I can’t remember the last time I ran in heat. It might have been as long ago as the Sedona Marathon heat-tastrophe of 2013.
Normally I am an early morning runner. Not because I avoid the heat, but I try to run while others sleep so I don’t take time away from my family. However, yesterday, the opportunity to run came in the afternoon. An 87 degree run up and down the hills of Nashville (550 feet of elevation gain in 4.5 miles).
I am not complaining about the heat. When running, I actually like a good challenge. The more difficult the obstacle, the worse the weather, the steeper the hill, the sweeter the accomplishment. In some strange way, I enjoy the sting of sweat in my eyes. Pushing against the temperature, wind, and humidity makes the accomplishment of running all the sweeter.
However, as my face turned red with heat I also recognized the heat of the world around me.
Yesterday I ran through the remains of Fort Negley. This Fort was built through the work of Freed Slaves during the Civil War as a protective wall for the Union. Ironically, these walls now stand at the top of a hill in a predominantly African American neighborhood. This neighborhood looks starkly different from the one of our hotel two miles away. Instead of the high scale restaurants and shops where I have spent most of my time in Nashville, this area of the city included cracked sidewalks, crumbling infrastructure, and neglect.
As I stood among the walls of Fort Negley that overlook this neighborhood of Nashville, I wondered about the sacrifice of the men who built these walls. How would they see our world today? A century and a half later we still live in a divided country. While physical walls do not divide a nation, walls of class, race, and poverty create different worlds of safety, opportunity, and even life expectancy.
Freed Slaves labored on hot Tennessee days to protect the Union. How is the Union at work in these hot days of civil unrest to protect vulnerable people today?