The Alone Together Relay was not canceled. As Team Jamaica Pond Parkrun, on April 17- 18, the weekend that would have been Boston Marathon weekend, we ran together, we fundraised together, and we cheered together. Despite running each on our own, for 24 hours, we were definitely not alone. It happened on a Saturday, around Jamaica Pond quite a few times, and we ran at 9 am -- and the rest of the day as well.
The Alone Together Relay started with a few enthusiastic runners from Minnesota who wanted to bring runners together when they can’t physically be together. It grew to a worldwide phenomenon, 41 teams total, representing 6 countries. The rules were simple: The goal was to run for 24 hours straight, at least one mile every hour, or continuously, for the duration of the day. Every team was limited to 10 members but could be smaller, even brave solo-runners were welcome. Runners could run multiple shifts and for any amount of time, but they could not overlap with other team members. Each team and its various members could run outside, on the treadmill in their homes, or even around a block in their neighborhood. Hand-offs between runners were all made virtually over social media.
The Jamaica Pond parkrun team was comprised of 10 runners, Dan, Chrissie, Alex, Neil, Robbie, Summer, Colby, Rose, Zoe, and myself. We planned ahead by assigning different shifts, each of us taking between 2-3 hours in the day. Luckily, we had a parkrunner from the UK, Rose, to take the 2-4 am shift, which made assigning shifts easier. Our target goal was about 150 miles, somewhere between 6-7 miles per hour, and while we would give it our all, no one was out there to break any records, it was all in the spirit of fun. We also decided to keep track of how many laps around the pond our running would equate to, and of course how many parkruns that would equal.
The event got off to a momentous start, there was a Zoom and Facebook Live Opening Ceremony organized by Alone Together HQ, we took roll call by team and shared where we were from and Whitney Houston sang us off with her rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. The Zoom party continued all night and throughout the next 24 hours as the runners continued to keep up the miles outside and on the treadmill.
After a solid lead-off performance from Alex, 8.5 miles from 9 pm-10 pm, we were off to the races. Between each leg, we did a text handoff, sent a selfie to show we completed the run, and the next runner was off. And so it continued into the night. Most of the team went to sleep early to prepare for the next day as the torch was passed from Alex to Robbie to Neil to Rose. By the time it came back to Boston for Chrissie to run at 4 am, it was an all-out April Blizzard!
For the next few hours, we kept ticking off the miles as the team woke up to a blanket of white snow over the yellow spring flowers we ran past in shorts earlier in the week. Dan followed Chrissie and I was up at 6 am, ready to hit the slippery streets. The wind whipped through my raincoat and ice melted into my eyes. It was brutal. The streets were silent, maybe because it was 6am on a Saturday, maybe because it was a full-on winter snowstorm on an April day. By the end of the two hours, the snow shifted to freezing rain as I charged on, ready to report back to the team at 8 am.
14.5 miles later, I took my selfie and passed the baton to Zoe to continue the charge for the next hour. Summer was up at 9 am, the same time parkrun starts for a two-hour shift. The team was live with excitement as the first numbers starting coming in, posted by HQ on Instagram and were announced in the Zoom, we were in the top 3 for miles run so far. Half-way through the relay, here we go park-runners!
Nearly everyone had completed their first shift and it was time for round two. The team shifted from casually competitive to “in it to win it.” We were sore, but our text group filled with rain-soaked selfies and post-run rundowns blew up with new energy. With each shift, the team got faster and faster, the miles ticked by into the afternoon. By hour 20, it was announced we were in second place, just the freezing rain started to let up.
We put in a couple of fast hours, 8-9+ miles per hour became the norm as we fought towards victory. I was up at 6 pm for round two, legs heavy from 14.5 miles in a blizzard, but charged with the support of the team. In that final hour, I ran sub 8-minute miles for nearly every mile, dropping to the 7:40s towards the end of the hour. Unlike in a race, no matter how fast I went, the time ticked by slowly, an hour would have to pass eventually, but the faster I went the more endless it seemed. 22 miles completed over the course of a day and my shifts were complete.
Finally, it was off to Zoe and Dan to anchor the team. Shout-out to our anchor (and parkrun co-director) Dan for running the equivalent of a sub-3-hour marathon in three separate legs. Wow. When all was said and done, the team ran over 186 miles in 24-hours, nailing a second-place finish. That’s 128 loops around the pond and 60 parkruns for those keeping track at home. We celebrated ith a post-relay Team Zoom and Bring Your Own Ice Cream.
It may not have been the Boston Marathon weekend in Boston we all envisioned a few months ago, but we agreed, this was the most fun we’ve had since quarantine. We can’t wait to run together in real life, but until then, we’ll have to stick to being Alone Together.