Running and Remembrance

ImageI ran this week. In the sticky wet spring Texas heat, I ran. I run because I have to. It reminds me that I am embodied. That I’m present. Sometimes it’s the thing that keeps me from falling apart.

I never thought I’d reach this point where it’s harder not to run that it is to run. I always thought running was so hard and that I looked like an awkward bumbler about to pass out as I made my way down sidewalks and trails. It took me awhile to even claim running as something I did. ‘I jog,’ I’d say, ‘And not very fast really. Maybe a step above a spirited power walk. A power jog.’

And then about a year and a half ago I joined Black Girls Run! I had moved to a new city and thought the group would do double-duty as a way to meet new people and to keep fit. The group served as a constant source of motivation whether I was running with a team of girls or getting-it-in on my own. It felt good knowing I never really ran alone. After a couple of 5ks, I claimed the identity of a runner. After reaching 5 miles for the first time, thanks to the motivation of a fierce crew of runners, I felt myself inching closer to a 10k.

I immediately thought of the girls after the explosions during the Boston Marathon. I held all those runners in my heart and hoped they were safe. The day after the explosion, it didn’t come as a surprise that BGR members around the country were running to honor the marathoners and their supporters (#BGR4Boston). I wasn’t running alone. 

The Boston marathoners had been running to remember too. The organizers had dedicated the 20th and 26th miles to the children and educators murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary. They had invited the parents of those victims to run with them. A simple act, something as primal as running, became a way to create community around shared sentiment. I don’t mean the kind of “patriotism” that pits “us” against “them.” But a sentiment based on shared experiences of loss; a collective determination to endure in spite of suffering; and a hope that something better awaits us on the other side of unspeakable pain. Image

It’s that community of feeling that breathes hope in the face of despair and becomes a catalyst for change.

 

 

 

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About jennifer williams

Jennifer D. Williams is a writer and professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies. She has published in academic journals and online at Ms.blog, PopMatters, among other sites. Jennifer is currently working on a book that looks at black women's urban literature between the Depression and the civil rights era.

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