A group of runners from Lynchburg recently traveled to Richmond to run the Monument Avenue 10K. After running the event, several of the runners visited a roadside memorial to Meg Menzies, an avid runner from Hanover, Va. who was struck and killed in January 2014 while training for the Boston Marathon.
The memorial is a shoe tree, created with shoes donated by runners from around the world. A similar memorial was placed near the finish line of this year's Boston Marathon. Scott Menzies, Meg's husband, run in Meg's place in this year's event.
Kevin Shroyer, president of the Lynchburg Road Runners Club, was joined by his wife, Kristie, and fellow club members Brian Austin, Felix Lopez, Jerry Price and Susan Anderson at the race and Meg's memorial.
We talked with the Lynchburg runners about their post-race visit to Meg's memorial. The memorial was created shortly after Meg's death. Runners continue to add shoes and other memories to the memorial.
Visiting Meg's memorial after the race was discussed among members of the Lynchburg Road Runners Club. Susan Anderson had an idea to place a marker at the site to show the club's support.
"Meg represents all of the runners that have been hit or tragically killed by cars while out on a run," Susan said. "I wanted to pay my respects to Meg with a visit, along with a token memorial to leave there so that others may think of her. I also helped plant flowers around her memorial, mostly in the color blue, which was her favorite color. This was my second trip there and I plan to visit anytime I'm up in that area."
Jerry Price said, "I had been to the Meg memorial once before. We decided that since so many Lynchburgers were going to do the Monument Avenue 10K, it would be appropriate if we get as many as we could to go to Meg's memorial. I don't think many knew that Meg's memorial in Ashland is only 20 minutes north of Richmond. So I put out a Facebook post about it."
Felix Lopez said, "I became a frequent visitor of Megs Miles Supporters FB page. I saw the beginning of the fabrication of the memorial, with running shoes sent by runners from other areas. Since I had already participated in the 'Meg's Miles' event a few days after her death, I decided that the next opportunity I get to go to Richmond, I would go visit her memorial. The day came by invitation of Jerry Price and Susan Anderson. We decided to go after the race."
Kevin Shroyer said, "I wanted to support my fellow Lynchburg Road Runners Club friends who were planning a visit and wanted to see the site first-hand."
"It was Susan's idea to put a statuette of some sort at Meg's memorial," said Price. "I helped a little by looking at Walmart and online. We thought about angels, but Susan wanted something running related. She wanted some kind of shoe. We were discussing it and it dawned on me that one of the Road Runner awards I got was a winged shoe. We didn't know it at the time, but the winged shoe is on Meg's medal, the medal made to raise money for her family."
About deciding how to memorialize Meg, Susan said, "The tribute to Meg was a trophy-like shoe with wings on a little stand. We place it in a glass jar for protection from the elements and left a pen and paper in the jar next to the trophy so that others could write her messages. I wrote a letter to Meg to let her know that we had been there and placed the trophy by her cross. Since we also planted flowers, I put that in the letter, as well."
Price said that he and Susan discussed what to have engraved on the statue and decided to use a verse from the Bible, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." - 2 Timothy 4:7
The father of 16-year-old Cameron Gallagher, who died after competing in the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, had quoted the same verse and it spoke to Price.
"We thought that was appropriate for Meg and all the other runners who we lost this year," Price said. "The statuette is really meant, at least in my mind, for Meg, Cameron and all the runners we have lost."
"It was really something else," Lopez said. "As soon as you get to Meg's Memorial area you can feel a sense of calm and peace. The road is so close and not even the noise of the cars passing by can disturb that feeling of tranquility. Susan and Jerry had come prepared. Flowers seeds of blue, Meg's favorite color, a vase large enough to contain a small statue of a running shoe with wings, paper and pen to write a few notes to Meg. After an initial seed planting and placing of the vase, we stood there in silence. I offered a silent prayer to Meg. And then we all walked away."
Kevin Shroyer said, "Flower seeds were planted, a handwritten note was signed by all LRRC members present and left with a winged foot trophy inscribed with a bible verse. The note and trophy were placed under a glass case to be protected from the elements. Personally, I also left the Monument Avenue 10k bib number that I had just worn in the race that morning attached to the shoe memorial."
"I rode down with Felix and he had mentioned that we were going to visit the memorial with the other members of LRRC who had ran the 10k," Brian Anderson said. "The idea of going was Susan and Jerry's but I'm honored that I got to share the experience."
Price said, "I would like to note that we were all spread out up and down the road at Meg's Memorial. Susan was planting flower bulbs and seeds. Kevin and Brian were looking over the accident scene. Kristie and Felix were looking at the shoe memorial. I was taking pictures. Towards the end, we all came together at the cross that is cemented in the ground there and a silence came over all of us."
"We just stood there in a group in silence looking at the cross and the items left there by ourselves and others. After about a minute we just broke away and started back towards our cars. As we were leaving, Kevin said that it could be anyone of us but for God's graces. We all parted and said our temporary goodbyes. I thought about Kevin's words at that moment. We never know when our temporary goodbyes might be our last goodbyes. I thought about who Meg said goodbye to that morning, not knowing it would be her last goodbye."
The death of Meg Menzies affected runners across the country and around the world. For many runners, the death of Meg could have been the death of any running friend.
Susan said. "The death of Meg has affected me in many ways: As a mother and wife, a daughter and friend, and because she was out doing what she loved, I think of her while I'm out doing what I love, which is jogging or running."
Price added, "What has caused the whole world to identify with Meg? Is it that she is a mother of three that was simply gone in an instant in a tragic and seemingly senseless moment? We can all identify with children that have lost their mother. Is it perhaps that Meg was a runner and we can certainly identify with that? Is it because it was so needless? It was almost as if it was meant to be. If it was meant to be then what does God have planned from such a tragic loss? We know as Christians that God's plan is always bigger than our own. We may not understand it, but we have that comfort."
Lopez said, "When you live a single life, you live by the events that happen to your family and friends. It is true that I did not know Meg Menzies up to the day of her tragic death. But the event caused an impact in my life, because it is something that could happen to any of my friends or even myself. So, I became interested in her story. And the more I knew, the more affected I became. Here, you could be running any day of the week doing what you love the most and suddenly in an instant, all changes. Meg Menzies' life and the life of her loved ones changed. Personally, Meg will be on my mind when being alert of my surroundings, when looking to run with other runners, when being selective of the places I run."
Kevin said, "Upon visiting the site and seeing the lay of the road: winding country road with minimal shoulder and the posted speed limit of 55, it made me even more conscious of my own safety when running and the need to make wise decisions about when and where I run."
Austin said that the death of Meg Menzies "has definitely made me become more aware of my surroundings while running. I try to stay in well lit areas with sidewalks if I'm running at night."
Price added, "Well, it definitely makes me be more careful and aware of my surroundings. And of course, you have to take each day as it comes and treat it special. You can't not leave your loved ones with the expectation that you can say 'I love you' tomorrow. I want to run and feel that joy and fellowship that running gives me and not lose a day of it."
We also talked with the runners about their experience at the Monument Avenue 10K. Here's what they shared.
Kevin Shroyer told us, "I had never run it before and had always heard how great a race it is, plus I enjoy visiting Richmond. Also, it's reputation for being a flat, fast course was seductive as I wanted a 10k PR, which I got!"
Shroyer competes in many local runs, including the Lynchburg Road Runners Race Series. Shroyer also ran the Bloomsday 12k in Spokane, Washington on May 4.
Susan shared, "I chose this race because I wanted to try a change from the usual 5ks along with the half and whole marathons I do. I noted that many people from Lynchburg attend it annually and seemed to really enjoy it, so I decided to give it a go."
Susan added, "I enjoyed the race course most of all. It ran through a beautiful area with neat houses and wonderful monuments. A lot of the road consisted of brick which didn't seem to interfere with my running."
Asked about future running events, Susan said, "Personally, I am working toward qualifying for the Boston Marathon next year. I need a 4:10 to qualify, so I'm getting as many half and whole marathons in as possible to get me ready for it."
"It was a chance to fellowship with other Lynchburg runners," Price said. "I did that race once before and got rained on and was cold. Had no intentions of doing it again, but saw everyone locally getting excited about it and decided to try it again. It was fun! The added incentive was to go to Meg's Memorial."
Price said the best part of the race was "the people cheering the racers and the costumes. It was just a fun race. I saw a policeman with the biggest smile clapping for the runners."
Lopez said,"I have always identified myself as a runner that likes fast courses. The Monument 10K takes place in one of the flattest and faster courses in Richmond. Another attraction to the race is the number of runners who participate and also, very importantly, because of the fact that helps charities in favor of cancer prevention and promotion of children's activities."
"As in any big race that hosts a great number of runners, the Monument 10K provides you with a great atmosphere," Lopez said. "I like to be in the mix of people that just finished a good race and that are happy about it. The after race activities are very enjoyable. I ran with Meg's bib on my back. I was elated and felt good to raise up her bib."
Up next for Lopez: Every one of the LRRC series races, the Richmond 8K - another flat and fast course, the Greenway 10 Miler in Roanoke and the Virginia 10 Miler in Lynchburg.
Austin said, "My running buddies Kevin Shroyer and Felix Lopez had decided to run it back in December so I wanted to go run it with them. I decided to join up with Runners in Action so Matt Richards could train me and make sure I did my best. The whole experience was just awesome. There were people lined up the whole course cheering you on and there were bands playing. I just never felt alone on the whole course."
Austin also plans to run the entire LRRC series and plans to run the Virginia 10 Miler and possibly the Richmond Marathon.
Price says he's working toward better health. "I am bad about training so I figured the only way to force myself to train was to actually sign up for races that I have to do. Plus, maybe even moreso, this will be my third year doing the Marine Corps Marathon. I don't want to just 'finish' a marathon. I want to do well in a marthon. Especially the Marine Corps Marathon. I will be running in a charity slot this year with the Diabetes Action Team so I want to make a good showing."
Austin is also running to improve his health. "In June of 2013 my wife and I decided to quit smoking together. That August I noticed on Facebook that people were signing up and talking about the Virginia four miler and ten miler and I used to run track and cross country in high school and I thought it would be something fun to do as a family with my wife and kids," Austin said.
The death of Meg Menzies united runners across the United States and around the world. The Meg's Miles Supporters Facebook group has more than 17,000 members who encourage one another and support each others' running goals daily.
At many races, you will see runners sporting t-shirts, performance shirts or bibs dedicated to Meg Menzies. In life, Meg was an inspiration to her family in friends. In death, Meg is honored for the life she led and the encouragement she provided to others.