An Inspired Run with Six Women Who Weren’t There
I just returned home from a chilly, hilly 10-mile run on the winding country roads that blanket the New Hampshire seacoast. It was a planned run, capping Week 2 of an extended marathon training plan and testing my readiness for a 10-mile road race I’m running in two weeks.
The first mile of a long run is about waking up the body, shaking off the cobwebs, and getting a feel for the road. It wasn’t until somewhere in the second mile that my mind started to wander, and I remembered that today was the #megsmiles event I had read about online.
When I set out this morning, I had no intention of logging my miles as part of the event. I didn’t print a bib or share the details on Facebook. I didn’t seek out new running buddies or organize a group run. I’m a bit introverted and not a natural joiner, so jumping on the bandwagon in the wake of a tragedy seemed inauthentic. The idea floated away. I kept running, but my thoughts kept returning to Meg.
I don’t know Meg or her family. Most of us don’t. All I know about her and what happened is what I’ve gleaned from reading one or two news articles, her obituary, and social media. Those details grounded me today, made me more cautious on tight turns, and kept me in the present moment as I carefully navigated uneven terrain and passing cars.
Meg was a runner, wife, and mother of three who was killed this week while out on her morning run in Virginia. She was hit by a car on a narrow shoulder of a curving country road not unlike the ones I ran today. It appears the driver was under the influence. The driver was also a doctor and a widower raising three children of his own. (His wife was killed in a car accident a decade ago.) And he has leukemia.
The details are tragic to the point of disbelief. It’s a string of “what ifs” that can’t be undone and leave a sick feeling in my stomach. It’s a tale of two families and one community forever changed. And like many terrible, tragic things, they happen more often than we hear about.
In Meg’s case, her story spread quickly through the running community, and someone organized an event called Meg’s Miles/Meg Smiles. Runners across the country and the world united today in both real and virtual communities to run and log their miles in honor of Meg. I’ve written before about the concept of community in running, how even though running is an individual sport, it is one that breeds community. Local running groups, race day packs, and charity running teams are all examples of the instant, authentic community that springs from running. Like other largely individual endeavors (hiking, battling illness, parenting…the list goes on), there’s quick camaraderie when runners interact, a connection forged by empathy and common experience.
I didn’t join a physical community today, but it’s apparent to me now I was part of a virtual one. I don’t identify as a religious person, but I am spiritual, and for a brief time today around mile 7, I felt I was running with Meg, not for her, her quick steps and wide smile giving me a burst of speed as I crested a hill.
And as it turned out, Meg wasn’t the only woman who joined me on my run today. The mind covers more ground than the feet on a long run, and the more I reflected on Meg’s story and my own journey, the more inspiring, female runner friends popped into my head and joined me for a moment, too. So yes, I ran for myself and for Meg today, but I also ran for:
…Sam, a dedicated runner who’s been laid up with pneumonia for more than a week and whom I imagine would have traded anything to have been breathing freely and running today. Her drive kept me going.
…Suz, a rockstar charity marathoner who’s training to return to the Boston Marathon route where she was stopped so abruptly just a mile from the finish line last April. Her bravery carried me home.
…Mary, a kind spirit who exudes more creative enthusiasm and joy than anyone I’ve ever met, crushing 5K and half-marathon courses along the way. Her energy powered me up hills.
…Heather, a back-of-the-pack runner I met recently who often crosses the finish line long after the last spectator has gone yet keeps returning to the start line again. Her perseverance guided me to the end.
…and for my grandmother who (while never a runner) is still, at 87 and despite some recent physical challenges, leading our family pack in the marathon that is life.
Reflecting on these women, their energy, and their journeys put things in perspective and carried me as I ran alone this morning, on rolling country roads, with six amazing women who weren’t there. –J.