The small party in fluorescent yellow shirts continued to laugh, smile and reminisce with family and friends even as lightning split the sky.
It would seem more than thunder and strong winds were needed to put an end to the Run Now Relay celebration.
After all, these were the men and women who voluntarily ran 1,000 miles in honor of the Boston Marathon bombing victims.
The experience gave the runners a host of new memories, newfound friendships and one more presentation to make.
Relay Runner Duane Goff asked Bradley County Fire and Rescue Chief Troy Maney and Captain Stony Mathews to join him at the front of the pavilion.
“For those of you who don’t know, along the run we were in Washington, D.C. What they did was they came out and surprised us with a flag,” Goff said as he held aloft a frame with a folded flag inside. “This American flag was flown over the Capitol for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Everyone knows how much that affected all of us, including the Fire and Rescue and Emergency Medical Services.”
He said the BCFR supported the Relay runners throughout the 1,000-mile journey. Those involved in the relay decided the best place for the flag was with one of the fire departments. Maney promised a place would be found for the framed flag at headquarters on Inman Street.
Goff said it would be representative of what the runners accomplished on the recent Run to Boston.
Saturday marked two months and two days since the group finished its journey.
Several runners agreed the once in a lifetime experience seems almost surreal now.
“I remember it vividly, but it is almost like it seems like it was in a different portion of my life, because there was so much effort expended,” said Madison Torrence of the experience. “It was a lot of fun, but definitely a surreal experience.”
He and his wife, Vanessa, joined the relay together and have since fielded many questions from friends, family and co-workers about their experience.
“The running was the easy part,” Vanessa said with a laugh. “Not sleeping was one of the hardest parts, at least for me. One of the best parts were the people.
“I’ve just never met a group of people who are just good-hearted people. They had such great intentions.”
Fellow relay runner Yuri Davis agreed the participants definitely added a lot to the experience. This was a surprise for Davis as he did not know any of his fellow runners before jumping in the car the first morning.
In no time at all, the Blue Boston Boomerangs, comprised of Davis, Tricia Sherlin, Ben Williams, Jaime Barks and Duane Goff, took to various social media platforms to share their laughter-filled experiences.
Davis added, “Without a doubt, the thing that will stick will be the friendships.”
Shane Melton of the Green Machine relay team explained the friendships did not stop with the final steps into Boston.
He said he knew very few of the people on the various teams when he joined several weeks before the launch date. He said the friendships will stick.
Melton noted, “This morning five of us met and ran a seven-mile trail run.”
Chatter continued over the howl of the wind as the relay runners settled down for a 22-minute video created by Clark Campbell of the run’s best moments complete with sleep-deprived commentaries, location shots from Cleveland to Boston and lots and lots of running.
Each participant and support crew were presented with a medal. The bright orange ribbon stood out on the shirts of the beaming runners. Many thanks were passed out with the medals.
Relay participant Don Bennett, the oldest runner at 61 years of age, said thanks also needed to be given to the community.
“I realize what a joy it was to participate,” he said. “I realize how meaningful the Cleveland community is. We have an awesome community that supports projects so well.”
While the community did not run beside the relay runners, Bennett said the encouragement and financial support was appreciated just as much.
Bennett added, “I would hope the community could sense what we experienced — the fulfillment and joy we feel when we give of ourselves.”