A mixed bag of runners
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Apr 08, 2014 | 2291 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Run Now Relay nears its start
RUN NOW RELAY runners gather together for a lighthearted photo with less than a week to go until their jaunt of more than 1,000 miles begins. The participants come from all walks of life, and with varying degrees of experience in the running community.
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An elite runner, a mother of two, a city planner and a local high school teacher set out for a 1,000-mile relay to Boston ...

This sounds like the set-up to a joke. Instead, it is a very real list of several participants who make up the Run Now Relay team.

Johnny Clemons, Jaime Barks, Corey Divel and Ben Williams have come together from all walks of life for one purpose: responding to the Boston Marathon bombing with a little goodwill toward man. The four will join 22 others determined to run relay-style to Boston, in time for the Boston Marathon.

All 26 runners pledged early on to pay their own way at $400 a person. Money for necessities and fun activities along the way will be paid out-of-pocket. This means all of the donations to Run Now Relay and the $2,000 raised by each participant will be split between Massachusetts-based nonprofit Dream Big! and the One Step Ahead Foundation.

Clemons said he first heard about the effort from Run Now participant and former college teammate Melissa Steve. The elite runner liked what he heard and decided to join the cause. However, instead of running the standard 7-mile daily leg, Clemons announced his intentions to run a marathon a day.

This will mean eight marathons over the course of the relay. He will then cap his physical exertions by participating in his third Boston Marathon. After the world-renowned marathon on April 21, Clemons will have run 235.8 miles in nine days.

The ultra-marathon champ said he is excited for the challenge.

“I feel like even though it is a lot of mileage, I feel no pressure and I’m not worried about anything. I am just going to be out there running. I am not going to be out there racing,” Clemons said. “When I get to Boston, I have a little goal for myself to be as fresh as I can be, and recover after every marathon as fast as possible.”

It turns out the hardest part for Clemons might be the time spent away from his wife and children.

“My daughter every day says, ‘I miss you, Daddy. I love you more than my food and my clothes,’ and then she hugs me,” Clemons said. “She doesn’t want me to go.”

The former Ohio University and Lee University athlete is not the only one setting goals. Cleveland High School teacher and coach Williams plans to challenge himself as well.

“Johnny and I were talking and he was saying he was going to do a marathon a day,” Williams said. “And I said, ‘Well, I will do a half marathon a day.’ I will be like Johnny.5.”

Habitat for Humanity executive director and fellow Run Now Relay participant Matt Carlson was the first one to mention the relay to Williams. He said the group would like to have Williams on the team, if he could make it work with his school schedule.

Williams considered the proposal, brainstormed and went before the Cleveland Board of Education to gain support. He promised to make on-the-road instructional videos to be recorded and watched during the relay. The videos will correlate with various stops along the relay route.

The physical science and environmental science teacher said he wanted to do the videos. Ideas involve the Bristol Motor Speedway, Neyland Stadium and coal mines. The hardest part will be working with the random relay schedule and making the videos relevant for both subjects. The shooting, editing and uploading of the videos will take about four to five hours a day.

The videos will be uploaded to an online educational platform already used by Williams’ students. Each upload will include a video, questions and additional resources via video links. The last day Williams is absent will be a comprehensive overview of the entire trip.

Aside from creating lessons for his students, Williams looks forward to getting to know his fellow Run Now teammates.

“There are so many different people ... who are so good at so many different things,” Williams said. “We have people who have never run anything over a 5K, or even a 5K at all. I love a good story, and I can see 26 very good stories unfolding over these eight days.”

“I am very excited to see that and getting to know these other runners.”

Cleveland City Planner Divel found himself with substantially less time to train than he originally believed he would have.

He kept telling himself to sustain until the end of January when his master’s of business administration would be complete. Two weeks from the end of his program, his house burned down. The father of four and his wife found themselves in a new apartment, and on the receiving end of support from their community.

Between the aid offered his family by Cleveland and the sponsors who have met his $2,000 pledge, Divel is brimming with goodwill.

“If you give people the chance, they can really surprise you,” Divel said. “I have really been fortunate.”

The support helped him catch up on his fundraising commitment and Divel has managed to find sporadic times to train — like running six or seven miles at 1 a.m.

“I am a very average runner. I am not what I would consider a strong runner. I come [to work] and tell my coworkers I ran 10 miles before 8 a.m. on Saturday and they think I am an amazing runner,” Divel said. “I tell them that is an average pace, not even close to amazing.” 

He pointed toward strong runners on the Run Now team like Clemons.

“I am nowhere near that. I met someone the other day who asked if I was the guy who was going to run a marathon a day,” Divel said with a laugh. “I was flattered that someone looked at me and thought I could do that.” 

Fellow Run Now participant Barks never thought she would be a part of a relay team, much less one running over 1,000 miles.

According to Barks, her sister initially talked her into training for a half-marathon at Disney World. She discovered the exercise helped with the post-partum depression she developed after the birth of her second son.

“It really helped me cope,” Barks said. “It gave me something I could control, and gave me balance and consistency in my life at a time where there was no balance or consistency.”

The self-proclaimed “junior runner” has been a part of the running community for 2 1/2 years. Melissa Steve was also instrumental in convincing Barks to join the relay team. The two of them have been training alongside Tricia Sherlin for several months.

She recommends the exercise for all moms, and not just because of the alone time it offers.

“Running for this in the last year, I’ve tried to do a couple runs a week with other women. That has been amazing,” Barks said. “I never imagined I would run 10 miles and talk [while running], but I have gotten to a place where I can. We have amazing conversations, talking about everything from silly to serious.”

Discover who else is running to Boston and what the event is all about at runnowrelay.org.