Run Now Relay participants celebrated with friends and family at the official launch party held at the Holiday Inn Express Tuesday night.
Organizer Matt Ryerson provided another reason for celebration when he announced the group of runners has raised $45,901.
A burst of applause, cheers and hollers drowned out Ryerson’s update before he could finish listing the amount.
Runners initially wanted to raise $50,000 to split between Massachusetts-based nonprofit Dream Big! and the One Step Ahead Foundation. All money raised through sponsorships and donations will go directly to the nonprofits.
Bright “Run Now” shirts in hues of yellow and blue flashed through the hotel conference room as participants introduced friends and family members to their teammates.
Excitement buzzed in the air as Ryerson and fellow organizers addressed the crowd.
“We thank you,” Ryerson said to the gathered friends and family. “The runners wanted me to be sure to thank each of you. We are very aware we are leaving work, we are leaving responsibilities and we are leav-
ing [family] to carry the load for an entire week while we go crazy, running across the country.”
Matt Carlson later added to Ryerson’s thanks.
“I would like to say thanks to all of the families for supporting all of the runners,” he said. “It is because of you guys we get to train, we get to go ahead and dream and we get to raise money. Thank you for supporting the runners. If you guys weren’t there supporting us, we couldn’t do what we do.”
All 26 participants will meet at the 65 Roses 5K on Lee University’s campus Saturday morning. The group will run out at 8 a.m., 30 minutes before the start of the 5K. They will then run a mile to the downtown Courthouse. An official launch ceremony will begin at 8:45 a.m.
Local politicians will give their vote of support to the runners. Tim Spires will be the first one to start the relay, along with others interested in running beside him through the downtown residential area and onto the Greenway. The other participants will climb into the vehicles and head out of town.
Spires, who has spent countless hours on the Run Now Relay route, highlighted some of the areas the runners will experience firsthand.
These included Neyland Stadium; the area where Davey Crockett was born; the Bristol Motor Speedway; beautiful scenery through West Virginia; sites of historic battles from both the Revolutionary and Civil wars and the University of Virginia’s rotunda designed by Thomas Jefferson.
Added Spires, “For literally millions of steps, over eight-plus days, and a lot of hours around the clock, we will be running up there.”
The route will also take the runners through Baltimore, by the Liberty Bell, Broadway, Central Park, the ESPN studio and places like Ground Zero and Sandy Hook Elementary.
Organizer Fred Garmon explained the runners are continuing a strong tradition of Tennesseans volunteering for a good cause.
“People ask us why we are doing this, and I guess it is in our blood. In 1812, the battle of New Orleans, where freedom was fighting another foe. This time it was the British, and Tennesseeans were among those,” Garmon said. “It was there that the first moniker of the first nomenclature ‘volunteer’ was mentioned, because Tennessee volunteers made the difference.”
He went on to highlight Davey Crockett and his volunteers’ involvement in the Battle of the Alamo.
“It is not the British or the Mexicans, but last year we had another situation where freedom is fighting another foe,” Garmon continued. “The Volunteers once again heard that cry and jumped on the wagon with a lot of others from the running community around the United States.”
“So today we are not saying ‘Remember the Alamo.’ Today, we are saying ‘Remember Boston.’ For 1,000-something miles starting this Saturday, all the way, every day, every time our foot touches the ground, it is ‘Remember Boston.’”