There is a little baton named Miles Junior who spent the last month traveling in the sweaty hands of runners across the country. He made it to his final destination, the Finish Line on Bolyston Street in Boston, yesterday evening and served as a symbol of the solidarity against the senseless act of terrorism that hijacked The Boston Marathon last year. (Miles Senior, who made his way across the country last June, lives at the BAA offices).
But three weeks ago, Miles Junior was hanging out here in New Mexico, and Aaron, my dad, and I had the distinct privilege of carrying him for almost 35 miles between us in his cross-country journey.
To catch up anyone sitting there like, “HUH?”: The One Run For Boston is a cross-country relay that started in Santa Monica, CA on March 16th and ended in Boston yesterday, moving 24 hours a day, rain or shine (or tornadoes as the case was in Missouri). The concept was created by three British mates (see, I can hang with the British lingo!) who felt the overwhelming need to help the people of Boston who were affected by the bombings. Last year, they dreamed up this cross-country relay and brought it to fruition, and we were part of the inaugural run (you can read that recap HERE). Round Two was organized to conclude near the one-year anniversary of the bombings.
This year, we signed up for stages on Sunday, March 23rd somewhere in the western part of the state, south of Albuquerque. While our stages this year were much closer to home than last year’s, we still decided to drive an hour south and stay in a small town called Socorro overnight to prevent a very early morning trek out to Middle of Nowhere.
This year, we also decided to take Giuseppe with us on his first big overnight adventure.
Unfortunately, Giuseppe was on edge all night in the strange environment with strange sounds, and an unusually high number of people seemed to arrive at midnight, so none of us Lavenders got very much sleep. Aaron’s stage started at about 6:30 about an hour and a half away from the motel, so we got up at about 4:00 am after what I would call a 2-hour nighttime nap.
My dad had opted to stay in a small motel closer to Aaron’s start (smart man, that father of mine), so we drove out to pick him up before heading to the meeting point of County Road A095 (thank goodness the relay organizers provided coordinates, because we could just copy them into our GPS to get an exact location instead of trying to find A095 on our own in the dark open wilderness).
When we arrived at the start of Aaron’s stage, a man was waiting there for us in a pickup truck. That man, Scott, who flew in from Pennsylvania, had been traveling with the relay since Phoenix. His brother Will, who came in from Fort Collins, CO was the current runner with the baton. Will, who we met last year during the relay, was being supported by a woman from Phoenix named Amanda, and the Brits, Danny and Kate, who are some of the most awesome people you will ever meet, were with them.
We climbed out of the car to meet Scott (and gave hugs because this group of people is kind of obsessed with them), and realized that it was in fact freezing in a very unexpected way. About 17 degrees actually. When Amanda drove up, she was wearing an actual adult onsie covered in rubber ducks that they found in a K-Mart to keep her warm because she was similarly not anticipating an encounter with the tundra.
As we were all talking and devouring some Breaking Bad donuts that I brought, we saw a light slowly bouncing its way towards us, which turns out was Kate running with the Baton. Aaron prepared himself as best he could for the frigid 13 miler he was about to embark on.
Since the relay had fallen about half an hour behind, Aaron wasted absolutely no time in the hand-off (plus, it was cold and we all wanted to be back in our warm cars). With little to-do, Aaron started his stage into the sunrise. He reported later that ice formed on his beard.
As the sun came up, the temperature rose, and each time I stopped to give Aaron some water, he stripped off some layers. We slowly made our way closer and closer to Pie Town, NM where I would take over baton duties from Aaron.
I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of Pie Town before this relay, but apparently it is well know for (wait for it…) PIE. There are exactly two pie establishments in Pie Town and maybe 2 non-pie establishments. The place is tiny, but I was so excited to get to run through a place dedicated to Pie! Sadly, there was no pie to be had in Pie Town. Things didn’t open up until about 10:00 am, and despite some begging from some cold runners and friendly Brits, no doors were opened.
Thanks to Aaron’s super fast running skills, he ran into Pie Town about a half hour ahead of schedule. I asked the Brits if they’d rather we wait for a bit in order to keep the relay on time, or if I should just go for it. They decided it was best for me to keep going in case we got behind later in the day, so Aaron and I did our symbolic hand-off, and I started running. But first, I had to take a Miles Selfie in front of a Pie Town sign.
It was now almost 9:00 am, the sun was up, and the temperatures were warm enough for me to strip off my Boston Marathon long-sleeve pretty early into my stage. This year, unlike last year, we were so far ahead of schedule, that I had the luxury of really just enjoying my run. I was able to enjoy the scenery, take photos, and even upload some to the facebook group and instagram when I had data and cell service.
This year, Toyota donated the relay support vehicle, so Danny and Kate made it across the country in style, plus the car doubled as a moving autograph wall for runners to sign. Danny and Kate were great cheerleaders, blasting music next to me as I ran (they were belting out some song that I truthfully didn’t know, but it was nice all the same).
My support car with Aaron, my dad, and Giuseppe stopped every couple of miles to cheer me on with water and snacks.
It turns out that I had the highest elevation point of the relay. I was a bit worried, because 8,100 feet is about 2,000 feet higher than Albuquerque, but overall I was feeling pretty good and only noticed the lack of oxygen a couple of times. Whereas Aaron had the steep uphills, I had the long uphills,and while a year ago that might have been an issue for me, (uphill is my weakness in a big way), I actually felt really strong pounding out the uphill miles. At some point I crossed over the Continental Divide which was kind of cool (less cool though because I didn’t actually see the sign, and I had planned on a Miles Selfie).
The highest point was pretty easy to identify based on my ability to inhale, and after I hit the summit, the rest of the stage was glorious downhill.
Miles had been redesigned this year and was much easier to hold. I actually feel like I bonded more with him this year as we braved the wild west. I started thinking about all of the people who had held him before me, and all of the people who would hold him after, and as I was taking Miles Selfie pictures, I imagined all of the places that he would see and the landscapes that he would run though. He might be the most personified cylinder of plastic that I’ve ever met!
Before I knew it, I could spot the entourage at the side of the road, signaling that my 12 miles were almost up.
In addition to my support crew, I had hundreds of people following along via the facebook group (there was some sort of glitch with the baton tracker GPS for about 2 days, so they couldn’t see exactly where we were), and I was sad to know, that once again, my time carrying the baton for Boston and for the survivors was coming to an end.
My dad was taking over the baton for me, but two other people had signed up to run with him. We were still running ahead of schedule, and the other runners hadn’t made it to the meeting point yet, and this was one of those points without cell service. This turned out to be a good thing because Will, the IT guru of the relay who knew the secret to all baton issues, needed to do some surgery.
DeAnza is also from Albuquerque and she had three adorable little kids with her (her husband is serving with the military in Korea). Steve is a track coach/cowboy from a small town in that area called Magdalena, and looked to be a pretty serious runner type. He had his daughter, son-in-law, and adorable grandson with him.
Even though there wasn’t a true hand-off, they still headed into their 9 mile stage with a bang.
As they made their way with plenty of support from other people, Aaron and I took this opportunity to head toward their finishing point and take a nap.
About an hour later, slightly more rested than before, we saw the trio triumphantly running their last little bit, and I snapped a picture that was actually used in a USA Today video about the event!
They came to the end of their stage in a small town called Datil, and handed the Baton off to Matt, a runner from Albuquerque (originally from Boston) who was one of the qualifiers who didn’t get a spot in this year’s marathon.
As Matt made his way across New Mexico, we continued to bond with Brits, make friends with runners who had stages later in the day, and check out Very Large Array, which is a huge field of satellites in the middle of New Mexico.
And, I am happy to report that in all, I only had to pee on the side of the road TWICE this year which is about 1/3 of the amount of times I had to last year. I consider this a One Run For Boston victory.
Overall, I will say that the whole experience felt different this year, though not necessarily in a bad way. Last year, there were less runners and the focus was on getting the baton across the country. This year, the focus was on raising as much money as possible for the people most affected by the bombings. Everything felt far more emotional this year, and I can’t imagine what the atmosphere must have been like when the baton crossed the finish line last night, led by the survivors of the attacks.
Everyone is in a process of healing, and with the upcoming anniversary, I’ve heard that people from Boston are feeling very stressed and emotions are running high. I’m glad that an event like this exists to help facilitate some positivity and hope, and even possibly the celebration of resilience. Walkers/runners/people in wheelchairs were all invited to participate. To date, we have raised over $434,000 for the One Fund. People like me who couldn’t be at the finish line this year were able to run in solidarity with more than 2,000 baton-carriers across the country. The little baton I held for 12 miles was also carried by people who have overcome so much to be running today. Sometimes I forget that people are willing to stand up and help those in need. An event like this shows just how much can be accomplished by some big ideas and some running shoes.
And that is absolutely amazing.
“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
A special thanks to the wonderful blog friends who donated to my run: Hyedi, Dan, and Dominick. You can still donate HERE to the One Fund via my One Run For Boston fundraising page.