The friend of a friend who I mentioned a couple of posts ago also invited me to join her for a run on Saturday, along with a Bloomington triathlon/running group called Women With Will (W3). I mentioned that I was running 20 miles. With no hesitation, she said, "I'll run 20 miles with you!" I think my jaw about hit the floor. It's just not easy to find people willing to run that far! As it turns out, she's a very experienced runner. And ultrarunner. So 20 miles at my pace was child's play for her.
I talked to her Monday (a week ago). As the week progressed, I heard about an event also being held on Saturday: Take Back the Trail. The idea was, area runners/walkers would meet at the trailhead near where the attack happened and basically reclaim the trail in force. People wanting to run more than a couple of miles would meet at the W3's regular meeting place (the Bloomington Bagel Company on Dunn) and run down to meet the main group. I know a lot of people have been hesitant to run any part of the trail, especially the section where this happened. So this was sort of a symbolic way to show we as a community are not afraid. I thought it was a great idea.
Saturday morning, the alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. and I could hear rain coming down outside. YUCK. It was 36 degrees outside and rainy. I was sad, because I figured the weather would keep a lot of would-be participants indoors. I rolled out of bed and got dressed, had some toast and water for breakfast, and packed up a couple of GUs and my water bottle. After some thought, I packed some dry clothes. Mark drove us downtown and dropped me off at the BBC (he was going on down to park by the trail and participate in the shorter version of the run).
I ventured inside and found it crowded with runners, some of whom I know. My new running buddy, Tracy, was there, and she introduced me to several new friends, including Linda, who would be going for 20 with us. I think there must have been a good 20 to 30 people who eventually gathered. We set off soon after 8 a.m., running in a phalanx down the street. It's such an amazing experience to run with a large group!
We used the newly paved B-Line Trail to thread our way through downtown, on south towards the Rail Trail. As we approached Grimes, I saw that a police officer had parked his car in order to block traffic and was standing there waving us through. A chorus of "thank you"s serenaded him as we streamed past. We continued south and took up the Rail Trail at the top of the northern section. Running by the spot where it happened wasn't too bad. I mean, I was surrounded by the laughter and chatter of lots of runners. The only weird thing was that the police tape was still strung up around the trees.
As we climbed a small incline and descended toward Country Club, I saw a large crowd waiting at the trailhead. They cheered as our group approached the road. I saw that more police officers were blocking traffic here, too. Someone commented that they had shown up out of the blue. I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. Mark was waiting there, along with some other members of the INRunCo group. We mingled and talked for a few minutes, and then Emily, the founder of W3 and the organizer of the Take Back the Trail event, got up on the bumper of someone's car and said a few words.
I was wiping tears from my eyes. Only a handful of people knew that I was the victim, and I was so touched that an attack on someone they didn't even know had brought so many out in a shower of support. Still, this was only partly about me. This was mostly about all the runners and fitness-minded people in the community showing solidarity.
I was on a definite high, and it lasted the entire remainder of the run (a little more than 2.5 hours more). I had a great time running with Tracy and Linda, and hope to run with them again soon.
I just want to thank all those who have emailed and left comments on RWOL, my blog, Facebook, and my running log. The outpouring of support I've gotten has been incredible. For the 20 minutes of so or evil that I endured, I've been seen good tenfold. I guess I'm saying "tenfold" to be poetic, but literally, I think it's probably more. I'm no good at math. It's a lot. I love you all.