For those who are unfamiliar with this unique event, “Run Now: Relay” is a tribute to those who died and who were maimed by the terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon almost one year ago. But it is more than a reflection on tragedy. It is a call to action by those who felt last year’s pain just a little more personally than some.
We refer to other runners.
We refer to other runners who call Cleveland, Tenn., their home.
We refer to other runners who are giving “The City With Spirit” a face and a voice in the wake of a murderous attack on athletes, their families and innocent observers some 1,000 miles away.
On April 12, a group of 30 local runners of different age groups, diverse backgrounds and multiple interests will depart our hometown on an eight-day journey, one that will span 72 cities. Doing what they do best, the group will let their legs do the talking. They will run to Boston in relay style. At all times, at least one person — but most of the time, more — will be running. Teammates will be in nearby vehicles or they will travel ahead in order to rest for their next anchor of the pavement run.
As is necessary for such human relays, whose members carry the baton of mankind, the group will stagger their individual starts — or using another vernacular, “leapfrog” — in order to complete the distance while staying true to the commitment of someone running at all times in the company of a slowly moving vehicle.
The trip is expected to take eight days with runners arriving sometime prior to the start of this year’s Boston Marathon.
Along the northeastern trek — most of which will utilize Highway 11 — and prior to its start, the group will attempt to raise $50,000 to be split evenly between two charities: the One Step Ahead Foundation and the Boston initiative, “Dream Big.”
Dream Big is a nonprofit in Boston dedicated to empowering girls through sports and physical activity. The One Step Ahead Foundation has promised to provide prosthetic legs for the children who lost theirs in last year’s bombing.
The 30 local runners each will provide $400 of their own money to be used for expenses and fuel. This will allow every penny and each dollar that is contributed by donors to go to the two charities.
“... If you donate, every penny goes to the charities,” according to Matt Ryerson, president and CEO of United Way of Bradley County Inc., himself a runner and one of the Relay participants. “We don’t want you to cover gas. We don’t want you to cover food. That is why these sponsorships helped so much.”
Once word of “Run Now: Relay” began to spread last year, sponsors came on board — quickly, voluntarily and unconditionally.
Among them are Don Ledford Automotive Center and general manager Debbie Melton who are donating four vehicles for the long trip; Coca-Cola which is providing 1,000 bottles of water and Powerade; Cooke’s Food Store which is supplying snacks for the journey; Dan and Janey Cooke who are feeding the group the entire trip via Panera Bread restaurants; and Holiday Inn Express which is providing shelter for the duration of the run.
Others include Men & Women of Action, People for Care & Learning and Shades of Grey Photography.
According to the “Run Now: Relay” website, which excerpts a 2013 article from the Cleveland Daily Banner, “The primary goal is to raise money and awareness — awareness that many of the victims of the bombing will have lifelong health issues and will need continued support throughout the recovery process.”
In the words of PCL’s Fred Garmon, one of the local runners, “At least 14 survivors in Boston lost limbs. Some were double amputees.”
Another runner and strategic player in the Relay’s planning is Cameron Fisher of the Church of God International Offices. In his running world, Fisher also goes by a term of affection, “Mr. Greenway.” He is no stranger to planning and his commitment to running has taken him to destinations around the globe.
Those wishing to donate to “Run Now: Relay” may do so by visiting the website at www.runnowrelay.org. Additional information is available at PCL by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 423-478-7071.
We will have more to say about this humanitarian journey in weeks to come.