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Jessica Ballou, Published February 11 2012

Runners come together in support of Montana teacher

FARGO – Runners gathered Saturday at the Beyond Running store on Broadway to honor a fellow runner, Sherry Arnold, and to support her family.

Runs were held at 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. There was also a donation raffle for running gear, and Brooks “Run Happy” bracelets were sold for a suggested $1 donation.

All proceeds will go to a fund established for Arnold’s children. Arnold, a Sidney, Mont., math teacher, disappeared Jan. 7 and is presumed dead.

The events at Beyond Running were part of the “virtual run,” in which people participate in the run where they are instead of all meeting in one place.

On a Facebook page for the event, participants reported taking part in the virtual run in Puerto Rico, New York, North Carolina, Colorado and the list goes on.

Julie Heuer of south Fargo ran with two others for just over five miles at the 7 a.m. virtual run that started at Beyond Running. Her in-laws have a cabin in Billings, Mont., so when she heard that this happened in that state, she couldn’t believe it.

“I can’t imagine what her family must be going through,” Heuer said. “She sounds like a fantastic mother and wife. This was a terrible thing to happen to anybody.”

“The stories … it just really overwhelms you,” she said. “You get that feeling a mile into it: What was she thinking (when she ran)? I’m not fearful. It just makes me more aware of my surroundings.”

Whitney Derks of Moorhead, who ran at the 9 a.m. gathering at Beyond Running, is originally from Denton, Mont. She knows many people who were friends or students of Arnold, so Derks decided to organize something here in Fargo. She contacted Sally Loeffler, one of the owners of Beyond Running, who helped coordinate the event.

“Because it’s so close to me, her story just resonated with me,” Derks said.

Joe Mitchell, also of Moorhead, was talking to Derks after reading a story in The Forum a few days ago about Arnold when they decided to do something. He said that although he doesn’t run frequently, he wanted to do this because it’s a great cause.

“I think it’s an honor to be able to support a family where so much is going on,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for the community … to band together to be able to do something small to show support.”

Loeffler didn’t know Arnold personally, but she and other runners wanted to show their unity and support by dedicating one of their weekly group runs to her.

“I think runners are all part of a community, sort of an unspoken family,” Loeffler said. “This is just to remember a runner like us … increasing awareness to cherish each day and to know that even when bad things happen to good people, we move on.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jessica Ballou at (701) 237-7311