— Maya Angelou
American Author & Poet
(b. April 4, 1928)
Guided by the power of prayer, the resiliency of the human spirit, the backing of people everywhere and some good running shoes, 26 everyday athletes and a traveling staff of seven came to the end of their road Saturday by striding into the Boston city limits.
Like their decision to make the 1,075-mile run from Cleveland to Boston in eight days in support of life and the people who love it, composing this column is a leap of faith as well. That’s because it’s only Wednesday night as of this writing, and that group of determined souls still had hundreds of miles to go and only three days and three nights left to do it.
So for anyone who reads this in the Sunday morning edition, let’s hope you found a big headline, a picture and maybe a couple of stories on the front page of our newspaper exclaiming, “We made it!”
They deserve no less.
Their feat ... yes, an interesting choice of words ... is an inspiration to everyone, and more.
It’s not every day you come across somebody ... especially 26 of them ... who decide to sacrifice personal vacation time, commit to raising at least $2,000 for two distant charities and ante up about $400 of their own money to cover trip expenses.
But these folks did it.
And they didn’t bat an eyelash in the doing. That’s what deep conviction does to people. It empowers them to embrace the good side of humanity, thus sending a resounding message of “no” to its evil alter ego.
What happened about this time last year at the Boston Marathon was nothing less than savagely wrong. Innocent people shouldn’t have to die nor live the rest of their lives bearing the scars of hate because of the misguided actions of others.
But on Patriots Day 2013 during the most celebrated rite in a runner’s world, that’s what happened. And the collateral damage — the loved ones, the bystanders and hundreds of friends of the runners — became the unsuspecting targets.
Two bombs. Two cold hearts. Two twisted minds. Zero conscience.
But that was then. This is now.
People from every walk of life and all corners of America for the past year have thrown their full support behind their Boston buds.
Some sent money.
Some sent gifts.
Some sent prayers.
Some sent best wishes.
Some sent cards of inspiration.
Some sent themselves.
That’s what 26 Cleveland and Bradley County area folks have done with the Run Now Relay. They’ve not only made the trek on foot to Beantown, they’ve raised more and more cash along the way — gracious donations from fellow Americans in cities and counties and states in between Massachusetts and their own Volunteer homeland.
You don’t have to be a runner to admire their tenacity … or a jogger, a walker, skateboarder or cyclist. You just have to have a heart, one that’s big enough to let in a few more people … even if they’re strangers.
Like most Cleveland Daily Banner readers and the entirety of our hometown community, I have followed their journey since Day One.
I cringed at the sight of all those hills.
I held my breath at the thought of too many narrow road shoulders.
I laughed at their comical stories of brief brushes with the law.
I took delight in knowing that people in communities from here to New England are supportive of their cause and proud of their courage.
I don’t know all the runners. I can’t even say I know all their names. But I suspect that’s OK with them. They didn’t do it for the newspaper interviews, the TV cameras or the radio spots. They did it because they wanted to do it. Like anybody else who believes in a cause, they asked themselves, “What can I do to help?”
Well, runners run. Some might even know why. Most don’t. They just do it. And they love doing it.
So what better way to send a message of hope and a prayer of support to the people of Boston? You do what you do best. You run. And you deliver that message ... in person.
In some of those insightful perspectives our newspaper has published from the Run Now Relay participants, a handful reported being called “crazy” more than a few times prior to, and during, their trek to the Northeast. But it was always said in a lighthearted tone of admiration and from somewhere deep within the heart.
But personally, I think the Run Now Relay is one of the least crazy people-first initiatives to come out of these parts in decades.
Like a bunch of other local folks who enjoy a good run, jog, stride or brisk walk, my only regret is I wasn’t among them.
I had the chance. All I had to do was make the call. But I had a hundred excuses, none of them good.
And that’s on me.
Maybe I felt I couldn’t keep up with those younger folks. Maybe I felt I couldn’t get away from the office for that long. Maybe I felt uncomfortable with all that fundraising. Maybe I felt I didn’t know enough of the other runners. Maybe I felt the winter was too long and I was just too out of shape.
Maybe this. Maybe that.
I’m glad those 26 visionaries couldn’t find such excuses. I’m glad they were willing to set aside normalcy for a few days and take a stride into the unknown. I’m glad they felt a yearning to reach out to others who survived tragedy and to those who did not. I’m glad they understood the miracle of channeling raw emotion into an act of greatness. I’m glad they took a stand.
And most of all, I’m glad they made it. For whatever reason, I never thought they wouldn’t. It says a little about the power of faith. It says a lot about the innate good in man.
To the four who will run Monday’s legendary Boston Marathon, my very best wishes on your step into history.
Do it for those you love.
Do it for all whose lives need your special touch.
Do it for everyone who needs the occasional hand up.
Do it for the sake of doing what is right.
Do it for you.
Life is filled with bumps and bruises and heartaches along its way. And tomorrow is not a guarantee. So that pretty much makes today the best day for making a difference.
The hearts, and the moral conscience, behind Run Now Relay are the living proof.
Godspeed on your voyage home.