On June 27, 2013 I had the honor and privilege to participate in the One Run for Boston. One Run For Boston is the first ever non-stop running relay across America starting in Los Angeles on Friday, June 7, 2013 and finishing in Boston on Sunday, June 30, 2013. It was an opportunity for me and fellow Central PA runners to do something awesome to show our support for the city of Boston and the people whose lives were forever changed on April 15, 2013.

The One Run route.

The One Run route.

It was an evening in late May when I was on Facebook and I saw somebody post about the One Run for Boston running through our area and I immediately shared the information with friends and local running groups. Even though I was one of the first to learn about the run, I was late in signing up since I was not sure if I would be in running condition three weeks out from the Laurel Highlands Ultra but I made a promise to run with Ethan if I was capable in doing so. His leg was from Ebensburg to Cresson. I signed up four days before the run.
Ethan’s leg was scheduled to begin at 4:50 in the morning. I figured he could use the company. Ethan Imhoff ran the Boston Marathon in April. His account of the race can be read here on my blog.

That doesn't look like a trail to me... way to go, Johnny B! (Near Homewood, PA)

That doesn’t look like a trail to me… way to go, Johnny B! (Near Homewood, PA)

In the days before the run, as I tracked the relay’s progress across Indiana and Ohio, I kept constant tabs on its progress. Everything was on schedule until after Homewood near Pittsburgh when a runner, not scouting the course beforehand, had to bushwhack through the woods when a trail that was supposed to be on the northern side of the Monongahela River across from Homewood was grown in. As the course snaked its way from Homewood, Turtle Creek, Harrison City to Delmont, the relay was about an hour behind. Doubting it but still leaving it to chance and luck that it might pick up some time, I decided the best thing to do is to be at the exchange point at the predestined time. I went to bed at 10pm and set my alarm for 3:30am. (Tribune-Democrat story on morning of the run.)
I woke up at 3:30, had my usual pre-run breakfast of Nutella on sandwich thins and a banana. I got to Ethan’s house at 4:10am. Krista Gill – a fellow running group friend – who was running the leg from Laurel Summit to Ebensburg had text messaged Ethan that she had not yet received the baton and that they were going to be late. Ethan and I decided to hang out at his place for an hour before leaving. The plan was for us to take each of our vehicles to Cresson to leave my car there and then for me to hop into Ethan’s car and park it in Ebensburg. We would then run to Cresson then Ethan and I will drive to Hollidaysburg where Ethan had enough time to shower and change and next be picked up by his coworker who would drive Ethan to his office in Ebensburg.
After receiving a text from Krista than she was halfway through, we drove up the mountain and dropped my car in Cresson where many of the runners for the Cresson to Duncansville relay were already congregating and a reporter from the local newspaper (Central Cambria County Mainliner) and a TV news camera from the local NBC affiliate already arrived at the predestined exchange point at the end of our section.

Lake Rowena at sunrise.

Lake Rowena at sunrise.

We arrived in Ebensburg and dropped Ethan’s car at the county lot and walked to the UniMart along Route 22. Since we were supposed to run at 4:50, I was prepared to run in the dark and had an orange day-glo shirt, headlamps, and other reflective accessories. I ditched them and put on a grey Foxtrot Runners shirt instead. After 15 minutes of waiting, the news videographer from the local CBS station arrived saying that the relay team was coming down the hill. Soon enough, Krista Gill, along with two other runners, were running down the hill on Route 22, escorted by the state police. Tired and sweaty from the run, we talked only briefly, told the state police that they were not needed for our section, and staged a hand off for the cameras and we were off. We began running at around 6:39am.
Our route took us down a back street from the UniMart to Old Route 22 where we would then run east for seven and a half miles to Cresson. Not too far from the start, Ethan and I decided to stop at Lake Rowena and by chance we got a great shot of me at the lake with the sunrise in the background. We also wondered if the baton would float but with the screws loose at the top of the baton and duct tape holding it together, we opted not to take it for a swim. The duct tape at the top of the baton clued us in that something must have happened along its journey.
Ethan was reflective, realizing he has never held an object that actually been handed from person to person all the way from the Pacific Ocean at Los Angeles, through the deserts of the Southwest, across the Rockies, through the Plains and Midwest and finally here on its trip to Boston.
Our leg, on Old Route 22, offered two big hills, the first was what locals call Anderson Hill then down into and out of Kaylor Hollow. The two hill climbs were long but nowhere near as bad as I thought they were going to be and we climbed up and out in no time. The stretch from Munster to Cresson, which I thought would be fast and flat, turned out to be slower and more rolling than I expected. Ethan and I ran at a conversational pace and talked about other runs in Cambria County and I gave Ethan a little bit of a history lesson along the route. I grew up in Cresson until the second grade. Even though I had two longer runs since Laurel, this had been the longest road run I had since the Pittsburgh Marathon. My right leg was a bit stiff and it seemed like I got a significant imbalance between both legs. It was a discomfort that running on the trails tends to mask.
The last hill before Cresson there was once a dairy farm called Emerald Dairy, now part of Mount Aloysius College. What was unique about this farm was that instead of the milk cows roaming in a pasture, the cows roamed under the cover of a forested canopy. My dad and I would walk among these woods when I was a little child. I realized on that run that it was here that I started my love of strolling through the woods which would eventually evolve into trailrunning.

The Foxtrot Group led by Adam McGinnis (second from right)

The Foxtrot Group led by Adam McGinnis (second from right)

We gained speed running down the hill toward Admiral Robert Peary Park, the disputed homestead of the disputed birthplace of the disputed first person to set foot on The North Pole. (The homestead may not be exactly on the homestead, many believe he was actually born in Gallitzin and although he was credited for being the first to the North Pole for most of the 20th Century, many now believe he might have been short by 5 miles.) (See The NBC affiliate coverage of the run. Forward to 7 minutes and 40 seconds) We then made the exchange to Adam McGinnis of Foxtrot Runners and a few of his more faster friends climbed the Cresson Summit before picking up the rest of the runners at the Lemon House. Now together, they run downhill all the way to Duncansville via Allegheny Portage Railroad National Site’s 6-to-10 Trail. I’m sure nowhere in the entire relay had a section of singletrack like the upper part of the 6-to-10 Trail. At Duncansville, Adam and his crew make the exchange to Denise Claycomb and Tina Kunstbeck who were also at Boston that day as well as the Altoona Mirror’s William Kibler who wrote this account. For Denise, One Run for Boston was one of the most memorable runs she have had to date. She said she felt like she was part of a close running community and was proud to be a called a ‘runner.’ In Boston when the bombings happened she wasn’t in a position to help… she was more concerned with her family’s immediate safety amid the confusion. As the months past, it bothered Denise that she had not gone back to the finish area that day to help… even though she didn’t know how. That was before One Run for Boston.
“This relay allowed me to feel like I could put closure to that day. I ran thinking about those who lost their lives that day, my fellow marathoners that were robbed of their chance to finish one of the greatest marathons there is, and of my family that was there supporting me. I was ever so grateful that we were safe” she wrote to me explaining her thoughts about the run.

From left to right: Joel Noel, Joe Franco, Denise Claycomb, and Tina Kunstbeck hand off to the next relay runner.

From left to right: Joel Noel, Joe Franco, Tina Kunstbeck, and Denise Claycomb hand off to the next relay runner.

After her relay, a runner from the Harrisburg area along with his wife took the baton and ran along a busy and now two-lane Route 22 through eastern Blair County from Canoe Creek State Park to Alexandria. Exchanging in Alexandria, several more runners from our area like Jim Kilmartin, Van Allen, Mizpah Glenny, and others ran the baton through downpours from Alexandria and toward Greenwood State Park. The storms were pretty intense, dropping a small yet rare tornado in the next valley to the northwest.
Four days later, Nicole Reis approached the Boston Marathon finish line in Copley Square holding the baton aloft as her father, John Odom, and other spectators proudly cheered her on a few feet away from a sidewalk along Boylston Street. Much of the scene matched how it was supposed to have happened 2½ months ago, except most noticeably the time — about 12:45 a.m. Monday — and that Odom sat in a wheelchair.
His leg was severely injured by one of two bombs that exploded near the finish line as he stood waiting to see his daughter. Nicole was stopped by race organizers before she could finish, not knowing what had happened to her daughter. But, early Monday morning, he was wheeled out to join her at the end of the course and they crossed the yellow-and-blue painted finish line together.
Reis was one of hundreds of runners to stream across the finish line on the last leg of the One Run for Boston. In all, more than 1,000 runners cut through countrysides and cityscapes, the last leg of the 3,300-mile relay race finished in Copley Square nearly 24 days after it began.