Run Now Relay runners laced up their shoes for one last group run — this time from Johnston Park in downtown Cleveland to the Bradley County Courthouse Plaza.
Family, friends and supporters unable to be at the official end of the 1,075-mile effort in Hopkinton, Mass., cheered and took pictures as the runners took their final steps Saturday morning.
County Mayor D. Gary Davis, Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, state Rep. Kevin Brooks and state Rep. Eric Watson congratulated the runners on their efforts.
Each runner received an “ambassadorship” award from one of the four men.
Run Now Relay organizer Matt Ryerson presented a flag flown over the capitol of the United States on Sept. 11, 2011, to the county and city mayors. The flag was originally presented to the Run Now Relay crew by a Tennessee elected representative on the group’s run through Washington, D.C.
Every runner and support crew member present had an opportunity to address the public:
- Matt Carlson of The Green Machine: “Thank you so much to the families who supported the runners. The runners could not have done this without the families saying, ‘Yeah, go ahead and take a week off of work and a week away from the family and go ahead and go on this amazing journey.’”
- Tim Spires of The Big Orange: “It was a team effort. Everyone was involved. The biggest team, I think, is the team standing out here right now who supported us all the way. Thank you for lifting us up the whole way. We hope we represented you well.”
- Corey Divel of The Big Orange: “I just want to say thank you to everyone. The community was so amazing. As ambassadors, you were all with us. Being the ‘City with Spirit,’ it was like you guys were really with us.”
- Duane Goff of the Blue Boston Boomerangs: “It is impossible to summarize the eight days of the trip and the months of preparation it took to put it together. It was amazing, and you guys were all behind us. All of the Facebook [posts], tweets and calls we got were fabulous. I cherish the friendships I made along the way and will forever, the rest of my life, be talking about the memories and stories we had on this trip.”
- Yuri Davis of the Blue Boston Boomerangs: “I know its been said, but you can’t say enough about the run relay team. They are some wonderful people, and I am so glad I got to know everybody. They are lifelong friends. I will remember everybody forever, and all of the support here in Cleveland.”
- Tricia Sherlin of the Blue Boston Boomerangs: “I can just ditto what everyone else has said. Being here, I guess, for around 10 years now, [Run Now Relay] has been a unifying experience for me ... Running is such a unifying sport altogether, but just as a city being able to do something collectively with purpose has been an amazing experience.”
- Ben “Johnny.5” Williams of the Blue Boston Boomerangs: “I had an absolute blast. We had fun ... The fact that we were able to actually accomplish something big through it was amazing. We would have just been a bunch of wackos running on the side of the road if it hadn’t been all of the money people pledged. I think we would have ran regardless, so you guys were the difference between us running just to be weird and us running with a mission and a purpose.”
- Matt Ryerson of the Mellow Yellow Submarines: “We could all say all day how much we appreciate you all and how supportive you were of us ... It was a crazy adventure.
“There were so many things we saw. What really impressed me was we saw a side of this country you don’t often hear about. We sit here, and we read the news, and we watch it on TV, and it is all bad. You always hear about the doomsday scenario ... well, we had the extraordinary opportunity to see the good side of this country.
“We saw people walking up to our vehicles and handing us lunch money and allowance and checks. They didn’t know who we were or what we were doing. We saw fire departments come out at 2 a.m. and turn on the lights and hand out water. We saw the best of this country.”
-Johnny “Marathon” Clemons of the Mellow Yellow Submarine: “It is good to be home. We went through a lot of cities and states, and there is no place like Cleveland. I am really glad to be back here.
“I guess the hardest part of the trip was I missed my wife and kids. I thought about them a lot. I had never been more than 24 hours away from them. That was definitely the hardest part.
“I really enjoyed this team. It was the grestest team I’ve ever been on. I’ve ran a lot of races in the past, but never has running ever meant this much.”
- Nikki Thomas of the Mellow Yellow Submarine: “When I found out I was going to be the only female for five days with five other men, I was a little scared. Matt put me at ease when he said, ‘Just think of us as brothers.’ So I had five brothers.
“I just want you to know that Fred brought joy with his ‘Frodos’ with our van every day. He made me enjoy where we were every day. And Matt, I know he had a lot of responsibilities and pressure, but he made everything look calm and easy. And then there is Johnny who is intimidating just because he was running a marathon everyday. He was just so easy to get to know, and I just appreciate my new brothers.”
-Fred Garmon of the Mellow Yellow Submarine: “This was truly an awesome experience ... Folks, I just want to lift up what Johnny did. It just dawned on me really last night. Shirley and I were driving and I said, ‘He ran a marathon everyday and then the Boston [Marathon] in under three hours.
“I had the opportunity of driving the van to keep up with him. That sounds funny, but it was literal. We would get up a half-mile and everybody would jump out of the van to go use the restroom or go get a cup of coffee. It is the middle of the night, and we are thinking we have plenty of time to do this. We are hustling and then there he would come by flying by with his light on. We would hustle to jump back in.
“I want to tell you I really know what community is. We live in a community, and you can’t see it defined and lived out any better than what it was with the Run Now Relay group. This is community. This is friendship. This is who Cleveland, Bradley County is. We are the City [with] Spirit.”
- Cameron Fisher of the Green Machine: “We were the only van that didn’t have any women in it. Whether that means they didn’t trust us with women or what, we don’t know, but it really added a lot to the dynamics of the van.
“I love the crew that I ran with. In fact, I want to say something about Allen [Nope] and the drivers. Every van had a designated driver, and some of them were actually running and driving both. Allen was our driver, and I did not want his job. We navigated the streets of New York City and Philadelphia. He had patience ... and was a trooper. I just want to say thanks to all of our drivers.”
- Shane Melton of the Green Machine: “Thank you, guys. You couldn’t have had a better group of people representing Cleveland. I didn’t know hardly any of them before, but I got to meet them and establish some lifelong friendships. It is a special group. Thank you, guys, for your support.”
- Allen Nope of the Green Machine: “Thank you for letting me be a part of this. It was a journey of a lifetime.”
- Robert Green of the Purple Pavement Pounders: “We had an amazing trip. The relationships really went deep. We met people from the Appalachian Trail. I met unique people while they were sleeping and photo bombed them.
“Overall, from my first run in Morristown all the way to Connecticut, what a beautiful run. What a beautiful opportunity to raise support for two great nonprofit organizations that are making a tremendous difference in New York City and Boston. It was a great privilege to be a part of such a great community.”
-Mike Watkins of the Purple Pavement Pounders: “It was really a great honor to be a part of this whole event, but especially with flight five.
“My adventure really started before we left Cleveland. My wife and I went to eat, and I had the shirt on after the send-off. The waitress asked me about the shirt, and she said, ‘I heard something about that. Can I give you money?’ And I said absolutely.
“Whenever I go anywhere and people ask me where I am from I am really proud to say Cleveland, Tennessee.”
- Cindy Moore of the Purple Pavement Pounders: “I just want to say what an honor it was to be a part of the team. I am glad I was asked. It was the journey of a lifetime. I think I put in our newsletter at church, ‘The running and the fundraising is what got us there, but really it was bout the journey, about the good people we met.’
“I cannot say enough about Mike Watkins and his driving. I would not have wanted his job. It may sound funny, but the running was the easy part. He even let us off in Philly and let us do some shopping. He went around the block a few times, which was way above and beyond the call of duty. Thank you.”
-Britney Cooke of the Purple Pavement Pounders: “I just want to thank everybody who let us go on this trip. It was an amazing, amazing journey. I don’t even know how to explain it. Ditto to everbody who has talked this morning. I am so proud to be a part of such an amazing community. I feel like I have friendships and bonds for a lifetime now.”
- Kyle Page of the Purple Pavement Pounders: “Let me just say this has been a humbling experience. So many different emotions have gone through me personally.
“I got the opportunity to drive all the way home. It was rather entertaining. About four hours into the drive home, I’m listening to music in my headphones and drinking Red Bull to try and stay awake [when I noticed something else going on in the background]. I popped [an earphone] out and I hear Mike. He is snoring away, to like the highest extent of his snore. The amazing thing was Britney was sleeping through it. Then, I started to have a conversation with someone in the back, and it was Britney talking in her sleep. Quite entertaining. There was so much we learned about one another in the last few weeks.
“All kidding aside, there are so many fine things that can be said. It was a very humbling, awesome experience — to be able to use our legs to do something [more] than just run.”
- Don Bennett of the Purple Pavement Pounders: “I had the good fortune of coming to Cleveland about 40-45 years ago, and I was so impressed when I came to see the community spirit. Then, 10 years ago, I returned to Cleveland, and I was startled to see this community still has [the same] spirit intact. I commend all of our elected officials and its citizens. The fact we are able to keep this community spirit going says a lot about its leaders and citizens.”
- Teddie Bennett of the support crew: “It was quite the adventure, especially to ride with the media team. Clark, Ivey and I were always there chasing the runners. I remember especially van one, we came upon them on the journey from Charlottesville to Washington D.C.— sleeting and there is Vanessa out making the change with the sleet coming down.
“Everywhere along the way it was just awesome.”
- Clark Campbell of the support crew: “It was crazy. It was crazy. It was crazy. I am finally recovering from fog brain.
“Our media vehicle, when we got back to Cleveland — 3,000 miles were on our vehicle.
“I want to say this about [the Cleveland Daily Banner] and Steve Hartline told our story every single day. Beyond that, News Channel 9, WRCB TV, WDEF — we had so much support from the Chattanooga, Cleveland area, but the biggest support was from you guys right here. Your support on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook was mind-blowing.”
Relay Runners and support crew who were unable to make the make it Saturday included: Jaime Barks, Dana Ayers, E.K. Slaughter, Melissa Steve, Madison Torrence, Vanessa Torrence, Chris Wilds, Lee McChesney, Robert Briggs, Ivey Lawrence and Craig Walker.