Running for Safer Streets
I am not a runner. Never have been, never will be. Despite this fact, I continue to engage in the sport and deceive myself into believing it’s a good way to improve my health. Every time I jog over the Brooklyn Bridge or run through Prospect Park, I see “fast people.” These are the “real” runners – I am just getting exercise.
Several years ago, a friend suggested I try a half-marathon. Given my goal-orientation, I thought it was a reasonable challenge and he promised to train with me. Two weeks later, I was on my own, but I had been bitten by the bug. I wanted to simply know I could run 13.1 miles and survive. I’d run a few 5Ks, but never more than 5 miles.
As I prepared for my first run in Nashville, many “real” runners told me to consider a marathon in the future. What? Are you kidding me? I’ll be happy to finish 13.1 miles let alone twice that much. This was confirmed during the half-marathon when those “real” runners split off at mile 11 for another 15 miles of fun.
Then, it happened. A dear friend was diagnosed with cancer and I felt helpless. I wanted to find a way to help him, but I couldn’t. Shortly after his diagnoses, his sister-in-law began training for a marathon to raise money for cancer research. I knew I had to join. Four months later, I completed my first marathon in Phoenix and finally felt like a “real” runner.
Paul Murphy, my FedEx colleague in Londonderry, New Hampshire, is a “real” runner. He’s run 18 marathons, 15 of them in Boston. He started when he was 40 and has become entranced with the sport. “There’s nothing like running the gauntlet at the Boston Marathon,” shared Paul in a recent conversation. “Fans make a marathon what it is.”
This past Sunday, Paul and I tackled the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. Paul crossed the finish line far ahead of me, but our mission was the same. We are running on behalf of FedEx for Safe Kids Worldwide. “Kids are our most precious commodity,” shares Paul. “My brother Philip died recently and left behind four lovely children. Whatever I can do to make our children happy and safe, I will do. 26.2 miles is just a start!”
FedEx and Safe Kids recently celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the Walk This Way program, an international initiative to teach safe behaviors to motorists and child pedestrians that will create more safe, walkable communities. On October 7th, over 185 U.S. cities participated in the International Walk to School Day. FedEx and Safe Kids are also reaching out to 150 cities for Halloween, another dangerous time for child pedestrians.
The goal is to make our roads safer and our communities healthier. Walking (or running) increases public health, lowers carbon emissions, lowers crime and increases overall mobility for all persons. Communities around the world are finding new ways to increase walkability, from Shanghai to Stockholm. Here in New York, through public-private partnerships and strong government leadership, officials have opened the new High Line Park, closed sections of Times Square to cars, and added over 200 miles of bike lanes in all five boroughs.
Walkability is a global concern. In June, the World Health Organization (WHO) released the first assessment of road safety for 175 nations. The most striking statistic? Road traffic injuries will become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030 if no significant efforts are made to change our road safety policies, design or behavior. Currently, it’s the second leading cause of death for children from ages 5 to 14 and the leading cause of death for 15 to 29 year-olds. Truly, this is an epidemic.
While Paul and I tackled 26.2 miles of Washington, D.C., this past Sunday for Safe Kids, each of us can play a role to make our roads safer for child pedestrians. Walk to school with your children. Put down your blackberry when you are driving. Volunteer to become a crossing guard at your school once a month. Each of us can make an impact on this issue and protect the safety of our children.
See you on the streets.