Sunday, 19 January 2014

#Megsmiles and the joy of living

Last Monday (13 January 2014), 34 year old Meg Menzies was tragically killed by a driver while out for her morning run in Hanover County, Virginia. Meg, a mother of three children, was a member of the Richmond Road Runners Club and Boston marathoner. The driver has been arrested and charged with drink driving.

A monument close to where Meg died made up of running shoes

On Facebook, Meg's friend and fellow runner Brooke Roney suggested that people might want to run this weekend in memory of Meg and to raise awareness of road safety for runners and cyclists:

'In her honor, our hope is to raise awareness of drunk driving, texting and driving, and overall safety of runners and cyclists everywhere. This Saturday, January 18, 2014, no matter what your distance, no matter where you live, run for Meg. Take in the fresh air, be aware of your surroundings, keep your headphones on low, feel the heaviness in your lungs, the soreness in your legs, and be grateful for it - for all of it. The sweat, the pain, the wind, the cold…everything. Be grateful for that moment'.

The response has been incredible with more than 95,000 runners across the world committing to take part. Some organised special runs, some had a pause for silence before their runs, others (including me on my weekly 5k parkrun in Hilly Fields) just told people about it or thought about how we take for granted the fact that we can breathe and put one foot in front of the other.

The reaction reminded me of the outpouring of grief and anger following the deaths of cyclists in London, including last November when over 1000 cyclists lay down in the road outside the Transport for London  HQ (pictured above). I also thought of my friend Paul Hendrich, who was killed while cycling in London six years ago this week.

Paul Hendrich

If Paul H. was here today, I would like to talk to him, as we used to do, about Paul Gilroy. In the latter's book 'Between camps: nations, cultures and the allure of race' (2000) he ponders how human beings can develop what he calls a 'planetary humanism' based on what we have in common rather than what divides us in terms of race, country and culture. He grounds this notion in the shared experience of suffering:  'The recurrence of pain, disease, humiliation and loss of dignity, grief and care for those one loves can contribute to an abstract sense of a human similarity powerful enough to make solidarities based on cultural particularity appear suddently trivial'.

But there is also a positive sense of commonality based on the things many of us enjoy to do. 'Megsmiles' is an expression of the fact that we all grieve, but that we can also all celebrate the joy of living, and those of us who take part in the very simple human movement of running share something that is bigger than what divides us.

Faced with a tragedy like this we can think about some of the things that governments, road planners and drivers could do to make the world safer for cyclists, runners and walkers. But most of all we can be reminded of the simple fact that as millions of us rush around every day we need to look out for each other.

Meg Cross Menzies

'Days in the sun and the tempered wind and the air like wine
And you drink and you drink till you're drunk
On the joy of living'
(Ewan McColl)

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