The Great American Relay has crossed the designated finish line in Santa Monica and come to an end after 36 continuous days of runners racing together across the country.
The one-of-a-kind relay began back in Boston on Sept. 15. The race was broken up into 379 stages and allowed participants to pass a real baton off to their peers in places like Philadelphia, St. Louis and many, many others.
Each stage was between 5 and 22 miles but most were around 10, according to the relay’s race director Vince Varallo, who had to run a couple dozen miles himself after a no-show one morning.
Most of the time though, Varallo was trailing racers in a rental car that took him across the country for the event after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of so many marathons and 5Ks.
“I’m a runner and all of our events in the running group were canceled so I started this relay because I wanted to do something for the runners that was an actual event,” Varallo said, mentioning the relay also allowed participants an opportunity to raise money for the American Association for Cancer Research.
More than 1,000 people across the country followed along with the race happenings on Facebook and some participants found themselves emotional when it came to a close.
Before the group of local finishers settled on the bluffs to pose with each other, sign a commemorative banner and celebrate with the baton in the Pacific Ocean, Suzanne Barron said she was glad to be involved in the race.
“We can all feel good about what we’re doing out here. I mean, there’s many reasons to — we’re out here being good to our bodies by running, which is something that most of us Boston Buddies haven’t been able to do in the pandemic. So, we’re so fortunate to be not only be able to run, but at the same time, we’re raising money for something so important that touches everyone’s lives.”
Fellow Westside resident Leslie Cohen agreed with the sentiment, stating, “It was absolutely amazing to be part of something like this. And another part that made it special was being able to do it completely on our home turf.”
“This is an area that our team pretty much runs every day so to take an everyday thing and turn it into such an iconic run was epic,” Cohen said, “And then, at the same time, seeing it through the eyes of others back on the East Coast was also beautiful.”
Cohen thanked her group of fellow runners, which included Barron, Ashley McLeish, Emily Nguyen, Lydia Munoz, Lilia Gonzalez, Lucy Torres, Jill Fischer, Amy Chavez, Linda Whitehead, Deike Peters.
“We couldn’t have done it without the racers who ran before us too,” Cohen said. “We all had to rely on each other to bring it home.”