HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Runners across the country are planning to run in honor of Eliza Fletcher, who was abducted and found dead in Memphis last week, and one Huntsville group is joining the movement.
Fleet Feet, Huntsville Track Club and RunningLane have banded together to form “Run For Eliza,” set for Friday, September 9. Runners are encouraged to arrive at Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville at 4:30 a.m.
“We should be able to walk out our doors and run without fear,” said Fleet Feet owner Suzanne Swift. “We should feel safe to go out in our communities and do that.”
Fletcher, a 34-year-old teacher and mother of two, was forced into an SUV around the halfway point of her 10-mile run on the University of Memphis campus, authorities say. Her body was found three days later behind an abandoned house in South Memphis.
“It made me very angry and very sad,” said Donna Ruiz, a local triathlon coach.
Event organizers said they want to start a conversation about women’s safety and work to create a better environment for runners.
“We believe that this tragedy that happened to her can change lives, and she can make a difference,” Swift said.
Several members of the Memphis running community say their run to honor Fletcher’s life is also in response to negative comments brought up on social media about the hour she was running and the clothes she was wearing.
“There is a lot of banter out there that she shouldn’t have been running at 4:30 in the morning,” Swift said. “That was probably the only time that she could run. She has two small children. She has a full-time job, and she was getting ready for Boston so she needed to get in a long run.”
Ruiz said she often takes precautions when she runs by carrying pepper spray or running with a partner, but she said these precautions are not foolproof.
“For someone to say it was her fault because of the time she chose to go out the door, absolutely no, that was not her fault,” Ruiz said. “4:30 in the afternoon should be no different than 4:30 in the morning. We’re making a statement that 4:30 is fine. 4:30 is our time too.”
Anyone is welcome to participate in the event, which organizers say has been set up for runners in the Tennessee Valley to be able to honor Fletcher’s life and finish her run.
You can find all the details on the run as the event is updated here.