As North Kingstowners lace up their running shoes and ready themselves for another , there’s one avid runner who won’t be there. In her place, however, will be more than 100 people set to run in her memory.
They are the friends and family of Marissa Hayward, at the age of 21. A former athlete and 2007 graduate from , Hayward’s love of running and enjoyment of life is what has got this group excited for this year’s run. Organized mainly on Facebook by family and friends, Team Marissa has more than 100 participants, including friends from North Kingstown and the University of Rhode Island, where Hayward attended college.
“It’s just crazy,” said friend Siobhan Breagy. “You keep scrolling down and seeing these names of people we haven’t seen in years.”
A group of friends and family have been training together for the past few weeks in anticipation of the run. Though most of them aren’t seasoned runners, their enthusiasm for the event is unwavering.
“They’re doing something Marissa loved to do and that is run,” said Breagy. “They’re doing it for her and for her memory.”
Following Hayward’s death, the NK5K committee created a scholarship in her honor. Proceeds from the event will go to the scholarship and to the North Kingstown athletics program.
“Marissa was always someone who get could people together,” said JoAnn Nannig, who helped organize the team and whose daughter ran with Hayward at North Kingstown High School. “So it’s very special that we’re all doing this together in her memory.”
Cheer on Team Marissa and the other runners at the NK5K today at 10 a.m., starting at North Kingstown High School.