If you have been reading the Run Now Relay entries over the last few days, you no doubt have heard this event described in many different ways.
Just to name a few: outstanding, extraordinary, life-changing, tiring, exhilarating and adventurous.
The one that rises to the top for me is “epic.” Truly, this experience has been an epic journey.
The relay has required five vans to carry 25 runners willing to run at least six miles a day. There have also been five drivers and several individuals working with logistics.
The route was broken down into 30-mile flights and transition areas along a route of more than 1,000 miles. At points it has been complicated, but has been eased with the addition of pre-loaded iPads assigned to each van with the complete breakdown of the course.
My van consisted of five runners: Matt Carlson, Shane Melton, E.K. Slaughter, Chris Wilds and me. Our navigator is Allan Nope. We’re the only all-male team, so the conversations, I imagine, are a bit less guarded. We have discussed families and work, but also life goals, most embarrassing moments, greatest achievements and our “bucket list.”
It occurred to us the Run Now Relay is a huge bucket item that was on none of our lists, but one we can now claim as our own.
While the number one goal for this entire journey is to raise funds for our two charities, we have also benefitted as individuals.
One of my most rewarding has been the perspective of seeing 1,000-plus miles of the United States up close. We have passed through dozens of quaint little towns and navigated arteries of major cities like Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York — all on foot. To see the side streets and suburbs of these cities (and some shady areas, too), gives a different perspective and appreciation.
There were some intense directional challenges, requiring precise and creative methods.
On Friday morning, our team took over from Team 3 as they entered New York City at 5:30 a.m. Over the next five hours, our team relayed 30 miles from Ground Zero, through Manhattan, into and out of Central Park, passing through Harlem and the Bronx.
My leg was down Avenue of the Americas, which passed through Times Square where I was able to stop long enough to high-five some of the Run Now team standing amongst the crowd outside Good Morning America studios (more on that later).
Previously, we had been able to stay fairly close to the runner, but not this time. One-way streets, road closures and vans blocking streets making early-morning deliveries mandated point A to point B personal navigation. The Bronx portion was so complicated that E.K. ran with earphones as Chris gave him turn-by-turn directions of nearly the entire route.
We have all come to realize this journey would be a lot more treacherous without cell phones and GPS navigation.
Electronics and social media has dominated Run Now Relay this week as everyone has been posting and videos of triumphal runs, interesting new acquaintances, unique local cuisine, spontaneous donations and general hoopla.
We have communicated primarily through group texting, which has been great to know instantly when the next flight has begun and other information. However, with three or four groups within the primary, sorting out the texts has been overwhelming at times. On a couple of occasions, I actually had to call the person to get the message though — imagine that.
If you are the least bit engaged, you can’t help but notice the way Run Now Relay has been blowing up on Twitter and Facebook.
According to Clark Campbell, our traveling social media guru, as of Friday, there had been more than 1 million impressions. Clark says the number is “phenomenal” in social media circles. All of us have gotten into the act, which has resulted in some of the funniest and most inspirational posts.
If you have missed anything this week, check it all out on www.runnowrelaylife.com.
This huge online presence contributed to the successful score of a feature on Good Morning America that aired Saturday morning. Although my van was busy running through the city at the time, the rest of the Run Now team was taken to Central Park with a GMA film crew where several were interviewed about the experience and the charities we are supporting through this effort.
It remains to be seen how many donations come from this huge nationwide exposure, but as of Saturday morning, the total was just $82 short of $63,000 (the number has since increased). Every penny that is raised goes to both the Dream Big and One Step Ahead foundations.
The relay officially ended on Saturday as the final leg took us to Hopkinton, Mass., and the start line of the Boston Marathon. Again, “epic” seems to be the most appropriate descriptor as we all gathered in our conspicuous “highlighter” shirts to meet the final runner crossing the start line.
On Monday, four of our Run Now colleagues — Matt Carlson, Johnny Clemons, Fred Garmon and Matt Ryerson — will have the distinct privilege of crossing perhaps the most famous finish line as they run the Boston Marathon.
While the Run Now Relay team will be in all different directions by then, we will never forget that storied week when 26 runners were together for a cause and a journey never to be forgotten, and who brought goodwill and notoriety to our community.
Boston Strong! Tennessee Tough!