Twenty-five members of the Cleveland/Chattanooga area and one runner who joined the group in Washington, D.C., ran to Boston in memory and honor of 2013’s Boston Marathon bombing victims. The project also raised money for the victims and for a children’s foundation in the Boston community.
Social media, especially Twitter, played a big role in communication throughout the journey.
“We really had two goals. One was to raise money … we really looked at nonprofits in the Boston area,” Run Now Relay runner Matt Ryerson said.
The runners chose to support the One Step Ahead Foundation, which will provide “free prosthetics for children that lost limbs in that bombing” and Dream Big, which encourages girls to participate in sports and positive opportunities, Ryerson said.
The second goal was “to raise awareness for these nonprofits and many of the victims,” Ryerson said.
Using #runtoboston, the teams posted updates and videos throughout the journey.
To make it all work, the runners formed several committees and had additional support staff.
Clark Campbell was in charge of leading the runners’ media campaign, according to runner Cameron Fisher. Campbell was unable to attend the CMA meeting.
The idea was to get local media to provide coverage, then gain exposure through regional and national media coverage.
“I think Clark coined it. It was a ‘digital marathon,’” Ryerson said.
“It really started off with the Cleveland Daily Banner,” Ryerson said. “The Cleveland Daily Banner … was covering us months ahead of time [and] until several weeks after.”
WCLE and other local media outlets also provided some coverage of the effort.
“It quickly grew, especially through the television networks because all those affiliates are tied [to their respective networks],” Ryerson said. “So they kind of communicate up the way. It wasn’t long before we realized just how much media attention we were getting.”
For Ryerson, this realization came in Knoxville when there was a TV reporter on the side of the road waiting for them — it was 11 p.m.
“Clark did a lot of work,” Ryerson said.
Twitter was a successful platform for the runners to gain further exposure for their cause.
Fisher said Campbell tweeted a message to Ginger Zee of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” which led to some runners being featured on the show.
The segment was filmed at Central Park.
This national exposure led to donations through Run Now Relay’s website, including one from Alaska and one from Hawaii.
Awareness was also raised along the route by the runners. Ryerson humorously noted runner Kyle Page “got really good at just running down the street yelling, ‘We’re running to Boston.’”
Throughout the run a GPS tracker helped those back in Cleveland see where the runners were through the Run Now Relay website.
By the time the runners reached New York, people were recognizing them when they stopped to eat.
This recognition led to further donations to the Boston nonprofits.
“People would give us just whatever change they had in their pocket. We had kids giving us allowance money. It was extraordinarily amazing,” Ryerson said.
Ryerson said many of Boston’s local media outlets came out to cover the relay runners’ finish, which was the starting point of the Boston Marathons.
Four runners ran in the marathon to complete the group’s goal.
Numerous local sponsors joined the cause make the journey possible.