to clear our heads
to feel joy
to feel powerful
to lose weight
to gain muscle
to be healthy
to run away from something
to run towards something
to be challenged
to escape reality
to find reality
to get a runner's high
to find peace
just because and so much more
As Chris and I were heading out for a rare 'date run' last weekend, our neighbor approached us wide-eyed and in shock. There had been a hit and run in our neighborhood and the runner who had been hit was in critical condition. I was shocked to learn that the driver took off on foot and was trying to flee from the police. We asked our in laws to lock the doors behind us.
As we ran, the heat and humidity weighed us down. So did the thoughts of what we had learned happened that morning.
Throughout the day my friend and I texted back and forth about the runner in critical condition. Our day was busy with it being the last day of my in laws visit, but my thoughts kept wandering back to the runner. Then I got a text that I was hoping I wouldn't see: He passed away.
After we dropped my in laws off at the airport I couldn't help but think things out loud in a whisper to Chris: He was a runner. He probably was married and had children. He likely didn't even say goodbye to his kids. They were probably still sleeping in the early morning when their dad went out for a run. It could have been any of us in the same exact situation.
As we turned on the street, I noticed families eating snow cones, going to the movies, heading to the grocery store: their lives were continuing on as usual. His family must have felt as if time was standing still. I needed to do something. I asked Chris to stop so we could get flowers to leave in memory of the runner. And of course, I needed to pray for him. As I hurried back to the van where Chris and the kids were waiting, a lone cameraman was walking towards the site. I kept my eyes down, not wanting to talk and yet he shouted out: Did you know him?! No, I whispered. But what I really wanted to say was, yes, of course I knew him. Aren't we all connected in some way? He was a father, a husband, a teacher, a runner, a member of the Deaf Community, a principal, a businessman, a mountain climber, a neighbor in our community, a Texan, a human being.
He had gone out on an early morning run on a Sunday. Something I do every, single weekend. Whenever you are out running and pass a fellow runner, it is almost a 99% guarantee that you will nod/wave/smile at each other in passing. It's because runner's share the same spirit: a runner's heart. Here in Austin, that heart is strong and mighty. It is what gets runners out and running in the brutal heat and humidity. It is what carries a runner in the early weekend morning hours, when most are still sleeping. And that was the strongest thread I had tying me to this person who I couldn't stop thinking about. So the truth is, yes, yes I did know him.
It took the driver three days to turn himself in.
There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those who don’t see it
~The Avett Brothers
Like the lyrics in this song, I was scared by the fact that it took so long for him to do the right thing. I pray that Chris and I are raising our own children to be strong, not cowards. To do the right thing, even when it's the most difficult thing they have to do.
I asked Chris to do me one favor: please give me a kiss goodbye before you leave on your mid-week runs. I don't want to wake you, he responded.
I won't care, please just kiss me goodbye.
In memory of Mark Gobble
(Please consider making a contribution to his children's college fund.)