This morning my running group, the Village Runners, went on an MLK Day Memorial Run through downtown Birmingham. We ran from Crestwood into downtown Birmingham where we visited the Civil Rights Institute, Kelly Ingram Park, 16th St. Baptist Church, and the Eddie Kendrick and The Temptations memorials. We then ran past Carver, Lyric, and Alabama Theaters before looping back through Pepper Place and Avondale Park.
Despite living in Birmingham for a year and a half, I had never stopped and visited 16th St. Baptist Church or the park with all its memorials and haunting statues. It was emotional standing by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. statue as the sun rose, thinking about how far Birmingham has come in the last 50 years, but how far it still has to go.
The weather was a perfect complement to the scenery and company. When I finished I decided that it was definitely one of my most favorite runs I’ve ever done. Toward the end, my friend Joey commented that it was probably his easiest 10-miler ever, and I totally agree. It was effortless and fun—no one was concerned about pace, negative splits, or PRs.
We covered 10 road miles, but I feel like we traveled so much farther. We ran and acknowledged the city’s past—the good and the bad. Every skyscraper and renovated neighborhood represented our present and what Birmingham residents have worked so hard to accomplish. As we ran we talked about the future of Birmingham and how in just a few short years everything will be different, even better. The new greenway project will link Railroad Park to Sloss Furnaces in an effort to connect all of Birmingham’s green spaces. In other words, a mecca for runners and a sign that the city is looking to the future, trying to encourage people to step away from their screens and go outdoors.
I can’t think of a better way to have spent MLK Day. I am thankful for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the entire civil rights movement, and I look forward to watching Birmingham’s changes over the next 50 years, from whatever city it is that I call home at that time. Progress and growth is being made here faster than in any city I’ve visited. While some of it is simply playing catch-up, you can’t build upward until you accept history, learn from it, and progress. And that is exactly what Birmingham is doing.
More photos from today’s run: