Runners across the country, including in Minnesota, laced up their shoes Friday to run exactly 2.23 miles to remember Ahmaud Arbery, the Georgia man killed while jogging near his home. He would have turned 26 Friday.
The hashtags IRunWithMaud and RunwithMaud gained national momentum, with thousands of people across the country posting selfies in running gear alongside the hashtag, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.
The run came just a day after former Georgia police officer Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Trevor McMichael, 34, were charged with murder and aggravated assault in Arbery’s death. Video of the February shooting surfaced last week and drew national attention and outrage. Arbery, a black man, was unarmed.
On Friday, people ran solo, in socially-distanced groups or as families. Minneapolis artists Sha Cage and E.G. Bailey made an afternoon run around their Northeast neighborhood with their two sons, Jalen, 9, and Jordan, 11. They ran around the block to show solidarity. Arbery was killed on February, 23 — hence the 2.23 mile run.
“It can be very comfortable sitting in your house and the safety and security of it. But what happens when you put on your shoes, put on your tights and start jogging around, you sort of imagine what that scenario is, and it’s incredibly frightening,” Cage said.
Arbery’s death adds to the list of black Americans killed doing routine activities, such as driving, going to the store or jogging.
Cage and Bailey’s son, Jordan, said he thought about Arbery while he ran.
“I was thinking about Ahmaud, and how he was just jogging and how he got shot because they assumed something that he was not doing,’’ Bailey said. “And that just really made me feel bad.”
The mass marches and protests following such deaths of other black Americans often provide community for people to mourn. COVID-19 has changed that. Some people have gathered, but the movement has gone mostly online.
“There’s a lot that people already have on their plates, but it shows us that we can still mobilize, and that we are still quite connected. That’s a breath of fresh air,” Cage said.
Arbery’s death brings another reminder how for people of color mundane can become dangerous.
“It was utter disbelief and shock. But also, ‘here we go again’” is how Anthony Robinson said he reacted when the video was released.
Robinson, of Minneapolis, is a triathlete who has run marathons around the world and trains in the Twin Cities. On Friday, he ran for Ahmaud in Theodore Wirth Park.He said he thinks that every person of color who runs has had an experience of discrimination or racial profiling running through a neighborhood they “don’t belong in.”
“Today is just for me to get out, run my 2.23 and reflect on what it means to be a person of color in this country, in this time and place. Which is, quite frankly, a bit unnerving,” he said.“It’s scary to think that I can feel safer running on an empty street in some other country in the dead of night, versus running in broad daylight in certain parts of America where I could lose my life.”
Robinson said he uses running to clear his head, focus on his breathing, the sound of his footfalls and let things melt away. He’s seen social media posts from various runners posting a mileage of 2.23 and attributes it to a need to do something.
“Had that video not been released, this would have been brushed under the rug and never heard of again. But I think this is a way for everyone — white black, brown, Asian, Hispanic, what have you — to come together and realize it’s a tragedy and that it needs to stop.”