Two weeks ago today, as I was groggily clambering out of my car to stumble through an early-morning run with a handful of like-minded crazies here at Fleet Feet, 6-7 shots rang out one street over. After a speedy call to 911, the police were very quickly on the scene and were able to find and assist a gentleman that had been injured (non-life threatening, thankfully). A few of us gave statements to uniformed officers as we stood there in our tank tops and short shorts, surely seeming like a very odd bunch as our headlamps and tiny strobe lights flickered in their faces. And then we ran; we were already up (and certainly awake, at this point), and it seemed like pure silliness to have laced up without kicking the tires, at least for a few miles. Then we all went home, showered (hopefully), and readied ourselves for “just another Tuesday” of work, errands, etc. It wasn’t until the news showed up a few hours later, asking me for an interview, that I realized the gravity of the situation; questions (and my subsequent answers) that made me rethink having run that morning…and then assured me that I’d made the right decision after all. Because, no matter how many interviews you’ve done and how “natural” or “good” you become at answering questions on the fly, your natural inclination is still one in which you simply provide the most honest, sincere answer off the top of your head.
Truthfully, it was one question in particular that really got to me; it seemed fairly innocuous as the reporter asked it, but as I began formulating my response—as the words came tumbling out—I realized how truly important the question, and answer, really were. That question: “in light of this instance, do you have plans to relocate where you and your training groups run”?
I could have answered with a simple, straight-forward “no” and moved on to the next question. I could have even glossed over it with a very political-sounding “we’re going to have to take a look at all of our options”, but I didn’t. Instead, this is how I answered: “No. Sadly, in this day and age, in both Savannah and the country as a whole, there’s no telling where crime is going to take place. We don’t always meet at Fleet Feet—sometimes we’re at the Savannah State track, or Forsyth Park, for instance—but no matter where we gather, I always stress strength in numbers, awareness of your surroundings, and keeping to well-lit areas when it is dark outside. To many runners in the community, Fleet Feet is a second home; it’s where people meet to run and, if only for a little while, get away from the everyday rigors of life. I have no right to take that away from them, nor do I think I should even try, because if we let the bad guys win—if we let fear win—then we become something less of ourselves.”
I know that’s easy to say, and may even seem like something I “have” to say in order to still have a job in three months, but I sincerely mean every uttered word that morning. You see, running is an escape for many, and a safe haven for many more, but for us all, it is a unifying force within our lives; running doesn’t see race or gender, doesn’t recognize age or income level, nor is it influenced by political beliefs or creed. Simply put, running puts a smile on our faces no matter who we are and no matter where we meet. It’s the habitual line stepper of the sporting world, always getting in the way of the doom and gloom we so naturally want to feel.
So I’ll keep dragging my butt out of bed early in the mornings, under-dressed and over-caffeinated, and I’ll keep meeting my similarly senseless friends out in front of the store for a quick jaunt through Savannah. Not because I have to, but because I want to; because it’s the perfect way to start my day. Sure, I’ll be more vigilant (and when was that ever a bad thing?), but I’ll never let fear overshadow pure, unadulterated joy. Be careful out there. Stick to well-lit areas and be aware of your surroundings. Strength in numbers. Strength in run.