Russell Completes Epic Run Across Blue Ridge Parkway, Celebration at AMB on Wednesday

Published Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 4:08 pm

By Jesse Wood

Consider these ridiculous stats during RaysWeather.com owner Ray Russell’s epic run across the Blue Ridge Parkway in May and June:

  • 24 days
  • 468.2 miles
  • 89 hours 27 minutes and 35 seconds
  • 55,720 miles of elevation
  • 794,877 steps
  • 57,926 calories
  • and 1 new grandbaby?
Ray and Russell resting after some "busy" days. Photo courtesy RelayWithRay.com

Ray and Russell resting after some “busy” days. Photos courtesy RelayWithRay.com

That’s right. Less than an hour before Russell, who was wearing a Fitbit tracker, finished his two-week long run across Southern Appalachia, Russell’s new grandson, Russell Gorman Berry, was born in Raleigh.

“It’s been a really exciting day,” Russell said, a few hours after finishing the run last week and hearing news of little Russell entering this world about the same time.

Grandpa Russell thought of attempting this feat – dubbed the Relay with Ray – as a way to acknowledge and celebrate the National Park Service’s centennial and the national treasure that is the Blue Ridge Parkway. Relay with Ray served as a fundraiser and volunteer outreach for Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It also served as a promotion of www.BRPWeather.com.

Throughout the trip, Russell was joined by a cast of characters, who would drop in for a mile or 20, supporting his effort and providing a little company along the way. For periods of time, Russell ran with a cancer survivor who was back to running marathons; a former alcoholic/drug addict who ran to instill discipline in his life and recovery; and a business owner from Sparta who was once featured on Shark Tank – just to name a few examples.

Halfway through the run, Russell said, “I would say the highlight so far is that I’ve been able to run some miles with people I didn’t know, and every single one of them has a great story to tell. They are just great people,” Russell said.

Ray Russell high-fives all of the Parkway Elementary School students that came to cheer on Russell as he attempts to run across the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Ray Russell high-fives all of the Parkway Elementary School students that came to cheer on Russell as he attempts to run across the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by Ken Ketchie

He was even cheered on by a few dozen fourth graders from Parkway Elementary School as Russell entered the High Country stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was about the halfway point of his entire run. This was kind of fitting as Russell’s children went to Parkway School and his wife taught there as well.

Along the way, Russell chronicled the nooks and crannies of the Blue Ridge Parkway and documenting the journey daily with photos, video, social media and blogs at www.RelayWithRay.com. Russell noted that the demand of illustrating his trip via the different mediums on top of the actual run and the constant toll it took to care for the body was “the hardest thing of all.”

Ray and Don Lister, the only other person known to run across the entire Blue Ridge Parkway, at the Southern Entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 469

Ray and Don Lister, the only other person known to run across the entire Blue Ridge Parkway, at the Southern Entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 469

“I think it’s safe to say that I am far more mentally exhausted than physical exhausted right now,” Russell said in the interview hours after finishing the entire run last week.

Which is amazing to think about – as Russell ran three-quarters of a marathon every day for nearly four weeks straight. Remember he took nearly 800,000 steps and by the end of the run, he ascended more than 55,000 feet in elevation gain.

“I really feel I could get up and run 20 miles tomorrow,” Ray said last week. “I’ve never done something like this before. Sometimes your body adjusts and adapts to what you are doing and learns to manage it.”

Ray mentioned that the only other person known to accomplish this feat is Don Lister, and Lister remarked similarly to Russell that his body felt better at the end of the run than it did in the middle.

On Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m., RaysWeather.com is hosting a “Thank You” party to sponsors and “relayers” for contributing to the success of the Relay with Ray.

Sponsors include:

The casual evening will feature pizza appetizers from the food truck and goodies from Appalachia Cookie Company. A portion of beer sales for the month of June will go directly to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.

For more information about the celebration event, click here.

See the stats here.

Read the blog here.

Contribute to the Relay With Relay fundraiser here.

 

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