Eliza’s Run

Birmingham. It’s 4:23 a.m. It’s chilly. There is a quilt of fog suspended over the foothills of the Appalachians. The whole world is dark.

I should not be up at this hour. I am hardly awake. My hair is a mess. My eyes are crusted. But here I am. Standing in a park alongside a handful of average, middle-aged people all wearing impossibly short jogging shorts.

We’re a small group. We are strangers. None of us have met before. We don’t even know each other’s names.

We come in different shapes, colors, creeds, and sizes. Some are runners. Most of us are just ordinary people who haven’t donned athletic shorts since the Jimmy Carter administration.

We are here to finish Eliza’s run.

Eliza Fletcher. She was 34 years old when she was abducted and killed in Memphis. It happened after she woke early last Friday to complete her jogging route. She went out early. Around 4:30 a.m. She never finished. Her body was found, like refuse.

She was a kindergarten teacher. A wife. A mother. She was beautiful. Just out for a jog.

This morning, all over the United States runners are getting together to finish Eliza’s run.

In Memphis, 2,100 signed up to run Eliza’s daily route and finish what Eliza started. In Raleigh, North Carolina, people have gathered. In Cleveland, Ohio, hundreds from around the city are running privately. In Colorado Springs, nearby mountain trails are choked with runners for Eliza. Oklahoma City. Sacramento. Detroit. San Antonio. Wichita. Laramie. Orlando.

We start jogging. Within seconds I am acutely aware of just how hopelessly out of shape I am.

One of us is a 48-year-old woman. She is tall, well over six feet. A lawyer. Her friend challenged her to run a half marathon on her fortieth birthday. That’s how she started jogging.

“I’m here this morning,” she says, “because Eliza could have been me.”

I meet another woman. She maintains a pace faster than a squirrel on amphetamines. She is 41, mother of three. Originally from Holyoke, Massachusetts.

“I’m here” she says, “because I run every morning anyway. Just like Eliza. And I get it. I get why she was out that early. My morning run is sacred to me.”

Ten minutes into our jog, I realize I do not belong here. I am sucking serious pondwater. My thighs are seizing and my ribs hurts.

I find myself hobbling alongside a guy with shaggy hair. He wears a Grateful Dead T-shirt. His beard is salt-and-pepper. He is 44, newly married. He recently adopted an infant daughter from China.

“Yeah, I know people get killed every day in America. But this one just hit hard. Maybe because I have a daughter now. I don’t want my daughter growing up in a world where women have to be afraid.”

A woman trots past me. Blond ponytail. She is short, powerfully built, with calves the size of regulation NFL footballs. She looks like she could be a drill instructor for the Marine Corps.

“Eliza was us,” she says. “She was every woman who has ever gone for a walk, a bike ride, or pushed a stroller through her neighborhood. That’s what this is about. Women should be able to run without fear for their safety.”

We round the two-mile loop and I’m hanging in there. But barely. My hamstrings are straining. My feet hurt.

These people are wickedly fast runers. And I am not a fast jogger. I run sort of like a penguin escaping from a Sea World exhibit.

A woman and her daughter are trotting beside me. The mother is 63 years old. Her daughter is 39. They run shoulder to shoulder. They have completed numerous half marathons together.

“This country has been so divided,” says Mom. “It’s important to pull together for things like this. That’s what I think we’re doing this morning, we’re unifying ourselves. We’re honoring the sanctity of life. Eliza’s beautiful life.”

When the long, arduous run is finished, the veterans among us aren’t even out of breath. Whereas some of us amateurs look like we fell into a swimming pool.

Someone suggests a moment of silence for Eliza.

All 14 of us bow our heads. No preamble. Just quietude. The stillness is serenaded by crickets and the sound of heavy breathing.

Eliza was born in 1987. If she were alive to join us, she would have been the baby of our group today. A sobering thought.

The sky is turning pink over the treeline. The first pangs of a Birmingham sunrise. Birds sing. A train whistles in the far off. And one redheaded columnist wipes his tear stained eyes and asks God why.

We finished your run, Eliza. But it wasn’t the same without you.


  1. Sandi. - September 10, 2022 6:48 am

    What a wonderful tribute to Eliza, a very good way to honor her short life. May she rest in peace.

  2. Ed Caldwell (Bear) - September 10, 2022 7:30 am

    I struggle with how so many bad things happen. I know that I’m not alone. Why does evil get away with causing so much pain. It’s because we are collectively sick and broken. We have one foot in Hell and one in Heaven. This is Earth. Earth is a revolving door to good and evil that will only stop rotating when time ends. The door swings both ways. Bad things happen because the door is indiscriminate. Good things happen because the door is also open to people that help others because they can’t quite get through the door by themselves. God planned it that way. Love is the answer to why. Eliza has moved beyond the door and is spreading love to all that hear. This kindergartner believes she is still alive and helping.

  3. Laura - September 10, 2022 8:59 am

    This is so sad. Hopefully something good comes from it like the Chelsea’s Light Foundation that was formed and named after the young girl that was assaulted and killed over 12 years ago while out jogging after school in San Diego. Bless you for joining them to finish Eliza’s run.

  4. barbara afield - September 10, 2022 9:39 am

    Say their name, Eliza❤️

  5. Leigh Amiot - September 10, 2022 10:33 am

    On Friday, the man who killed Eliza was charged with another kidnapping/rape from 2021 and is being investigated for yet another on the same day. Eliza may have been the last victim of a serial killer. It’s easy to understand how someone could kill in self-defense, but to hunt down a random victim and commit murder, that’s just demonic.

    One of my adult children was born the same year as Eliza, and that brings home how she was just hitting her stride in life—as a wife, mother, and professionally. Her family surely feels the love of people all across the country finishing her run. Because your column reminded me of this situation, I paused to pray for her children and husband. Your sharing and caring, Sean, is a blessing.

  6. Barbara - September 10, 2022 10:48 am

    So proud of you and all the amazing folks who rolled out of bed at an ungodly hour to come together in honor of Eliza. Millennium Running also organized runners in Bedford, NH. God bless her family and the tremendous outpouring be an encouragement.

  7. Ann - September 10, 2022 11:01 am

    Simply sadly beautiful!🙏🏻

  8. Ann Thompson - September 10, 2022 11:03 am

    Makes me weep. ❤️

  9. Nancy - September 10, 2022 11:56 am

    Such a moving tribute! Your words and efforts in the run give pause to consider all aspects of life and to be prayerful for Eliza’s family.

  10. Trudy - September 10, 2022 12:15 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for running for Eliza. I, too, ran Friday morning for Eliza. I am heartbroken for Eliza’s family. I think about how awful her final moments of life must have been. I’ve been running for 46 years and worked in law enforcement for 30 years, and I’m acutely aware that females cannot run whenever and where ever we want. It’s not right and it’s not fair, but it is reality. It makes me angry and it makes me sad. Ladies, please be careful out there. Run smart and run safe.
    RIP Eliza. ❤️

  11. Donna - September 10, 2022 12:28 pm

    Your words always open my heart to Him! They give my that moment when I have no doubt. God is speaking. I am so thankful He is my savior. I am the daughter of the King. I am so thankful for your words! Ya amazing what He will do for us if we let Him.

  12. DJ - September 10, 2022 12:29 pm

    Beautifully written. Thank you, Sean.

  13. Priscilla Rodgers - September 10, 2022 12:39 pm

    A beautiful tribute. Thanks Sean.

  14. Rosemary - September 10, 2022 12:43 pm

    Thank you for running. Thank you for sharing. Thank you honoring Eliza. Thank you for helping us see what is good and right in our nation, even in the midst of evil.

  15. Donna - September 10, 2022 12:47 pm


  16. Bobbie - September 10, 2022 12:51 pm

    Thanks for that! RIP Eliza.❤️

  17. Denise DeVries - September 10, 2022 12:59 pm

    God bless you Sean and all of the runners for Eliza.

  18. Candice - September 10, 2022 1:03 pm

    Beautiful! Liza lived in my neighborhood. This horrible event has us so sad, but I love that people over our country have been touched by her short life. Women should not be underestimated. We are a very strong group and should not be worried when going out for a walk or a run. Liza let your light shine!

  19. Jean P. Stone - September 10, 2022 1:07 pm

    CBS Saturday Morning is just airing how all these runners are finishing her run! This is so heartwarming.

  20. Linda Lewis - September 10, 2022 1:23 pm

    May God bless and comfort Eliza’s family. May God bless you, too, Sean for this heartfelt endeavor.

  21. Anne Arthur - September 10, 2022 1:24 pm

    May Eliza’s soul rest in peace.
    How sad that we live in a world where we always have to look over our shoulder in fear. “Eliza’s run” was a beautiful tribute, and a call to community. Together, we are safer and stronger than evil.

  22. Helen De Prima - September 10, 2022 1:29 pm

    Not only women are at risk. Last week, a 75 year old great-grandfather was stabbed to death on his daily walk in Manchester NH. His killer was out on bail after trying to knife someone a week earlier.

  23. Sean of the South: Eliza’s Run | The Trussville Tribune - September 10, 2022 1:35 pm

    […] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]

  24. Sherry - September 10, 2022 1:37 pm

    I’m sad for what happened to this lady, but what about the millions of regular people that this kind of tragedy takes their lives? She was an heiress, so she makes the news. What about regular people? I’m sorry for her family, and I’m sorry for all the other families that lost loved ones to violence.

    • Lauree Riggin - September 10, 2022 4:43 pm

      I share your lament about this. Natalie Ann Holloway’s disappearance and Gabby Petito’s covered nationally and for weeks. And yes, thousands of others go missing and are murdered and we never know. Only during light news weeks do we get the info and then we get bombarded and then say, “enough!”
      Your bringing up the question helps everyone remember there are countless others and maybe Eliza, Natalie, and Gabby’s stories help us connect again with all of the unfortunate victims and their families.
      Thank you for your post.

    • Kathryn - September 10, 2022 10:59 pm

      This is about ELIZA, not other “regular people” (whoever they are), who are murdered. Your comment is inappropriate at best, callus at worst. For shame.

  25. Karen - September 10, 2022 1:47 pm

    So sad. Folks should be safe to run or walk without fear.

  26. Grace Foxwell Murdock - September 10, 2022 1:52 pm


  27. David Britnell - September 10, 2022 2:09 pm

    Rest easy Eliza! So sorry your home going was so evil and tragic.

  28. Norman Anderson - September 10, 2022 2:14 pm

    Thanks Sean for this beautiful story

  29. Paula Rothman - September 10, 2022 2:19 pm

    how beautiful. if measure by he # of kleenex needed to f inish reading.. this is a 5 star

  30. Susan Flick - September 10, 2022 3:06 pm

    Goosebumps reading this…so much evil in this world…sickness can be hopefully cured, but evil is another animal entirely. RIP Eliza and prayers and peace to her family.

  31. pattymack43 - September 10, 2022 4:40 pm

    A beautiful tribute – in both actions and words. People can “come together”. Thank you, Sean.

  32. Chuck - September 10, 2022 5:53 pm

    Don’t forget the p.o.s. that killed her, it keeps happening.

  33. Charles - September 10, 2022 5:57 pm

    Who is doing this, day after day. We know.

  34. Carol - September 10, 2022 6:00 pm

    Thank you for finishing Eliza’s run! Thanks for sharing thought and emotions we are all thinking and feeling!

  35. Jeanie - September 10, 2022 6:14 pm

    Thank you for remembering liza again today. Her service was this morning.

  36. Dawn Johnson - September 10, 2022 6:49 pm

    Precious that you shared , I felt so bad for her and praying for the family 🙏🏻💗🙏🏻

  37. MAM - September 10, 2022 7:27 pm

    We continue every day in a war between good and evil. We must pray hard and have full faith in God that He will win and bring us back to a better time where people are safe doing ordinary things like taking a walk or a run. We must be the ones doing good, as you did today, Sean. When the good people far outnumber the bad and take charge of this world, we and God will win.

  38. Linda Moon - September 10, 2022 7:42 pm

    Birmingham…I love her and her foothills. I love Colorado Springs, too. If there had been a swim for Eliza, I would have been there, and after a long swim I would’ve been asking too, Sean. They say there is One who carries our sorrows and knows grief, and I think He was there with Eliza and her runners, too.

  39. Gloria Van Nostrand - September 10, 2022 8:29 pm

    Just beautiful.

  40. gwendc - September 10, 2022 8:59 pm

    You have a beautiful Jesus-infused way of describing your look at life, sometimes without even mentioning His name. I am drawn in quickly and blessed by your writings. Always. Thank you!

  41. Patricia Gibson - September 10, 2022 9:37 pm

    Such a sad thing Thank you for honoring her😢

  42. Judy - September 10, 2022 10:45 pm

    God have mercy!

  43. Steve McCaleb - September 10, 2022 11:18 pm

    As long as we live in a “society” that is as worried about the “rights” of the perpetrator as much (if not more) than of the innocent slain victims….we are sadly doomed to replay this sad crap over and over on a unending loop. Just wait for the copycats to strike. I’m sure they’re lining up by the dozen to upload their sick crimes to the internet. I mean, the ghouls and perverts are ready for their 10 minutes of fame. We live in a sick, twisted world that gets worse by the minute. Until we assume responsibility to deal with this in a meaningful powerful way, we’re just asking for more. God help us all.

  44. Mary Klausing - September 11, 2022 12:36 am

    I appreciate you stepping up to the challenge. Regardless of the shape you are in, you finished for Eliza.

  45. Phyllis Herring - September 11, 2022 3:16 am

    This one … it was sadder than the rest of your work that I have read. It is here that I realize that your work isn’t made up like I thought. I have this uncanny imagination that I use when I write. This … this is life, emotion, reality and death all in one. This is also one awesome writer because you put so much emotion in your writing. May God bless you

  46. Dee Thompson - September 11, 2022 2:06 pm

    Your column inspired me to write a blog. Your column is great, Sean, but the dad you quoted, like most men, has no clue what girls and women go through in terms of being afraid. We must ALWAYS be wary, 24/7, and take precautions. I am lucky to have an older brother who taught me situational awareness and self-defense. ALL girls should learn both, in high school or perhaps younger. https://deescribbler.typepad.com/my_weblog/2022/09/woman-must-always-be-cautious.html

  47. Gary Fleming - September 12, 2022 12:14 pm

    Human failures caused this tragedy, not God. Evil exists, and unless we separate those who have demonstrated callous disregard for human life from our most vulnerable, these kinds of tragedies will continue to happen.

  48. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - September 15, 2022 9:49 pm



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