A group of runners Friday afternoon approached the finish line as “Gonna Fly Now” – the theme from “Rocky” – blared across the parking lot of Nature’s Pantry in Independence.

A group of runners Friday afternoon approached the finish line as “Gonna Fly Now” – the theme from “Rocky” – blared across the parking lot of Nature’s Pantry in Independence.

They were there for a larger purpose than running, though. The runners represented more than just a 3,000-mile journey across the United States, according to their organizer, the California-based naturopathic specialist Dr. Dennis Godby. Godby, along with his two sons, Isaiah and Jeremiah, and his nephew, Jonas Ely, started running from San Francisco on July 17 and will end in New York on Nov. 11 as part of “The Run: Moving Natural Medicine Forward.”

With each man running an average of 30 miles a day, “The Run” is an effort aimed at educating Americans to take action and transform citizens’ health. Naturopathy – Dr. Godby’s practice specialty – is a means of treating diseases that focuses less on drugs and surgery and more on natural treatments such as water and sunshine and on physical means.

In the more than two months since the journey began, Godby said, one of the more memorable experiences took place inside a Pizza Hut as the men watched a football game. A pregnant woman expressed excitement about “The Run” and approached Dennis, wanting more information about the effort and what she could do to protect her child.

“This is exactly the kind of person we need to be speaking to across the United States,” Godby said. “This run gives us an opportunity as a conversation starter. This run is not about running – it’s about health, it’s about the issues. We’re using running as a vehicle, so to speak, to be able to talk to people.”

“Every single person in this country is important. The further I go across this country and the longer I’m here, the more I love America.”

Godby encouraged those in attendance, who included three Independence City Council members, to speak with others not only about “The Run,” but about health in general. His main focus is in preventing type 2 diabetes, and Godby referred to a study released this week that concluded those with diabetes face a dramatic risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

This is not Godby’s first running effort cross country. As he studied exercise physiology and nutrition in college, he ran 1,420 miles in 37 days across Canada to promote exercise and nutrition. Later, in the winter of 1984-85, he ran more than 3,000 miles in 16 weeks across the United States to promote peace and justice in Central America.

Through Monday, “The Run” participants will go through Concordia, Mo., and Columbia, completing 134 miles from Friday through Monday. Their journey through Missouri ends on Oct. 3 in the St. Louis area. While the ceremonial finish is scheduled for Nov. 11 in New York, “The Run” will officially conclude on Nov. 16 in Bridgeport, Conn.

“When we reach New York, that’s just the beginning,” Godby said. “We’ve worked way too hard to just end it on 11/11/11 ... we’re going to keep going.”