5K salute to an avid runner

MARIETTA – Running and walking events in the Mid-Ohio Valley often see a good turnout, but it’s not every local 5K that draws participants from Texas and North Carolina.

Friends of the late Alex Miller are making the trip to Marietta from all over for Saturday’s inaugural Alex Miller Memorial 5K Run/Walk. Proceeds will go to scholarships for students in the petroleum engineering department at Miller’s alma mater, Marietta College.

“A 5K’s probably not a big deal to everybody, but to us it’s a big deal because it means his friends loved him and wanted to be here for this,” said Miller’s mother, Lorry, 57, of Marietta.

More than 150 people have pre-registered for the event, and registration is open an hour before the race, which starts at 8 a.m.

Alex Miller, an avid runner, died in 2011 after suffering a seizure less than three weeks shy of his 26th birthday and not long after buying a new house in Oklahoma City. The Marietta High School alumnus had gotten a job there after previously working for a Charleston, W.Va.-based company following his graduation from Marietta College.

He was “just a very active guy, cycling and running, very involved in the church out there,” his mother said.

An endowment was set up in his memory to provide scholarships for students who, like Miller, are in the petroleum engineering program.

“He’ll live on through the students that benefit from the scholarships,” said Bob Chase, chairman of the department.

Chase said Miller was special to everyone in the petroleum engineering department and “like a son” to him.

“He was a terrific kid, just one of my favorites,” he said. “He just had this really great grasp of things.”

Chase recalled Miller leading a team from the college’s chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers to the finals of the international PetroBowl quiz competition, thanks not only to his knowledge but his ability to come up with the answers so quickly.

Chase wasn’t the only one on whom Miller made a significant impression, Lorry Miller said, recalling how his boss flew to the area for his funeral, even though a memorial was scheduled for Oklahoma soon after.

And her fondness for sharing about her son’s life has continued to touch others.

“I never got to meet him, but I feel like I know him,” said Andrea Guerriero, an intervention specialist with whom Miller works at Phillips Elementary School.

Guerriero has run in a handful of 5Ks and will likely be walking in Saturday’s event with Lorry Miller’s young granddaughter.

“I wanted to do it … to support the memory of Alex and keep his spirit alive,” she said.

Miller’s family is organizing the race, which Lorry Miller said is a new experience. She’s hoping to form a committee with more experienced planners to keep the event going in years to come.

“I’m sure we’re going to make mistakes … but we’re hoping it’s going to be great, even with mistakes,” she said.

The 5K will start at Marietta College’s Hermann Fine Arts Center, traveling up the college mall and Fifth Street, then on to Montgomery Street before heading back to campus via Eighth, Washington, Seventh, Warren and Sixth streets. The finish line will be at the same point as the start, and a reception will follow the race.