I hadn’t run consistently in a while, but today I ran 2.23 miles in honor of Ahmaud Arbery , the 25-year old man who was shot and killed while running outside Brunswick, Georgia on February 23. As I ran, I thought about what it would be like if this were my last run, my last half-hour on Earth, but didn’t know it. After all, I had tied my shoes, stretched and left without hugging my family. It would never have occurred to me that I might not make it home.
As I ran, I noticed trees and fields and sky. That’s not new for me, but I imagined what it would be like if these were the last trees and fields and sky I’d ever see. I noticed a man with a black t-shirt pushing a lawn mower and wondered what it would be like if this were the last human I’d ever see. Wondered if he would have remembered a woman running slowly by in a bright purple shirt and gray headscarf. As I passed 1.23 miles, I thought about Ahmaud’s last mile. Did he have any idea of the danger? Of the three people prowling behind him as he ran? That this might be the last mile, the last everything for him?
This isn’t information we have, of course, of where exactly we are on our life’s trajectory, of how much time we have left. And that goes for all of us, but it’s a privilege for me to go out for a run and be fairly certain that those who see me won’t view me with suspicion. That it will be obvious that my running is for enjoyment and exercise. That I’ll make it home.
As I ran past an open field, I noticed the beauty of it and the sound of my own breathing, while simultaneously realizing that my soul was likely not ready for eternity. I had no idea of my legacy, what people might remember about me, or whether I had done everything I was supposed to do with my time on Earth. And these aren’t the kind of thoughts I normally entertain at mile 1.75, but I had less than a half mile to go. Time, as we know, is short.
I turned into a neighborhood at mile 2, noticed brick houses and my own footfalls that accelerated unconsciously toward the end. Thought about what it would be like to be chased down, outnumbered, unarmed, and exhausted with no place to go. To be the object of unearned hate. To feel the reality of the danger flooding in along with the faces of your loved ones. To be hunted.
I can’t imagine this feeling, not really, even if I try.
But unlike Ahmaud, I walked home with all of these thoughts rattling around in my mind. And as I walked, I saw more trees, more fields, more sky. I breathed deeply, saw more people, and heard more voices. Unlike Ahmaud, I turned onto my own street, walked into my home and saw my family again. Whole, unconcerned, a little hungry, and ready for a shower.
Just like every other day.