I participated in #FinishTheRun and ran for change on Feb. 23

Female runner posing with "223" bib. Text reads "Distance 2.23 mi, Time 23:26, Pace 10:30/mi" and at the bottom, "#FinishTheRun, Feb 23 2021, 17:27 @ Salisbury."
Here I am after finishing the #FinishTheRun 2.23-mile run on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

It’s shocking and appalling to think that anyone could go for a run and not come home because they were shot and killed. But that’s what happened to Ahmaud Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020.

Hopefully, you’ve heard about what happened to Arbery already. If you haven’t already read it, this article in Runner’s World profiles Arbery and what happened to him last year when he went for his run. I also heard an adapted version of the article on a recent episode of This American Life.

Obviously, I will never know what it’s like to be Black. I feel it’s important to listen to Black voices, hear about the experiences of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and learn how white people can make the sport more inclusive and welcoming than it is now.

I am learning new things all the time. I am a member of the Brooks Run Happy Team, and this week, team members heard from Alexandria Williams during a town hall meeting. Williams is Black, and one thing that really stuck out to me about what she said was that she specifically chooses running clothes that show she is a runner — for example, a tank that says “RUNNER” on it. I would recommend watching a video that she did relating to this topic and Arbery’s killing here.

I’ve thought about running safety as a woman, but I have never had to consider my race or thought about choosing particular clothes so that people would know I was a runner. I figure when people see me running, they just know. Because I can be blind to these sorts of issues — and am trying to learn more — I have tried to diversify those I follow on social media by following new voices so I can continue learning (and because I enjoy these creators’ content!). One book I am excited to read is “The Unbearable Whiteness of Running” by Alison Désir, coming out in 2022. As a white runner and as a running club leader, I think it is imperative to learn more about what other runners go through that I may not even think about.

I signed up for the #FinishTheRun virtual run primarily because it benefited scholarships for members of Black and Brown communities. Participants received a race bib, but not a shirt or swag — which I actually thought was a good thing. I wanted to support the cause, but I didn’t need another shirt, and without a shirt, more money goes to the cause.

The tops of running shoes above a race bib on the ground that reads #FinishTheRun, 2:23 Foundation and #223FDN, with the number "223" and "Vanessa" under that.
Here is my bib from #FinishTheRun. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

There were shirts available for purchase for anyone who wanted to get one, personalized by state when each state reached 23 runners that had signed up. The cost for the virtual event was $23 — and registration is still open through March 3.

The 2:23 Foundation put on the run in conjunction with the Running Industry Diversity Coalition.

“Through the foundation, we plan to honor a legacy of social justice in Black and Brown communities through providing scholarships, leadership development programs to raise up future district attorneys and law enforcement personnel, and growth opportunities to those looking for ways to advocate,” reads the website for the 2:23 Foundation, the beneficiary of the run.

The specific purpose for the run is highlighted on the virtual run website.

“All proceeds will go directly to a scholarship fund that provides young men and women the opportunity to become future lawyers, local leaders, policymakers, and social engineers,” the website reads.

I signed up for the run in January, but this month, I joined a team that a fellow member of the Run Happy Team set up for the event. Having just received some Brooks gear, I also wore that. I was proud to see that Brooks donated $10,000 to the cause.

The virtual run was 2.23 miles. I just ran a 50K on Sunday, but I wanted to do the virtual run on Tuesday, Feb. 23 — the one-year anniversary of Arbery’s death. Normally, I would take off about a week from running after that kind of distance, but I figured I could do 2.23 miles. I tried to give it a race effort, but my lower legs burned. I wasn’t that sore when not running on Tuesday, but during the run, I could really feel it on the sides of my shins, almost between my shins and my calves.

I kept a slower pace than I would have liked to run for 2.23 miles at race effort (if I hadn’t just run a 50K), but I did push myself to keep running the whole time. I clearly could have walked and that would have been fine, but I almost wanted to feel the pain in a way. It could never compare to being shot and killed on a run, and I kept thinking about what happened to Arbery.

I ran the 2.23 miles in 23:26, a 10:30 average pace. I ran the first mile in 10:07, the second mile in 10:45 and the last bit in 2:32 (11:02 pace). It wasn’t really about the pace — it was about the cause.

Ahead of the run, the 2:23 Foundation collected submissions to its Runners’ Library, and mine was shared.

Quote reading "It is appalling that Ahmaud Arbery was killed while running — something I love to do, and something that so many of us are able to do without a second thought." Vanessa Junkin on Why She Runs for Maud, Salisbury, MD, with a photo of Vanessa Junkin running at right. There is a yellow bar at the bottom that says "2:23 Foundation."
The 2:23 Foundation created this image based on a photo and quote I submitted.

Here’s what I submitted:

“It is appalling that Ahmaud Arbery was killed while running — something I love to do, and something that so many of us are able to do without a second thought. I think it’s awesome that this run benefits scholarships for youth, as it will provide them with opportunities to make a difference and hopefully lead to making our country more equitable for Black and Brown communities. I hope Arbery’s story will not be forgotten and his name will live on in improving the lives of others.”⁠

If you are interested in learning more about the 2:23 Foundation or participating in the virtual run, visit the foundation’s website here.

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