Raleigh, N.C. - The Rock ‘n' Roll Marathon was the 22nd race for brothers John and Chris Heuisler, who are running marathons in every state.

But the course through downtown Raleigh on Sunday was no ordinary test of endurance.

For John's 40th birthday, which is May 8, Chris set up a secret surprise. He arranged for a special guest to meet them at each mile of the race and cheer John on to the next mile.

"This is not a marathon of 26 miles," Chris Heuisler said. "This is a marathon of his life."

Friends and family members came to Raleigh from all over the country. They hid behind utility poles or trees, waiting for their turn to leap out and surprise John. Many of them ran alongside the brothers until the next mile marker, where it was the next person's turn to jump out in surprise.

Chris, who lives in Boston, said coordinating the plan took a year. But it was worth it.

"We're a tight family. I've always admired him. He's always been my idol," Chris said about his older brother. "You want this guy on your team because he just goes all in on anything he does."

The anticipation built over the past year for Chris, who said he kept picturing the day in his mind.

"The one picture that's been in my head for the past year is, when is John going to get it and what is that look that he's going to give me? Like, ‘You got me,'" he said.

John's other brother, Tim, was there along with his mom and dad. At mile 25, his wife, Kelley, cheered him on, and his young daughters, Addie and Eloise, met him at mile 26.

"I'm very lucky," said John, who lives in Baltimore. "I'm very fortunate. I don't, I can't. I probably need a couple of minutes to process it all. It's been phenomenal."

For the Heuisler brothers, the Rock ‘n' Roll Marathon wasn't just about endurance. It was about the dedication of a brother to a brother and the bond among family and friends.

"The one moment that's really stuck with me is to watch him, you know, see how much I love him," Chris said. "Just how grateful I am that he's changed my life the way that he has, and this gift to him is the least I can do."