By Heather Mullinix
Social media is, at times, the best and the worst thing to ever happen to our society and our culture.
It can be used to spread gossip, to fuel insecurity in relationships or to cause one to doubt their own achievements and successes. It takes “keeping up with the Joneses” to a whole new level.
And then, it can change the world, shine a light on issues we all should care about and spur action to make the world a better place for us all.
I was privileged enough to get to take part in the best of social media this past weekend in Meg’s Miles.
I tend to live in my own little Crossville cave much of the week, worrying about what’s happening here. I’m aware there is a great big world out there, but my job is very much focused on local news. I catch the big headlines, but the story of Meg Menzies wasn’t going to make headlines on the nightly world news.
Meg Menzies was a mother of three and the wife of Scott, who worked for the Ashland Police Department. She was also an avid runner who training for the Boston Marathon in April.
Jan. 13, while out for her morning run, the 34-year-old mother, wife, daughter, friend and runner was struck by a drunk driver and killed.
Runners formed a plan. Last Saturday, five days after her death, they would run Meg’s Miles as their own tribute to their friend and fellow athlete, to show their support of her family, and to raise awareness of the dangers runners often face on the road.
The idea spread quickly. Soon, 90,000 people signed up on Facebook that they would be running Meg’s Miles this past weekend in her honor — any where, any distance, any speed.
A friend on Facebook posted her morning run and mentioned why she was running that day. I liked the post and was added to the group. When I went out for my run on Sunday (they were taking distances all weekend so that more people could participate), I added my 4 miles to the total that, on Sunday afternoon, had surpassed 107,000 miles. That’s four times around the planet.
But it was more than that. The runners, most of whom I do not know, have never met and probably will never meet, were so supportive of each other, offering encouragement and motivation. Many people said they hadn’t ran in years, or had never ran before, and this event helped them get started again. Whether they keep it up or not, they took the first step.
These folks weren’t just in the area of Richmond, VA, where the Menzies family lives. They posted from around the world, including a family in Siberia who ran in -20-degree (Celsius) to honor Meg.
They even were offering T-shirts for sale to help the Menzies family with the unexpected expenses they now face.
And information was shared to help keep other runners, cyclists or others out on the roads safe and reminding motorists to share the road. Runners, keep your music low and stay aware of your surroundings. Wear reflective clothing and make sure you’re visible. And never assume the drivers see you. In fact, behave as if they can’t.
We have many people who use our roads for more than just driving. Most mornings and afternoons, you can find groups taking advantage of the fairly flat running course and the wide shoulders and sidewalks available on New Lantana Rd. but they’re also out on our small roads, many of which don’t have shoulders and often limited visibility. Please, remember to share the road and drive safely.
The person who hit Meg, by the way, was a doctor on his way to work, with a .11 blood alcohol level. Beer and prescription medication were found in the vehicle. He was driving westbound while Meg ran east on the westbound shoulder, so that she could see oncoming traffic as is recommended. The responding officer said the doctor reached down to adjust the radio and ran off the road. He attempted to offer aid to Meg, his lawyer said, but she was transported to a nearby medical center where she later died from her injuries.
He was charged with involuntary manslaughter and is out on $25,000 bond.
The story of Meg Menzies is a tragic example of a life taken too soon. The outpouring of support and love from thousands of people who didn’t know her is or her family is inspiring. It’s enough to make you look at all the bad that happens in the world and know that there is still good out there.
So thank you, Facebook. I appreciate the friend who let me in on this movement and the chance to do my part to help a grieving family. Some had mentioned growing the movement, maybe shooting for a million-mile goal, to continue to raise awareness of the dangers runners face when they hit the roads, which is a worthy goal.
But I hope her kids can see how people across the country and around the world express sympathy for their loss and, maybe, they find some solace.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at email@example.com.