Running 1,000 miles from Cleveland to Boston sounded like an adventure, a chance of a lifetime, a runner’s thrill, an act of goodwill, a feat of endurance — a logistical nightmare.
The Run Now Relay crew leaves on Saturday, April 12, and must arrive in Boston no later than Sunday, April 20.
When the participants scramble into the four vehicles provided by Debbie Melton of Don Ledford Automotive Center and a People for Care and Learning van, an almost nine-day cycle of vehicle switches, hotel check-ins at all times of the day and hours of running begins.
Tim Spires stepped up to develop a comprehensive and detailed route for the relay. Work on the project began in the fall. Every day of the journey took at least eight hours to outline.
To date, Spires has put at least 90 hours into the project. Many more are sure to come with little more than a month until takeoff. He shrugged off the time spent on the project in light of the greater picture: raising awareness and funds for those affected by the Boston Marathon bombing.
Participants will collectively run through Tennessee, Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. A majority of the run will take place on U.S. Route 11, and later, U.S. Route 1.
“It is pretty much a straight shot going up through [U.S. 11],” Spires said. “[The path] is roughly following Route 1, which is probably one of the first cow paths, game trails that ended up being a road.”
The historical importance of landmarks, museums and cities is not lost on Spires. Some of the 90 hours of planning focused on finding both fun and informative activities for runners during the eight to 10 hours of down time. One such suggestion is the birthplace of Davey Crockett.
However, a good many historic and larger-than-life sites will be found directly on the route.
Running beside Ground Zero at daybreak.
Chasing the demons away beside Sandy Hook Elementary.
Following in the steps of Rocky Balboa at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Taking the lead at the Bristol Speedway.
Dodging traffic and pedestrians in Manhattan, up Broadway and beside the Bronx.
Spires predicted one of the most exciting parts of the journey would be in Washington, D.C., when local runners join Run Now Relay for a jog through the National Mall and Memorial Park.
A second Forrest Gump style run might also happen with the New York Road Runners Club.
Spires hopes ESPN will take a special interest in the relay when participants jog near its headquarters in Bristol, Conn. Media along the way will be invited to interview runners and tape the journey as it happens. Spires explained a trailer borrowed from Men and Women of Action will serve as the command center throughout the relay. Sit-down interviews with the media can be conducted in the trailer’s conference room.
In an effort to leave no stone unturned, Spires, Run Now organizer Matt Ryerson and a videographer charged with making a documentary will drive the entire route next weekend. Spires wants to make sure all of the switch points are as available as they looked with satellite GPS. The three men will leave early Friday morning and return late Sunday night with almost 1,200 miles under their belts.
According to Spires, the last 22 miles will be the same as the Boston Marathon route. Those running the last leg of the journey will hopefully cross the Boston Marathon finish line to end the days-long relay.
“When we reach Boston, that is going to be special. It is like the last two miles in a marathon. When you come to that, it is a feeling you can’t imagine,” Spires said. “And I am sure when we come to that after eight-plus days of running, and knowing that I plotted this out every mile of the route, it is going to be very special.”
Spires initially heard about the Boston bombing while in a meeting with the Hamilton County mayor. His phone buzzed. A text from his daughter told him she had just witnessed the bombing on TV.
Spires leaned over to the mayor to show him the text. The mayor sent a message to his control center in Hamilton County. Additional reports confirmed the initial text sent by Spires’ daughter.
“The first thing that flashed through my mind is my daughter has stood in the same vicinity of where the bomb occurred when I was in a race,” Spires recalled. “My wife has. It was very personal at that time. It was something I was kind of shaken up about.”
He remained in a state of shock the remainder of the meeting. A text sent out to fellow runners reflected his feelings. The act, which happened roughly 1,000 miles away, immediately felt personal.
Several months later, the same group of runners announced its intentions to lead a relay to Boston.
He encouraged people to visit the website runnowrelay.org and Facebook page facebook.com/runnowrelay. A GPS device will allow those interested to observe the path of the runners over the course of the relay. He said any encouragement and donations for the nonprofits would be appreciated.
Spires pointed out almost all of the 26 participants are everyday, average runners.
“For the most part, if you went out to the Greenway, these are the runners you would see,” Spires said. “There are a lot of us that run a lot of races, but in general, this is just good ole American everyday enjoyable runners that are going to run all the way to Boston.”