The refrain from members of the team of runners who made the trip from Cleveland to Boston together as part of the Run Now Relay remains the same: “Thank you.”
Matt Carlson, one of the runners, addressed members of the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club Thursday morning to share what it was like to take part in the “once in a lifetime” event and adjust back to daily life in Cleveland.
On April 12, 26 runners left Cleveland to make the 1,075-mile trip to Boston in an effort that was inspired by the horror of the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013. Many were injured and three were killed as bombs detonated in the stands near the finish line of the race that year.
Carlson said the effects of the event hit way too close to home for members of Cleveland’s running community.
“I’ve been in a lot of runs and races where my family stood at the finish line,” he said “Any of us could have been affected.”
After holding a local 5K race to raise money to help bombing victims, the runners behind the Run Now Relay began planning “a crazy idea that may work.”
Their goal was to take turns running the 1,000-plus mile journey relay style, while continuing to raise money to help Boston charities and deliver the donations to those organizations in person.
They did it.
On April 18, the group arrived in Hopkinton, Mass., at the starting line of the Boston Marathon, and four of the runners finished the journey on behalf of the group a couple days later by running the marathon race itself after they had each already run many miles over the course of a week.
Carlson said he was impressed by both the eagerness of the runners wanting to take part and the people back home who sent messages of support to them and donated to the causes.
The Run Now Relay organizers were “inundated” with runners expressing interest, but the group ultimately narrowed itself to the “symbolic” number of 26, the same number of miles that a marathon contains.
Runners had to commit themselves to paying $400 to cover the costs of things like their own lodging and raising $2,000 each for the charities. The goal was to get as close to $50,000 as possible to support the One Step Ahead Foundation and Dream Big, both charities that help disadvantaged children stay active and build self-esteem through sports.
They ended up raising $65,000, Carlson said. As they passed through various cities and towns, the runners were met by many people who wanted to hear about what they were doing, and many decided to donate.
The journey was not without its challenges.
Carlson explained the runners had to battle through sore muscles, hunger and sleep deprivation as they took turns making the long trip on foot with support vehicles close behind to carry the other runners and ensure the safety of the one on the road.
He explained that, however tired they were, those in the vehicles did not get much chance to sleep because they had to make sure they were going in the right direction and keep track of the runners outside.
However, there were also some highlights for the runners. Some got to run at places like the Bristol Motor Speedway. Others got to run at places like the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
All the while, people all across the country learned about the Clevelanders’ cause as they were featured on national television shows like “Good Morning America.”
Carlson said the project was wildly successful.
He and the four other runners who had joined him at the club meeting that day thanked the Rotarians for their support. The encouraging words “meant a lot,” said Carlson.
Fellow runner Matt Ryerson said it “felt like y’all were with us.”
Before their attention turned to the Run Now Relay, the Rotarians discussed their annual fundraising gala, the money from which will go to help various nonprofit organizations in the Cleveland area through grants that the club’s foundation gives.
On June 14, Cleveland will welcome University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier.
For more information, visit www.bradleysunriserotary.org.