Learn how one pair of running shoes unites a global community.
Today as we cheer on the runners of the Boston Marathon, an elite race stretching back to 1897, it is a period of reflection for many Americans. This time last year, as spectators gathered around the finish line, the excitement and jubilation of that day was marred by the tragic bombings that took the lives of three people and injured more than 260. Our country watched with mixed emotions as we shared in the horror of that moment, standing transfixed before televisions and cell phones, waiting. Watching. Wondering.
A year has passed and with it came stories of heroism, kindness, and love. We waited for news of capture. Watched as complete strangers jumped in to help those around them. Wondered if we would ever be the same again.
Dedicated runners started their training programs once more, undeterred by the attacks in 2013. 'Boston Strong!' was a motto heard round the world and today the city of Boston showed that sentiment through the pounding of their running shoes hitting the pavement once more: all 36,000 pair of shoes.
As those runners found their ideal pace and locked into their stride for a long 26.2 miles, they found a new and unusual structure displayed at Mile Marker 1: a tree of running shoes.
'Meg Soles of Love' was created by Kel Kelly, to honor Meg Cross Menzies, a woman she never met. Meg, a resident of Mechanicsville, VA, was not among the victims of that tragic day. She was, however, a victim just the same as she was struck and killed by a vehicle on January 13, 2014 while on a training run with her husband, preparing for the Boston Marathon.
Immediately following her death, her local community unified as one. A Facebook page titled 'Meg's Miles Supporters' was created with runners encouraged to run in Meg's memory and post their runs with the hashtag #megsmiles. More than 100,000 runners world-wide participated in a virtual run the Saturday following her death, all in her memory alone. The Facebook group multiplied in members practically overnight with runners posting photos of running shoes, Garmin stats, and more. One contributor posted pictures she had painted of Meg running. Another contributor wrote how he hated to run but did a Random Act of Kindness in Meg's memory instead. Currently the group has more than 16,500 members who continue to post their runs and stories daily, in memory of Meg and in support of each other.
On the corner of the intersection where Meg was hit, local runners placed their tennis shoes on the street post as a way to pay homage to the lost runner. (Visit imgur.com/VSTOGE2 to see Meg's local memorial.)
Kel Kelly, another member of the Facebook group, volunteered to make a memorial structure similar to this along the route of the Boston Marathon. All she asked was for runners to donate their old running shoes and mail them to her; she would do the rest.
Her request ended with more than 700 running shoes being sent from around the world, and a towering structure created near the well-known 'Spirit of the Marathon'statue at Mile Marker 1. Following the Boston Marathon, all running shoes in the memorial will be given to the nonprofit 26.2 Foundation to donate to charity organizations. (Visit abcnews.go.com for the complete story and photos of 'Meg Soles of Love'.)
When we are faced with tragedies in our lives, it is only natural to feel paralyzed in our attempts to make the world a better place. Sometimes fear trumps action, making everyone feel immobilized. However, the fact remains that it only takes one person to change that perspective. One person inspires another person who inspires a few more until all of a sudden that inspiration leads to an amazing place in the journey: Hope.
Be inspired by the actions of those at the Boston Marathon. Be motivated to make a difference. Show your support. Be an agent of change. Even the smallest act such as donating a pair of tennis shoes can lead to grand moments of unity and love.
If the shoe fits... wear it!