#MegsMiles

Last week, my thoughts were heavily dominated by the news of a local mother, marathon runner, and apparently all around good woman, was hit and killed at 8:15 on her Monday morning run by a drunk (and possibly texting) doctor.

If you are in the US and you are a runner, I would bet there is a 99% chance you heard something about Meg Menzies and #MegsMiles last week.

I hadn’t heard about her death until after I got back from my lunch run that Monday. A run where I narrowly missed being hit by a driver who deliberately ran a red light. I saw the car sitting in the intersection at Adams and Cary Streets, I had the green light to cross over the Adams portion of the intersection, so I proceeded. Apparently, the driver had been tired of waiting for the light, and I suspect he or she looked left and right to make sure there was no traffic (or police), and then proceeded through the red light without apparently looking straight ahead. It was a close enough call that I could put my hands on the car and shout.

I got back to work, opened the internet and saw the news about Meg and forgot about my own close call; a close call is nothing compared to what her family is suffering now.

As the week went on and Meg’s passing went viral, I remembered my own near-squashing and I got angry about it and about how drivers imperil the lives of pedestrians every day. Thank God I had been paying attention and had been quickly able to jump out of the way of that impatient driver. From the photos of the scene, it looks like Meg had nowhere to go to get out of the driver’s way who killed her.

The victim blaming made me angry, too. Comments ranging from “She shouldn’t have been running on the road.” to “Why not just run in a gym?” to “Were her clothes bright enough to be seen?” made me want to shake people (particularly the clothing one, which is too similar to blaming rape victims for wearing “provocative” outfits). Admittedly, there were fewer of these comments than the ones expressing sadness over the situation, but why were there any at all?

Even Hanover Public Works joined in the victim blaming by pointedly stating that “The shoulder is not an official pedestrian path.” Forgive my harsh language, but No Shit, Sherlock.

For most of the Richmond Metro Counties, there ARE NO official pedestrian paths. I know; I live in a county.

I am fortunate because I have three schools within 2 miles of my house, and near those schools are short stretches of sidewalks. For my favored 5.2 mile route in my neighborhood, I have less than 2 miles of sidewalk to run on. When I am running distances like 9-13 miles, I still only have those 2 little miles to work with to put some safe distance between myself and the cars on the road.

Worse than the lack of safe pedestrian paths are the hostile or distracted drivers. By and large, most drivers are fine. Some are even wonderful enough to move over in their lane a bit, change lanes when there are two lanes to work with, or even move a little over the yellow lines if there is no oncoming traffic. To those drivers, I always mouth the words “Thank you” and give them a little wave. I appreciate their care. Most drivers are just oblivious. They are fine too as long as they stay between the white and yellow lines and ignore me.

I can’t stand the openly hostile drivers. The jokers who think it is funny to slightly swerve at me like they are going to hit me. Ooh, funny! Thank God your dumbass didn’t slip on the wheel and not manage to correct course. A broken and possibly dead runner across the hood of your car would be hysterical, right? Police reports and insurance company law suits are a flipping riot, right? Then there are the folks that scream obscenities or sexually suggestive words at you as they pass you. They are less of a physical threat, but they are actively trying to steal away my joy. Thanks a lot.

But the scariest drivers are the distracted drivers. I see them texting, or on their cell phones, or eating, or looking away from the road; I see this far too much. And they don’t see me no matter how day-glo orange my shirt might be, or electric blue my pants are. They pass me by and never even know I was within 3 feet of their car.

I have heard the phrase “Runners need to be vigilant” a lot in the past week or so but generally runners ARE vigilant. Anyone who has run a single mile outside on the streets knows the inherent risks and that there is a lot we as individuals can do to mitigate those risks; we take out our earbuds or leave one out or keep the music level low; we wear obnoxious colors and patterns to be seen; we run against traffic; we wear blinking lights and reflective gear. But drivers have to do their part, too. Put down your phones, watch the road, and for the love of little kittens, if you’ve been drinking, call a cab, a friend, or just stay home, but please stay out from behind the wheel.

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