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Anna Spivey taking her final steps in the 5000 Mile Run Club's relay at Northern Guilford High School this morning.

The applause built, a cowbell rang, and Greensboro's Anna Spivey crossed the finish line. But there were no high-fives, no hugs – just smiles and cheers as the gathering of runners and some of their families celebrated but maintained distance during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Spivey's last stride, closing a 94-second and final 400-meter victory lap for team members, brought the 5000 Mile Run Club to a total 5,055 miles for its continuous relay – and brought its journey to an end.

The 48 runners took 26 days, one hour, 31 minutes and 30 seconds to cover 5,055.23 miles, to be exact, on the track at Northern Guilford High School. In addition, the team raised $5,000 for BackPack Beginnings in Greensboro, and they celebrated via Zoom while joined by ultramarathon legend Michael Wardian and by Craig Engels, a Winston-Salem native who is the national champion at 1,500 meters.

Along the way, the Run Club surpassed the official Guinness world record (3,504.28 miles, set in 2012) and the I Move London relay in 2018, which had sponsorship from Asics, earned attention from Runner's World and was believed to have been the longest distance covered in a continuous relay at 4,104.52 miles. 

The team, formed at the inspiration of Rich Swor and which had a runner circling the track alone from 8 a.m. April 15 until 9:31 a.m. today, believes based on research that it has totaled the longest distance for a continuous relay. 

But just as the run club's title focused on a total and not a record, the socially distant team formed strong connections amongst themselves and found running purpose during a unique time in all of our lives. For most, the event was about much more than a record.

"It was during a time that I was struggling physically, because of the quarantine," said Spivey, a mother of two young boys who ran 203 miles. "I was starting to put on some pounds. My fitness level went way up. My V02 max went way up.

"But most importantly my mental state is so much better. It's helped me meet people whose names I've seen on race results, and now I get to see them in person – from a distance."

The pandemic, stay-at-home orders and work and family schedules that have gained some flexibility helped pave the way for the team to achieve its 20,339 laps. And during some uncertain days, the run offered structure. 

"It was an amazing outlet," said Tara Wommack, who gave birth less than three months ago and contributed 62 miles, averaging seven minutes and 33 seconds per mile. "There's not really a true end in sight with the quarantine; there's a lot of unknowns. But with this, it was like, 'I got my shift, I know what I'm supposed to do, I'm determined to do that.'

"You go home and you feel like, 'OK, I can handle whatever the news is going to throw at me.' It made it more bearable in these current circumstances. And without the stay-at-home order and the coronavirus, I don't think this ever could have happened. Silver linings."

Greensboro's Patrick Kane took a number of the overnight shifts on his way to 252 miles, the team's third highest total, pushing himself faster than usual along the way.

"I wasn't just running for me, I was running for 47 other people," Kane said. "It was a really cool thing to be on a team with some athletes who normally I just know of as local legends who are at the top of the leaderboards in all the races, and now I was suddenly doing something with them. I really don't know what I'm going to do for the rest of the quarantine, now that this is over."

The team decided to not absorb the costs or take on the verification required by Guinness. As for the mark being a world best, this one is, to the best of the runners' knowledge. Saying that with 100 percent certainty, though, is another thing for such a niche record, since it doesn't fall under the purview of any of running's official governing bodies.

In fact, a report on the team's achievements last week brought the runners in contact with Greensboro resident M.C. McCoy, who shared clips from his participation in a 1966 relay by New Jersey high school students covering 4,295 miles, longer than the London distance, and who took a victory lap with the Run Club today.

"This is more than a dream that just popped up out of nowhere," McCoy said. "My running days have never been out of my mind. The camaraderie is fantastic. It's awkward for me to think you guys did all of this, seeing everybody here, realizing that most of the time it was two people out here. I'm still trying to get my head around that."

Even for team members, the feeling might be mutual.

With the conquest complete, runners helped Swor and his wife, Libby, co-owners of Trivium Racing, pack the timing equipment into their van, while the Swors' young daughter Hazel sat on the walkway, playing with her Groovy Girls.

"Guys," Rich Swor said, "we're done."


Photos of today's run, followed by profiles of 5000 Run Club's runners:

Contact Eddie Wooten at (336) 373-7093, and follow @EddieWootenNR on Twitter.

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