2.23 miles and virtue signalling

Oh, it seems I haven’t posted anything since I had my fall. I have been a bit rubbish at writing – not just this blog, generally. It’s not so much a question of time as headspace. Anyway, hands and knee/shin healed well. I haven’t run many miles at all but I am getting out more regularly with 9 runs in April as opposed to the 6 in January and March and 1 in February and in May I have been out 3 times so far. But that’s not really what I wanted to write about this evening.

This evening Kath and I went out for 2.23 miles to take part in the #IRunWithAhmaud or #IRunWithMaud thing happening today. For those of you not aware of this, you might like to look at the Guardian Article here. Ahmaud was a young black man who went for a run in what is described as a white neighbourhood in Georgia in the US and was shot by two white men, father and son, who decided he looked guilty of something or other or maybe just fancied shooting a black man that day. This happened in February (on the 23rd, hence the 2.23 miles) and until now the two men guilty of the shooting hadn’t been arrested. I think this piece on the shooting by Alison Mariella Désir is worth reading.

I was thinking about #IRunWithMaud all day, for the last few days really. I wondered why I hadn’t heard more about his murder, why this was not on my radar, why it took until the end of April for me to really know about this. I wondered what running 2.23 miles today really means and I wondered that in the context of VE Day, clapping for the NHS and a national feel where virtue signalling increasingly is everything but means nothing. I thought about the many people who yesterday stood on their doorsteps clapping the NHS and today abandoned social distancing to have weird nostalgic and to me rather sinister street parties to celebrate some weird notion of the end of a war they mostly know nothing about.

So having made my position of clapping and VE day pretty clear all round – what on earth am I doing running 2.23 today? Am I not just engaging in a rather similar totally meaningless virtue signalling sort of exercise? Isn’t that what this is? What can a white woman with no connection to Ahmaud Arbery running 2.23 miles in northern England possibly mean. What does posting the fact that I have run the distance and tagging it with the designated # on all the social media accounts (I haven’t) achieve other than show a few of you that I did it and reaffirm what you hopefully already know – that I think a world where Ahmaud Arbery was killed because of the colour of his skin is a fucked up world.

As a white woman with no experience that possibly comes close to what it feels like to be a black runner in Georgia, isn’t running 2.23 today a little off? What does it mean? Is it something I should simply let others do and support but leave well alone as not mine. Or is it a question of the more support from the running community the better. I don’t have the answer. Questions, emotions, not conformable ones, but difficult, awkward, what’s my role in the whiteness of running here on the outskirts of Bradford sort of questions have been with me all day. Questions that won’t go away however much I shrug my shoulders and come up with the ‘yeah but I don’t run with people or a club anyway, I run alone or with Kath and just for me’ excuse. It’s a pathetic excuse. I am still part of a running community that is overwhelmingly white and I am keenly aware that often I have to force myself to see that whiteness and question it.

In the end I decided that going out and running 2.23 was somehow important. It felt important to acknowledge the fact that I can go out as the sun gets ready to set and not risk my life. I’m still not entirely sure this isn’t some sort of virtue signalling but all I can do is what I feel is the right thing to do – and I tried.

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