When Mollie Tibbetts went for a jog and never returned, her death realized the worst fears of many runners, especially women, who lace up their sneakers unsure of what they may face on the road.
But runners across the country aren’t letting fears of a similar situation stop them. Instead, they are dedicating their runs to the 20-year-old University of Iowa student and sharing hopeful messages on social media tagged #MilesforMollie.
“This run is for you Mollie. We are with you. We will not allow fear to stop us from doing the things we love,” University of Iowa alumna Sarah Hemann Bishop posted on Twitter. She included a picture of her sneakers, which have “Miles for Mollie” written on the side.
A funeral was held Sunday for Tibbetts in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa, where she was last seen alive on July 18. Police say Cristhian Bahena Rivera told them he saw Tibbetts running and “pursued her in his vehicle.” Later, he parked the car and started running near her. He is charged with first-degree murder.
“I find so much joy in running and as a female, I know I have to run with an added sense of caution, especially when running alone. It is unfair,” Bishop told CNN. “I joined #milesformollie to show that we are not afraid. Mollie inspires us to be strong and brave.”
Local running clubs have been dedicating their meet-ups to Tibbetts. Two from Iowa, No Regrets Running and Corridor Running, partnered on Sunday to honor Tibbetts.
“We wanted to not only run in her honor but show the world that the running community is strong and supportive. The group is from Iowa and Brooklyn, Iowa, is not far from us,” No Regrets Running member Ara Bungee Ispentchian said.
Several people said it was important to continue motivating young female runners in particular.
“Running is something rewarding and beneficial. I don’t want my team and especially the female runners to lose joy from this senseless crime,” said Alex Oliver, head coach of the cross country teams at Riverside Community School Junior High and High School in Carson, Iowa.
The young runners dedicated their Friday morning workout to #MilesforMollie, Oliver said.
Amanda Nethero of Clermont, Florida, said she is part of a local Moms RUN This Town group that’s all about empowering female runners. “Our motto is no woman left behind,” she said.
She ran 10 miles for Tibbetts on Sunday with her squad. “No woman should fear for her life every time she laces up her shoes,” Nethero posted on Twitter.
“As the mom of a young runners, I walked miles today to reclaim our roads and trails,” Maria DeAngelo of New York state said on Twitter. “I am an athlete and the mom of runners. I support Miles for Mollie to support women in their right to run where and when they want in safety.”
Men are part of the effort, too. Ed Zaniewski of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, dedicated his Sunday run to Tibbetts.
“For me, that hashtag is just a small way as a runner, a husband and a father of a 26-year-old daughter to express my support and heartfelt condolences to Mollie’s family,” he said.
“But for the grace of God go I and the thousands of other runners out there every day chasing goals never thinking they may not make it home.”
Others said they ran #MilesforMollie to send supportive messages to her family.
“All Mollie Tibbetts wanted to do was go for a run. Since she was not able to finish, I ran for her yesterday and today,” Tericia Eller of North Carolina posted on Twitter.
“My motivation to join is her family. I have daughters. I want them safe. I want her family to see how much the running community mourns with and supports them!”
Wendi Cannon of Tallahassee, Florida, said her #MilesforMollie run was 5.5 miles on Sunday.
“As an avid runner and walker, my heart was broken hearing Mollie’s story. Thoughts and prayers for her family during this difficult time.”
Aly Rigg said she dedicated her 11th half marathon in Reno, Nevada, on Sunday to Tibbetts.
“I followed her story and when the news broke, it rocked the running world – especially for us female runners,” she said.
“I ran for her today to show my support to her family, her loved ones and all of my fellow women runners. We are a force to reckon with.”
CNN’s Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.