“The whole event was really alive with Marina’s spirit, and the powerfully positive memories she left behind,” says Siobhan Slavin, sister of Marina Slavin.
This past Saturday, April 8, people came to Oyster River High School from all over to run in honor of Marina Slavin, a graduate of ORHS and a loved member of the community. Marina tragically passed away in her sleep from a heart infection at the age of 20. Throughout her life, Marina was an avid runner, competing on both the ORHS cross country and track teams and on teams at both Houghton College and UNH. Her family and friends all agreed that the best way to remember her life was to run a road race.
Eileen Slavin, Marina’s sister, said, “Marina always loved running from a young age, so after she died, many people had suggested to my family that we hold a race in Marina’s name.”
Todd’s Trot 5K had been going on in memory of Todd Heuchling, who, like Marina, graduated from Oyster River High School. Todd was a cadet at West Point who died of heat stroke during a tryout for the marathon team in 2003 at the age of 19. Todd’s Trot raised funds for a scholarship in Todd’s name and was run for 13 years and raised enough money to continue the scholarship for a long time.
The Heuchlings no longer wished to continue the race after its 13th year, so race director Rob Drugan, who is a family friend of the Slavin’s, approached them with the idea of continuing a road race similar to Todd’s Trot, but called Marina’s Miles.
“When Rob learned that Todd’s Trot was coming to an end, he came to my husband Mike & I, asking if we would work with him to organize a similar run in memory of our daughter Marina. How could we say no? Marina loved to run! …and she excelled at it,” expressed Maura Slavin, Marina’s mother.
The 11th Annual Todd’s Trot had also been run in memory of Marina as well as Todd Heuchling. They printed Marina’s name on the shirt sleeves and made them orange, which was her favorite color.
The money raised from Marina’s Miles will go toward a scholarship for an Oyster River High School senior going on to college. “Marina was an outstanding student and loved helping people out, so I’m sure she would have loved the idea of using an event like this for a good cause,” says Maura.
Marina was known in the Oyster River community for her positivity, kindness and for being passionate about everyday pleasures. “ Marina found joy everywhere! And I think people were drawn to that. She loved simple pleasures in life, and was passionate and very verbal about them: the color orange (“It’s orange!!” she’d exclaim.), the smell of trees, ice cream, pesto, going barefoot. Most of all, she was passionate about the people in her life and God,” adds Maura.
This race was not just like any other road race; for many it was a reminder that you should learn to enjoy the little things.
Mike Slavin, Marina’s dad, added “The only things I can think of are examples of those “simple pleasures” that inspired her running teammates at Houghton such as smiling all the way through a 5k run, running barefoot, and making sudden detours, like shouting, “LEAF!” and trying to snatch a falling leaf out of the sky! You were never bored around Marina!”
This road race brought together people from all over, and its continuity will help Marina’s spirit live on for hopefully many years to come. “Marina’s Miles is more than just a road race. It’s a fun community event which will help a student go to college. You don’t have to be a serious runner to participate; you can walk it or jog it, and you can do it with friends or family,” voiced Eileen.
Many people had so many positive things to say about Marina, and said that if you can learn one thing about the way she lived her life, it’s to try and leave a positive impact on as many people as possible, and she definitely did that. “Marina loved people and loved people coming together as a community and working with each other. This race was almost like a huge team of people having fun, helping each other, and encouraging others– making them smile. This all reflects her spirit!” exclaims Kristen Laaman, a close friend of Marina.
In closing, Siobhán says, “Marina was so unlike anyone I know, yet at the same time so very similar. She brought out the best in people, whether it be their kindness or their humor, their bravery or their creativity. And she, herself, brought the best of what she had to offer to everything in her life. Marina lived life with such an honest heart, mind, and soul, keeping true to what she believed was right and good. She was so accepting, so compassionate. It didn’t matter what you looked like, how you spoke, or where you came from. She loved without boundaries, and never judged based upon the outer image. Marina lived a life that many aspire even just to come close to living. I know I try to live by her example, and bring an open mind and heart everywhere I go, in everything I do. Following in her footprints means crossing those social boundaries that only separate us from one another. It means breaking down stereotypes. It means including the excluded, loving the hurt, befriending the lonely, and bringing compassion to those who may rarely see it. Marina lived a life so full in her 20 years that I can honestly say it is probably equally weighted with an average person’s 80 years. And I am in awe of that.”
Marina’s Miles embodied the spirit of Marina according to her family and friends. Hopefully this road race will continue for many years to come!
Written by Lydia Concannon
Photos by Erin McDonough