This Saturday, April 14th, crowds of runners, walkers, joggers, and anyone in between will gather at Oyster River High School for the second annual Marina’s Miles road race/walk.
Marina Slavin, the namesake for the race, was an ORHS graduate, one of four daughters to Durham community members Maura and Mike Slavin. She graduated ORHS in 2011 and continued on to run for the University of New Hampshire. Born August 18, 1993, she was 20 when she passed away peacefully during her sleep due to an undiagnosed heart infection. Marina’s Miles is a fundraiser which aims to bring the community together to celebrate Marina’s life, as well as the joy of good company and running.
Last year marked Marina’s Miles debut event, having replaced the well-known Todd’s Trot 5k. Todd’s Trot memorialized Todd Heuchling, another ORHS graduate. In 2003, Todd was enrolled in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. During an eight-mile run during tryouts for the marathon team, he collapsed and died of heat stroke. In memoriam, the first Todd’s Trot was held in April of 2004.
After thirteen consecutive Todd’s Trots, parents Robert (Bob) and Sally Heuchling announced that it would be their final race. The fund had raised enough money so that the scholarship could be awarded in perpetuity, and as 13 was Todd’s favorite number, it felt like the right time to bring Todd’s Trot to an end. Rob Drugan, a member of Friends of Oyster River Track (FORT), part of the Todd’s Trot committee, as well a family friend of the Slavins, encouraged the Heuchlings to allow the race to continue in the form of Marina’s Miles. “‘It’s become such a community event; everybody is ready to run at the beginning of April,’ [Drugen] said to me. Of course, Sally and I were completely on board. The transition was natural,” said Heuchling.
Encouraged by a smooth transition between the two last year, Maura Slavin is hopeful that this year’s event will prove successful. “I don’t think [the transition] could have gone any better,” she said. With help from FORT members John Parsons, Todd Allen, Rob Drugen, and the Heuchlings, the Slavins had a support system to help jump start the race. “[They were all] extremely supportive and helpful, and the timing was perfect. The Heuchlings had met their goal and were ready to move on to other things, and we were ready to do something in Marina’s memory,” added Slavin.
Marina’s Miles is aUSA Track & Field certified 5k. Its course remains unchanged from Todd’s Trot, looping around the high school and through several Durham neighborhoods before ending back at the school.
Last year, over 400 people showed up to run, jog, walk, or simply support the cause. Louis Saviano of Sandown, age 26, won the race in a time of 17:10. The first female finisher was Barrington’s Corey Dowe, age 23, in a time of 18:25.
This year’s participants can register ($30) Saturday morning, with doors opening at 8:30am. The race will kick off at 10:00am. Donations are also accepted, and will go toward the scholarship which is awarded to an ORHS college-bound senior who embodies Marina’s spirit and value. “The recipient of the scholarship is someone who reaches out to others. [Marina] would love that the way she lived her life is still inspiring others to be loving toward each other,” said Slavin.
“We all knew Marina,” said Bob Heuchling. “I used to work at the school, and every year, she would come into the office and say, ‘Mr. Heuchling, there can only be one color for the Todd’s Trot t-shirt,’ and I would respond, ‘I know Marina, I know you want orange.’ So of course that year, which was our tenth annual race, as well as the year that she passed away, we made [the t-shirt] bright orange, and put her name on the sleeve.”
Last year, Marina’s Miles first t-shirt held true to her request: it was orange as well.
Slavin encourages anyone and everyone to come out on Saturday. “Come and plan to have fun,” she said. “It’s not about winning; it’s about the people, the friends, and enjoying a community event. Marina didn’t care about winning; she did care about running well for her team. And she just loved to run and to be outside. So come enjoy being outside with good friends!”
“More reasons to come include free food!” she added. Sandwiches, bagels, fruit, and yogurt will be available. Upon check in, participants are also entered to win door prizes for area businesses.
“There are so many reasons to come,” said Heuchling. “The inspiration is in the people that you’re remembering, the people who are supporting the family, and the community spirit behind this race. What you’re participating in is eventually going to help another student, because it provides scholarships. For the family, it gives them a day so that they can remember what it was like when their youngster was still around; it allows for their friends to come back. Please come, please participate. It’s a great event.”
Photos courtesy of marinasmiles.org