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Danny Bent, left, one of the organizers of the One Run for Boston charity relay, hands off the baton on Thursday, April 10, 2014, to Bart Yasso, chief running officer of Runner's World magazine. The relay to benefit survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing finishes April 13, 2014, at Boston's Copley Square / Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY

WALNUTPORT, Penn. -- During a calm, mild night in this quiet borough of 2,000 settled by German immigrants, a group of runners mingled in a church parking lot Thursday, helping each other clip on night lamps and making small talk.

Bart Yasso, chief running officer of Runner's World magazine and a personality among runners, cracked jokes and said hello to runners he knew.

Suddenly, there was a twinkle a couple of blocks downhill along Main Street. The group in the parking lot began to whoop and clap. The twinkle got bigger and came closer. It was a crush of runners carrying the baton for the One Run for Boston. The charity relay to benefit survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing started almost four weeks ago in Santa Monica, Calif., and ends Sunday in Boston.

As One Run organizers Kate Treleaven and Danny Bent and the rest of the baton group neared the parking lot, the shouts got louder. As both groups met, there were hugs and pats on the back. The organizers handed over the baton to Yasso, who would lead the next stage. They also gave him a pair of red shorts, similar to a pair worn by Bent during the relays last year and this year.

There was little fanfare from locals, except for friendly questions from two men looking on from a porch. But the stages on Thursday and Friday mark the beginning of the last stretch of the relay that started almost four weeks ago in Santa Monica, Calif., and winds up Sunday in Boston.

Yasso is a returning runner to the relay. He also took part in last year's inaugural relay.

"It think the world of Danny and Kate and Mary," he said of the organizers and volunteer Mary Hoatlin.

Yasso, who was at the marathon when the bombing took place, said that among those who were badly injured, only one was a runner. "It rallied the running community even though the runners weren't really attacked," Yasso said, explaining the explosives were placed near spectators.

Returning runner Steffi Park Eger got a surprise last year when she signed up for the relay and learned Yasso would be joining her. The marathoner and ultra marathoner said she and five others of the eight in her group last year are returning because the experience was special.

"There's no way I wouldn't do this again," said Park Eger, 41, of Telford, Penn. "I love doing things to support a larger cause than myself."

Runner Scott Allender showed up in Walnutport to cheer on other runners. The 53-year-old physician from Chadds Ford, Penn., ran several stages last year and is doing the same this year. He and others have made close friends with the other runSince seners.

"This group, it's indescribable," Allender said.

Organizers Bent and Treleaven said they are having a hard time processing how they feel about the whole thing because the experience has been planning and labor intensive, and most times, they are figuring out the mechanics of getting to a stage or organizing the final miles. The two friends and one other friend, all from the United Kingdom, organized the relay after watching with horror coverage of the bombing on TV.

Since setting off from Santa Monica, they have spent days running, following runners in a vehicle donated by Toyota, or doing interviews. At night, they've slept in the car or in people's homes, and occasionally in a hotel.

"How four weeks has passed since we got off, I have no idea," Bent said.

Treleaven smiled at the runners around her in the parking lot, some reuniting as they hugged.

"This is what it's all about," she said. You see all these people and how they connect."

The baton reaches the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial Friday afternoon.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: One Run for Boston enters final three days

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