Annual 5K remembers Christiansburg man, funds memorial scholarship

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) A Montgomery County family is preparing for a 5K run to remember their son.

Marcus Ford's parents knew he was special from the day they adopted him when he was just five years old.

His mother Donna Ford explained, "He was well-loved by all. He was just a really good round about young man."

A life-long athlete, while at James Madison University he began passing out during physical competitions. He began seeing doctors but it took a while to determine what was causing it.

Marcus was diagnosed with Catecholaminergic Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia (CPVT). It requires a pacemaker, which Marcus refused.

Marcus wanted to continue living his life the way he always did, and even told his friends if this was the plan God had for him, that was fine with him.

A website dedicated to Marcus explains, "CPVT is a rare condition that affects the heart of otherwise fit and healthy people. It causes the heart to beat abnormally quickly, usually at times of exercise (particularly swimming) or times of high emotion, and can result in dizziness, sudden loss of consciousness or even death."

At the age of 23, while playing flag football with his coworkers, it proved to be too much.

"They said he went down on one knee and said, 'What's happening?' Then he stood back up and then he collapsed," Donna recalled.

His parents drove to Arlington Hospital, but on the way received the tragic news.

"The doctor got on the phone, she told us he didn't make it," Donna said.

Even now, almost five years later, it's hard to remember.

His father Waverly Ford said, "When Marcus would come in and go out we'd always tell him we loved him. It wouldn't make a difference if he was going upstairs, we'd holler, 'We love you,' and he'd holler, 'Love you too.'"

Coming up on October 1 the family will host the 4th annual memorial 5K along the Huckleberry Trail as a way to celebrate and remember Marcus.

His aunt Tracey Sherman, who organized the 5K, explained, "We thought about Marcus and his running and his track record and so we thought what better way to recognize Marcus and memorialize him than to do a 5K run."

Donna added, "It's very, very emotional for us but we just enjoy seeing all of [Marcus's friends]. Some of them still stay in touch with us."

The race funds Marcus's memorial scholarship for one Christiansburg High School Senior.

"The scholarship was actually Marcus's idea," his uncle Jesse Sherman said. "He had mentioned it to his dad before he had passed while he was at JMU that he wanted to come back and do something for Christiansburg."

Donna explained, "We base it on characteristics that we have of Marcus; love and family, academics, sportsmanship in school, at home, everywhere."

This year the scholarship is being raised to one thousand dollars.

The family uses the 5K to also educate people about CPVT and other heart diseases because that was important to Marcus.

His parents explained he wanted to reach out to his birth siblings to make them aware, but they're not sure if they ever found out.

To learn more about Marcus or to sign up for the 5K, click the link to his website under the Related Link section of this article.