Sometimes the news hits home like a sucker punch. I felt that blow last month when I read about Sherry Arnold, the Montana mother and teacher who went for a morning run on Jan. 7 and didn’t come home, the only trace of her a single shoe by the road.
According to news reports, two men have been charged with aggravated kidnapping in connection with her disappearance and Arnold is presumed dead. Her body has yet to be found.
This morning, runners and walkers across the country are paying tribute to Arnold by participating in a virtual run organized by her cousin Beth Risdon, who blogs at www.shutupandrun.net. The event, which takes place at 8 a.m. Pacific time, is a way to grieve for Arnold, show support to her family and take a stand against violence and fear. Participants can print a bib or make a donation for Arnold’s children by going to the website.
I’ll be running with family from the Mirabeau trail head and welcome other runners or walkers to join us. I didn’t know Arnold, but her story touches me deeply. She’s part of my sisterhood. Like her, I’m a mother, a wife and a runner who hits the road, often alone.
Over the past month I’ve thought of Arnold during almost every run, some of them adrenaline-fueled races against myself as I’ve mulled the many dangers facing runners, especially women, no matter how many precautions we take. I’ve imagined the many ways Arnold’s story might have ended differently, have ended later.
But we can’t revise real life the way we might an email or journal entry. We also can’t predict how our own stories will end. Each day we head out the door, whether it’s to drive a carpool, go to work, meet a friend for coffee or squeeze in a quick run, we go with hope. We don’t expect to find tragedy on the stoop or around the corner. If we did, we’d never leave the house.
Though the news about Arnold made me hesitate a moment before lacing up my running shoes, it didn’t stop me. It won’t stop me. Running is my oasis, a breath of fresh air and a way to unwind. More than anything else, it makes me feel alive. I’m thankful for the run. I’m also thankful for each morning I can hug my kids and each evening I can fall asleep next to my husband.
Arnold should have gotten to do those things for many more years, and I grieve for her family and friends. I also know that the accounts of her last tragic run are only a tiny bit of her story. They don’t show the woman, wife, mother and teacher her loved ones remember. They don’t share how she lived.
From what I’ve read on Risdon’s blog, Arnold was a vibrant woman who lived and loved fully. Her story should inspire each of us to count our blessings and resolve to do the same – to stretch our legs, our lungs, our minds and our hearts, to embrace the ones we love and laugh or cry with them, to keep moving forward. This run’s for you, Sherry.