Akron Muni Judge David Hamilton on running marathons
Akron Municipal Court Administrative/Presiding Judge David Hamilton completed the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon in September. He finished the race in five hours and 40 minutes. He is pictured here with his friend and trainer Donny Rodgers, who ran the marathon with him. (Photo courtesy of Judge David Hamilton).
Legal News Reporter
Published: November 13, 2023
Akron Municipal Court Administrative/Presiding Judge David Hamilton said he makes a point of staying in shape, training at a local boxing gym and doing his best to maintain a healthy diet.
So when his magistrate and former bailiff challenged him to join them on a run at the beginning of 2023, Judge Hamilton said he was determined to show up.
“My Magistrate Sharon Dennis and my bailiff at the time, Daisha Okolo, were both avid runners and they would meet around five in the morning for their run together,” said Judge Hamilton. “They had been asking me to join them for a while, but I was already boxing and was not really interested in running.
“They teased me and said that I probably could not keep up anyway, so one day I surprised them and said I would join them,” he said. “We ran through downtown Akron, which at the time still had some Christmas decorations up. While running, I saw how beautiful downtown was and I fell in love with running.”
Less than a year later, Judge Hamilton has not only completed two half marathons, but he also finished the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon on Sept. 28.
“I will say the course was very tough but I felt accomplished at the end,” said Judge Hamilton.
How did accepting a challenge from his colleagues lead to running marathons?
Well once Judge Hamilton decided he enjoyed running, he continued to do so with his magistrate and bailiff three mornings a week for the next three months.
“I got much faster and as time went on Sharon said I might want to find another running partner because she was slowing me down,” said Judge Hamilton. “By that time, my bailiff left because she went back to school.”
So Judge Hamilton reached out to his former classmate Donny Rodgers, who had been running for 10 years.
“We went to junior high school together, but we hadn’t really seen one another since then,” said Rodgers, who owns Room 38 Autobody. “My wife works for Akron Public Schools and she would see Judge Hamilton at certain school events. He asked her to let me know he was looking for a running partner.”
The two started running together in April, and not long afterward Judge Hamilton decided he was ready for his first official run.
“David initially said he was going to sign up for the 10K, but I told him he was ready for the half marathon,” said Rodgers. “He registered for the August half marathon and we continued training.
“Normally it takes people years to build up to that point,” said Rodgers.
The two ran the Goodyear half marathon together in August, following it up with a half marathon trail run on Sept. 2 in Peninsula.
“I did not like that one very much,” said Judge Hamilton. “We were running through the woods uphill and downhill. I fell into the creek on mile two and sprained my ankle on mile six, so it’s safe to say I won’t be doing another trail run again.”
With two half marathons under his belt, Judge Hamilton said he was ready to embrace the full marathon. He continued training with Rodgers, while also focusing more on core and leg strength with his boxing trainer, Jose Rodriguez.
“David was already in pretty good shape when he started running because he was doing a lot of cardio in the ring,” said Rodriguez, owner of the Rodriguez Boxing Club. “He has a passion for boxing and once he decided to get into running, he was very committed.
“He would run in all types of weather,” said Rodriguez. “He was willing to put in the work and I wasn’t surprised that he completed the full marathon. It’s basically all mental, and once he set his mind to it, I knew he would do it.”
Judge Hamilton reached the finish line in 5 hours and 40 minutes, with his friend and trainer Donny Rodgers right by his side.
Akron Municipal Court Magistrate Sharon Dennis, one of the two people who started it all, said she’s “incredibly proud” of her boss.
“Judge Hamilton went from saying he could never get up in time to run with me and Daisha to completing two half marathons and one full marathon,” said Dennis.
Now that the marathon is behind him, Judge Hamilton is working with Dennis on a weekly basis to help her increase her speed.
“He is one of the best bosses that anyone can have,” said Dennis. “Now that he’s my running partner, serving as his magistrate is the highlight of my legal career.”
In addition to running with Dennis, Judge Hamilton has returned to boxing. He also continues to run with Rodgers and while he’s not planning on doing any additional half marathons this year, he’ll likely participate in two upcoming holiday races, one on Thanksgiving and another in December.
Beyond the enjoyment of running, Judge Hamilton and Rodgers said they’re hoping to serve as roles models to those living in Black and other diverse low-income communities.
“With regard to recreational running, there is a lack of representation among Black athletes,” said Judge Hamilton. “When Donny and I would run through Akron’s affluent communities, there would be an abundance of runners in contrast to lower-income communities where we would be the only two running.
“I am hoping by continuing to run that I will inspire more minorities to follow my lead and live a healthier lifestyle,” said Judge Hamilton, adding it’s especially important for African Americans to do so since they often face a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke, cancer and other serious conditions.
“Running is free,” said Judge Hamilton. “There’s no membership required and you can run anytime of the day. It’s a mindset, and I want our community to know that Black men run too!”
In fact, Rodgers is working on starting a running program to help promote physical health in African American and other underserved communities.
“When David and I would run through more economically challenged communities, the people who saw us would get excited,” said Rodgers. “I want to get those people to join the program and I believe it will happen.
“I plan to use the program to bring people and communities together,” said Rodgers.
“I would like to get police officers involved because it would give them a chance to improve community relations.
“When people are running in a community it not only improves their health, but it can also be a crime deterrent because there are also people around to witness what’s going on.”