BOSTON — Run Now Relay Runners Johnny Clemons, Matt Ryerson, Matt Carlson and Fred Garmon finished the 1,075-mile trek strong Monday in the Boston Marathon to the shouts and cheers of the Boston Strong.
Clemons finished just under three hours at 2 hours, 54 minutes, 24 seconds. His pace lengthened from 6 minutes, 13 seconds at the 13.1-mile mark to 6 minutes, 39 seconds at the finish line. His goal was to finish his third Boston Marathon in under three hours.
“I feel wonderful about that. On the way in, I was not trying to race,” Clemons said. “I was high-fiving people and letting little kids fill my water bottle.”
Although there was some confusion Saturday, Clemons confirmed Monday was his seventh marathon in 10 days. He completed the preceding six during the Run Now Relay effort in which 26 runners traveled relay-style from Cleveland to Boston.
His participation in Run Now Relay placed a new twist on an old interest for the 38-year-old.
“I was kind of getting frustrated with running,” Clemons said. “I was just doing a lot of races and they never felt like they had a lot of meaning. It was just like, ‘Why am I doing this?’”
Added Clemons, “This is the first time in a long time that it felt like [running] had a purpose.”
He expressed an interest in running for charities in the future. Although he was not one of the Dream Big! runners, he did find a way to support the nonprofit. He wrote “Dream Big” across his chest and ran without a shirt the whole 26.2 miles.
Carlson and Ryerson ran the first 25 miles of the marathon together. Their split came when Ryerson stopped to join the water line a little over a mile from the finish line. Carlson stopped to join his old friend when his knee threatened to lock up. He continued with a final backward glance to Ryerson.
The Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland executive director jogged over the finish line in just under five hours at 4:58.08, with a pace of 11 minutes and 22 seconds.
“It was my first marathon and probably my only one,” Carlson said. “I honestly did not know what to expect. I’ve been in half-marathons before. The Boston Marathon itself is the best marathon. It is the biggest. It’s the oldest.”
Ryerson followed almost 12 minutes later with a final time of 5:09.30, and a pace of 11 minutes and 48 seconds.
“There is a quote I saw on a T-shirt once. It said, ‘Everything you want to learn about yourself, you can learn in 26.2 miles,’” Ryerson recalled. “It is really true. There are moments out there when you look in the mirror and you either accept the challenge and push through, or you do not.”
Added Ryerson, “Today is one of those days we are all very pleased with what we see in the mirror. We are happy with the results.”
Garmon carried the team in strong with a finish time of 5:29.14 and a pace of 12 minutes and 33 seconds. He said pain struck early with upper-body cramps at the 13.1-mile checkpoint. He pushed through the pain in an effort to do Bradley County and Cleveland proud.
“It was an experience of a lifetime,” he said. “It was hard. Unless you are actually here and run like we did — I don’t think we can describe it to people. I don’t know of any outdoor celebrations where people come together like this with such a festive atmosphere of [patriotism] and encouragement.”
All three men ran for Dream Big!, one of the two charities benefitted by the Run Now Relay. The cause and encouragement from back home helped the men trudge through the heat, pain and Heartbreak Hill.
“We really want to say thanks to the whole community and our main sponsors that were there: Don Ledford Automotive Center, Panera, Cooke’s Food Stores, Holiday Inn Express, Coca-Cola, Men and Women of Action, People for Care and Learning and Shades of Grey,” Carlson said. “Thank you to the whole community for the support. We felt it every single day along this journey.”
Faces from a wide variety of countries, cities and cultures cheered on the sidelines for anyone with a runner’s bib.
Shouts echoed off of the surrounding buildings and into the ears of the runners, who glided, struggled and fought toward the finish line.
Several familiar faces greeted the Cleveland runners as they pounded out the final leg of the marathon.
Run Now Relay runners Duane Goff, Cameron Fisher, Don Bennett and Corey Divel remained in Boston for the sole mission of witnessing the final leg of the “epic” 1,000-mile plus journey.
The four hurrahed and hoorayed as they witnessed Clemons, Garmon, Ryerson and Carlson pass by the 25-mile mark and onward to the finish line.
“This was not a go-to-Boston sightseeing trip,” Goff said. “This was a specific destination for a cause.”
Almost all of the 26 runners returned home either Saturday or Sunday. Work and family reminded the participants of the responsibilities put off for eight days. Those present at the marathon kept the members of Big Orange, the Blue Boston Boomerangs, the Green Machine, the Mellow Yellow Submarines and the Purple Pavement Pounders in mind. Families and friends happily welcomed the runners back into the fold of everyday life.
Fisher, Goff, Bennett and Divel looked forward to being reunited with family, but first they had a mission to finish.
“We didn’t come to see Boston,” Fisher said. “If we did nothing else, this is what we were supposed to do.”
The four men found they enjoyed themselves more than they anticipated.
“I’ve never been on this side of cheering [in a run] for somebody,” Fisher said. “I’ve always been the runner. It is a totally different emotion to be on this side cheering for someone. It is different to be anticipating them coming around the corner for so long and [shouting], ‘There they are! There they are!’”
Added Divel, “I was like, this is my new favorite spectator sport. You are not going to watch a bunch of overpaid crybabies. It is like everyday people who have made sacrifices.”
Goff pointed out a majority of the runners were everyday runners like his fellow Run Now participants.
Interjected Divel, “Except, a little faster.”
“And they run a little longer,” Fisher said.
“And they are running the Boston Marathon,” Divel quipped.
Loud cheers were let out at the sight of familiar faces and strangers alike. Goff pointed out he was the first one to get a sideline hug from Ryerson before the runner called on his reserves to finish the Herculean goal.
Teddy Bennett, Heather Carlson, Heather Ryerson and Clark Campbell also stayed in the city to offer their support to the runners.
Heather Ryerson said butterflies filled her stomach while she waited for the Run Now Relay runners to reach the finish line.
“It was just amazing to know all of the hard work that was put behind it and see them finally accomplish this huge goal in such a huge race that is the epitome of marathons,” she said. “To come across that finish line and accomplish that was absolutely phenomenal. It was absolutely emotional for all of us.”
Ryerson said the spirit of Cleveland contributed to both the relay and his group’s successful marathon.
“You felt like you were carrying all of those people with you. It was inspiring. It helped push through that wall,” he said. “You just kept thinking about Facebook comments and prayers. I’ve never felt such a presence from a community and support like I have this week.”
Added Ryerson, “That just kept going through my mind that I wanted to make these people proud and represent them well.”