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Relay for Remembrance raises money for family of fallen US Marine

The clock next to the track read -40:48 and counting. Vapors of steam, made visible by the rising moon, trailed the half-a-dozen runners circling Sabine field. In the bleachers, those waiting their turn donned jackets and hats to ward off the chill air. It was 6:20 p.m., the final forty minutes of a twelve-hour relay race that had started at 7:00 o'clock that morning.

On October 10, 2004, History Professors Rowly Brucken and Ray Zirblis led a fundraiser for the wife and four children of Captain Rich Gannon, USMC, of Escondido, CA, a Naval Academy grad who was killed in Iraq last April while assisting a wounded colleague.

Brucken and Zirblis, both ultra-runners, conceived of the idea for the fundraiser last spring.

"Ray and I had discussed the idea of challenging students at Norwich to some sort of running event, as a vehicle to raise funds for a worthy cause," said Brucken.

Through a running connection, Brucken learned of an ongoing fundraising effort to support the family of slain US Marine Captain Rich Gannon, and decided to jump on board.

"Even though I didn't know Captain Gannon personally, the idea of a relay for remembrance seemed to fit well into Norwich's mission, current events, and the cause," said Brucken.

Beginning at seven in the morning, and ending at seven at night, five 6-person and two 2-person relay teams ran without stopping for a cumulative total of 2,467 laps (616.75 miles). Even as darkness fell and temperatures dropped into the thirties, all of the teams stayed to the bitter end, and celebrated with a pizza party afterwards.

"I was awed and inspired by the commitment, dedication and perseverance of the students, staff and faculty who participated," said Brucken.

The winning team (440 laps) was Norwich X-Country II, led by senior Captain John Capen. The challengers, Brucken and Zirblis, ran 328 laps for a total of 82 miles. Failing to win did not dampen their spirits, however.

"I have never felt better about finishing second to last in a running event before," said a smiling Brucken.

By the end of the race, Chris Clements, a member of the only other 2-person team competing, felt tired but exhilarated after running for nearly 6 hours.

"I'm a little sore," said Clements, "but it's worth it. I'm just glad I was able to participate."

The event was an all-around success, with $500 being added to the $13,000 already raised by the ongoing effort. On October 30, Brucken will run in the Marine Corps Marathon, and will personally present the money, along with photos and newspaper articles, to the Gannon family at the finish line.

dweggler@norwich.edu, October 2004

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