Ahmaud Arbery Day: How people are using a 2.23-mile run to advocate for racial equality

Sarah Seither, an avid runner in Pickerington, Ohio runs every year on February 23 in honor of Arbery, but Wednesday’s run felt special coming on the heels of Tuesday’s verdict, she said.

“Today I ran further than 2.23 miles, but I paused for a brief moment at the 2.23-mile mark, and every step was with Ahmaud in mind,” Seither said. “It’s a sport and activity that I love and rely on for my mental and physical health. On days like today, I realize that I sometimes take for granted being able to exercise safely, so today I had feelings of gratitude and also sadness thinking of his (Arbery’s) life being lost.”

The White men, Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael, along with neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, pursued Arbery, who was Black, in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick before Travis McMichael shot him during a struggle over McMichael’s shotgun. In their federal hate crimes trial, the three were convicted on a hate crime charge of interference of rights in addition to attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels were also convicted of gun charges. The McMichaels were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, while Bryan was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
And to officially commemorate the day even more, The Georgia House of Representatives adopted a resolution declaring February 23 as “Ahmaud Arbery Day,” encouraging the community to participate in the “Run with Maud” effort annually.

‘Still Running for Maud’

Federal prosecutors and Arbery’s family have said he was out on a jog when the defendants got into trucks, chased and killed him. The defense argued the pursuit began when the elder McMichael saw Arbery running from the direction of an under-construction home, and he believed he matched the description of someone who had been recorded there previously. A neighbor testified Arbery ran from the property just as he called police to report him there, though McMichael didn’t know about the call.

“I have had my experiences with harassment, men flashing me or following me, but I run in honor of Ahmaud and his family as I cannot even imagine the horror they went through losing Ahmaud doing a sport that everyone should have the right to do safely,” Seither said.

Sarah Seither after she completed a 2.23 mile run Wednesday morning in Ohio.

Tyrese Holley, wanted to get her miles in bright and early, before the rain in Raleigh, North Carolina Wednesday and said her motivation to run lays in being a minority and a mom of two college athletes.

“My knees are hurting, but the why is bigger than my excuses,” she wrote on Twitter post run. “I don’t ever want my kids to have to worry about where they are running and who doesn’t like them because of the color of their skin.”

Tyrese Holley posted this selfie post her 2.23 mile run Wednesday morning challenging her friends to do the same.

Holley’s son is a soccer player in Georgia and her daughter is a wrestler in North Carolina. Since the news of Arbery’s death, Holley said some of her running habits have had to change, like taking her firearm with her every time she steps out for a walk or run.

“My kids know to only jog with the team and on familiar paths/trails,” she said. “They also know I track their phone to make sure they made it back to campus safely.”

For Black runners, every stride comes with a fear they can't outrun

“They (Holley’s children) worry about me when I’m out walking or running by myself, but I have a carry and conceal permit and now if I go out alone I make sure I’ll be able to protect myself if there is something dangerous to occur that I can’t avoid.”

Groups like South Fulton Running Partners in Atlanta are organizing an evening group run Wednesday on the Atlanta Beltline while Together We Stand North Carolina continues to host a week’s worth of runs to commemorate Arbery’s death throughout the state.

Brandon McCormick, a running coach in Fayetteville, North Carolina said he’s been running for more than a decade and has made it a point to run the past two years to honor Arbery. And while Tuesday’s news is great for Arbery’s family, he said he does not believe the rest of the world understands the impact of Arbery’s death.

Living while black

“Nothing is really changing,” he said. “Blacks and minorities are still being treated unequally. Big corporations are talking diversity but aren’t backing that talk up. Police are still killing Black men.”

Brandon McCormick showing his completed 2.23 mile run with his youngest son, Landon McCormick.

“I’ve had water thrown at me before but never have I imagined being murdered when I lace my kicks up, and hit start run on my GPS,” he said. “It’s scary ’cause it could have been me just running.”

For those who cannot participate physically with a walk or run, the Ahmaud Arbery Foundation, spearheaded by his family, is asking the community “to pause for 23 seconds, say a prayer for Ahmaud’s family, and consider making a $23 contribution to the Ahmaud Arbery Foundation in his memory.” Funds from the Ahmaud Arbery Foundation focus on the mental health and wellness for Black boys.

CNN’s Travis Caldwell and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

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