Saturday, May 3, 2008

Magic at the Relay for Life

In 1984 Dr Gordy Klatt ran 83 miles in 24 hours at the first Relay for Life. His goal to raise money for cancer research. Over the years, this has become one of the country's most popular fund raising events, with thousands of participants. I have personally lost close family members to cancer.

In 2006, I signed up as a one person team at the Rockingham County Relay for Life. Most teams consist of 10-15 people who take turns walking a track for about 12-13 hours(or an hour each). My goal was to run, not walk, the entire event by myself. Word of my one person "relay team" spread and soon I found myself on the evening news and in the local paper.

The Relay for life began at 6:30pm on May 11th. I registered myself as a one man team and quickly the organizers knew that I was the crazy guy who was attempting to run the entire night. Soon I was escorted by a TV reporter for an interview and some sound bites for the news. It felt strange to be in the spotlight for running, especially since I never considered myself a great runner. It was a great opportunity to tell the world about both my grandmothers who faught cancer, and how I planned to run 70 miles in their honor. Every hour of the run would represent one month they battled this disease. By 9:00pm the festivities were on full blast, and there were hundreds of people walking the track. For the first four hours I found myself weaving slowly through crowds of walkers, and other folks standing around enjoying the night. I never took into account the large masses of people I would be running against. After midnight things started to thin out and quiet down. Many people now realized that I was not joking about running the entire night. I had completed my first marathon and was in a nice groove. The night brought temperatures in the low 40's, and it got downright chilly in the early morning. I had set up a table with food and drink by the side of the track, along with a mileage chart that showed people how far I had run. Many people stopped to look at my display and learn why I was doing what i was doing.

By about 3:30am I had completed 50 miles. I was getting tremendous support from everyone at the event. Adults and kids would take turns running, or walking with me, and would continue to join me until the end of the run. I was told that I was an inspiration to others and soon a few folks were also running as long as they could. People came by to give me free food and drinks. I even had a few songs dedicated to me by my "fans". I was being cheered on every lap, and when my feet were sore, people continued to tell me to keep going.

At 8:00am exactly I finished 70 miles. 280 laps. My feet were so sore from running 13.5 hours on pavement. For the next month or so people would stop and tell me they recognized me from the Relay for Life. I was the guy who ran 70 miles. Although many better runners could have run further, I was the first the try it at the Relay for life. The record still stands as the most miles run in an overnight event. The fanfare died off. The news of my run stopped. However, it still remains as one of the most memorable nights of my life.

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