not shocked but surprised because he's absolutely never run a race before. In fact, he's never really run before for any distance."
That made his first few days of training tough, but it soon got better and now he runs 5 miles a few times a week.
After he finishes the race, Haffler said he wants to write a letter to Bieschke's parents, who now live in California. He wants them to know that he ran the race and that 25 years after their son's death, his story still inspires others.
"I think it's kind of neat that these two kids, who obviously never met, are in some sense bonded together because of this award," Larry Haffler said.