The training wheels stayed on his first bike from Christmas until the first nice day of spring.
"He was like, 'Dad, I want to take them off,'" his father, Steve, said Saturday.
Off came the training wheels. He was 4.
At age 6, Chase ran a road race last summer with his mother, Becky, who could barely keep up with him. He won his age group in a first triathlon, a kids race in Mansfield.
Steve and Becky aren't runners or triathletes or swimmers.
"Chase," Becky said, "was the biggest runner in the family."
But to honor the memory of their son, they ran with about 200 of their friends and family members Saturday morning — part of a massive group of 15,000 people who engulfed the streets of Hartford — in the Sandy Hook Run for the Families 5K.
And they crossed the finish line holding hands.
Chase, a first-grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was one of the 26 victims of the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown. The Race4Chase team was one of many teams Saturday honoring different children and teachers who were killed in the massacre.
Before the race, they gathered in an Allyn Street parking lot, with a DJ blasting music, wearing Race4Chase shirts, hugging, talking and remembering.
"This is a celebration of what Chase was into," said Bob Terry of Newtown, who has known Steve since grade school and Becky since they all went to Masuk High School in Monroe. "He was always running, ultra-competitive, never slowing down."
"This is a celebration. As much as we're mourning, we're really celebrating."
He and another of Steve Kowalski's friends from high school, Greg Ruel of New Jersey, set up a Facebook page for the Chase Kowalski Memorial Fund. Ruel ran Saturday. So did Kevin Bresnahan of Colchester, another family friend, who plans to run 1,000 miles for Chase this year and is taking pledges per mile that will go toward the fund. His blog, 10004Chase.blogspot.com, has taken $7,000 in pledges so far. Bresnahan is giving a dollar for each mile he runs.
The goal is to build a community center where children and parents can come together and participate in sports, have pasta dinners and go to homework club. It will be called Chase's Place.
Becky is outgoing and friendly. She ran and walked Saturday, occasionally complaining good-naturedly about how much farther they had to go before the finish. She and Steve blended into the crowd as two runners among so many, rather than grieving parents who had lost their youngest child in a horrific tragedy.
"How am I so positive?" Becky asked. "I've always been a people person. I have so many great friends."
"He's in a better place. He's happy. He's running with his friends. He filled me with peace."
Becky had a vision of Chase two nights after the shootings. She was sleeping but not deeply.
"He explained everything to me," she said. "What I needed to do. Before he left me, he filled my heart with peace. So I don't have that burden of a broken heart. Steven and I — I married my husband because he made me laugh — if you can't laugh, I'd be crying all day long and I can't do that. I can't do that to him. It wouldn't honor him."