NORFOLK, Va. — Tens of thousands will run in the Boston Marathon this upcoming Monday.
Jessica Orvis, a staff member at Norfolk State University, will be among the crowd of America's oldest marathon.
Orvis will race through the finish line alongside her twin sister, Julia, and mother, Candace.
Orvis will run to honor her late stepfather, Walter Brown, who died of cancer in 2014.
“Before he died, he asked my mom if she would run the marathon for him in his memory because they used to go every year together,” said Orvis.
Her mom promised she would. Orvis and her sister started to help her train. Little did they know, it was the start of what has become a new family tradition since 2015.
This year will be no different.
“It meant so much to us emotionally, because training for the marathon really helped us process our grief over losing Walter,” said Orvis. “It gave us something to focus on and do something that was important and meaningful to him.”
Walter Brown didn't run in the Boston Marathon. But for the thousands who did, he fired the gun at the starting line at the marathon year after year.
It’s part of the Brown family’s legacy.
Before Walter Brown, it was his dad. Before his dad, it was his great-grandfather, the late George V. Brown, who was the first official starter of the marathon since its start back in 1897.
The Starter has always been someone in the Brown family.
“It wasn't until his last couple years that I realized what he did and the family legacy that existed there,” said Orvis.
When the three get through the finish line on Monday, they will do more than run a marathon.
“That was his legacy,” said Orvis. “He's always right there and when we cross the finish line, we did it for you.”