Everyone runs for something. Last Friday, many ran for the same thing. Brunswick native Ahmaud Arbery would have turned 26-years-old.
Instead of a birthday celebration, communities around the nation ran 2.23 miles in his honor.
Arbery was shot and killed during an altercation with two local men. Arbery was unarmed during the altercation. The two men identified as father and son Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael were arrested for the alleged incident that took place on Feb. 23 after a video of the surfaced on social media showing the altercation. At the time of the incident it is believed that Arbery was jogging before being allegedly approached by the McMichaels.
Runners in Oconee County showed their support for the cause. Some saw it as a chance to speak when in the past they’ve seen others be silent.
Piedmont Executive of Philanthropy Tammy Gilland decided to team up with her longtime running partner Elizabeth Patrick to tackle the 2.23 miles.
Gilland and Patrick have run together for nearly 10 years. Patrick, a teacher at Malcom Bridge Middle School, and Gilland had been on a bit of a hiatus from running with concerns of COVID-19 but wanted to take part in this tribute.
The topic is a relatable one for both women and that made it easy to connect to.
“Running is something that we can all relate to,” Gilland said. “Runners related to this. What if that happened or could happen to us? It won’t. I’m a white female. It won’t happen to me. If I was a black male it could possibly happen to me just because of the prejudice and stereotype thing that we have in our country.”
Gilland felt good about the response she saw to the amount of people who took part in runs like her and Patrick. People put their running shoes where their mouths were. Gilland knows that things won’t change because people went out and ran, but seeing the people beginning to bring actions to the words is a step in a positive direction.
“It says that we’ve got hope for this country,” Gilland said. “There are people that tired of what’s happening. They’re tired of seeing people being stereotyped, they’re tired of people being beaten or killed. All lives matter. It doesn’t matter what color you are. It’s time for this country to get back to respecting each other and valuing human life. My parents taught me to live by the Golden rule. You do onto others as you would have others do onto you. It just seems like this country is so divided and torn apart on so many issues. I just really hope that things like this shows us that there are people out there that have the same beliefs and values that we do.”
Oconee County High School assistant football coach Erik Kriebel was hit a different way by the run for Ahmaud campaign. Admittedly Kriebel isn’t a runner, but he packed up his two children and hoped in the car and made the drive to Oconee Veteran’s Park when Watkinsville City Councilman Brian Brodrick reached out via social media to extend the invitation to run along with him and a few others on Friday morning. Kriebel grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Philadelphia before moving to Georgia.
Kriebel has also coached student athletes from many diverse backgrounds.
“My mind goes straight to guys I grew up with, guys that I played with and to kids I’ve coached,” Kriebel said. “It always puts this jolt of fear into me where I worry about those guys.”
Kriebel choice to bring his children along on the early morning run also served a purpose. Kriebel has a 2-year-old son, a 4-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old daughter. The hope was to start the conversation with his children about some of the social injustices that exist in the country in hopes that one day they play a part in changing them.
“I wanted to explain to them why we were doing this,” Kriebel said. “Those are conversations that we need to have. I think that’s one of the areas where we aren’t doing a great job. We may need to have those conversations with our kids at a young age... Hopefully everyone who ran had a chance to really think about why we’re still doing this in 2020 and thought about what can I do to make things different.”