Alums journey back for every 5K
ASL's Memorial 5K is an event that students and community members alike look forward to each March. For two 2004 alums, Jeremy Burnside and Justin Marlowe, it has even become an annual pilgrimage.
Burnside, a Cleveland native who has his own law practice in Portsmouth, Ohio, and Marlowe, an assistant prosecutor in Madison, W.Va., have come back to Grundy and ASL every year to run in the 5K. The two helped organize the first race in the wake of the January 2002 shootings.
"I keep coming back to the race because it's something to which I devoted myself after the shootings took place," Burnside said. "The race was my way of giving back to what Tony (Sutin) offered me, Tom (Blackwell) taught me and what Angela (Dales) shared with me."
Burnside even made the trip despite his father and grandfather passing away this year and last year, respectively, just before the race. "I was running in honor of my dad," he said.
The two also make the journey as a way to keep tabs on their alma mater. "We both are interested in ASL's success and enjoy coming back each year to see it grow," Burnside said. "We also keep coming back because it's fun reliving our 2L and 3L years, when we made the most out of living in Grundy."
"I personally like to come back to visit with familiar faces," Marlowe said. "Faculty, staff, and the local community. It's nice to catch up with everyone. It's also nice to see all the changes happening in Grundy. Coming back once a year really gives you a perspective on how the community is changing."
They try to keep the trip interesting, too, with a mix of new adventures and old traditions, whether that's rock climbing on what turns out to be poison ivy-infested ledges, playing basketball at the YMCA, or draining a pitcher of beer at Italian Village.
Marlowe said the race seemed like a "natural fit" after the 2002 tragedy, at which time they were 1Ls in their second semester. Burnside had helped organize 5K runs as an undergraduate for his fraternity at the University of Charleston, and Sutin and Blackwell had been avid runners.
"We had to do a community service project anyway," Marlowe said. "Originally, the proceeds were going to go to Neighbors United, because Tom Blackwell was involved in that." Instead, the money went to the victims' families.
The first race was a touching event, both said. A cool, rainy day gave way to sunshine as more than 300 participants took to the starting line. Mountain Mission students attended en masse, cheering on the runners and releasing hundreds of balloons into the sky, Marlowe said. "I still remember the balloon release at the first race. It was a very emotional time for everyone and to have the family members of the victims there. It really meant a lot." Festivities continued throughout the weekend, with the Barrister's Ball, a silent auction, and a storytelling festival.
Despite both Burnside and Marlowe having medaled last year-"when we moved up in age categories," Burnside laughed-neither claims to be more than a casual runner. Burnside also won third place in his category this year with a time of 23:31. He competed in the 2008 Akron and Philadelphia marathons, and recently began rowing on the Ohio River in hopes of starting a rowing club. Marlowe ran cross country and track in high school and college, "but I am nowhere near as fast as I used to be."
Burnside said he isn't surprised the race is still going strong. "It was intended to never stop. Every few years, I'll get a message from the new race director for some input, which I have been happy to give." His fondest memory is of battling Blackwell's eldest son, Zeb, in 2003 or 2004, until Zeb "beat me in a sprint to the finish line. After the race, his mom, Lisa, embraced him as he had this glowing smile on his face," he recalled.
Burnside focuses on personal injury, wrongful death, and high level felonies at his practice in Portsmouth, Ohio. "I wanted to be in criminal defense in law school," he said, calling the work "stressful but satisfying." He has become a champion of anti-gun legislation and serves on the Board of Trustees for the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.
Marlowe, who currently volunteers with Generation Charleston on community service projects, 4-H, and a community watch program, said the shootings helped push him to pursue his current work as a prosecutor. "I always wanted to help people, and going to law school was a way to do that and have a salary, too."