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FERGUSON, Missouri — When Londrelle Hall and Ray Mills heard about the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, they decided they wanted to do something not only to pay tribute, but also to change the image of African-American men. That's when the pair decided that they would run more than 540 miles from Atlanta to Ferguson, Missouri, in hope of making a difference.
Neither of the men considers himself a runner; in fact, both have full-time jobs — Mills, 29, running a credit repair company in Atlanta and Burbank, California, and Hall, 28, as a videographer and artist. But when they heard about the killing, Hall said, it gave them a reason to run.
"I had a reason to run, not to run from my problems, but to run towards a problem and run for the problems of the world and the problems of America and what's going on now." he said.
The two men took a few weeks to train before embarking on a journey that took them through five states in rain, sleet, hail and snow, over 20 days, running and walking about 35 miles per day, leading them to the Michael Brown memorial in Ferguson where the teen was shot.
"You look at the news on TV for so long, then you make the decision to come, to run, and then you finally get here, and it's like, 'Wow,'" Mills said. "It really took the breath out of me. I was at a loss for words finally arriving.
"While Brown was the inspiration for Mills and Hall to "run for justice," their mission became about more than just the Ferguson teen.
"Statistically, it seems like in our community we [black men] are incarcerated or doing nothing. We want to go against the grain and not be another statistic, and we wanted to inspire other people to do the same." Mills said. Hall agreed, adding, "We want to show that people who look like us can be doing something positive."
The run wasn't always easy for the Atlanta natives, but along the way, they gained a following on social media that kept them going. Together, they got 50 to 60 inspirational texts from their followers per day.
Some of their followers greeted them when they arrived in Ferguson. Kimberly Nash kept up with the runners through Hall's Instagram and took her 10- and 12-year-old daughters to the Brown memorial to watch the pair finish their run.
"They have a lot of strength and courage and are bringing more awareness to what happened in St. Louis and what happened to Mike Brown," she said. "I thought it was important to bring my daughters to see them finish."
A fraternity brother of Hall's was also in the crowd and said he felt proud that his brother was showing the community that they aren't alone.
Arriving at the Michael Brown memorial was emotional for both Hall and Mills — Hall broke down in tears. And their journey isn't over.
"The purpose of this was never forget, but to keep raising awareness of what's going on around us, so this is not the end," Hall said. "We will still run, not necessarily 540 miles, but we will still run."