KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knoxville Track Club said Wednesday they were running in honor of a 34-year-old woman who police said Tuesday was found dead in Memphis.
The Memphis Police Department said Eliza Fletcher was kidnapped around 4 a.m. Friday while on an early morning run in the University of Memphis area. She was a mother and a junior kindergarten teacher, and the story of her death attracted national attention.
"Beautiful and kind and a mother, and she lived every day trying to be a better person," said Lake Bailey, who said she was friends with Fletcher.
A 38-year-old man, Cleotha Abston, was charged with first-degree murder. He also faces charges for a separate incident the same day, before the kidnapping.
The Knoxville Track Club was especially impacted by Fletcher's kidnapping and death. They posted on social media that they were running 3.4 miles Wednesday in her memory, as part of their routine Wednesday Night Run. Members of the club also asked people to run on their own to honor Fletcher.
"It helps my soul to be out here with people I don't know. To know that people in Knoxville are sending love to Eliza in Memphis," said Bailey. "I felt like, 'Well, if anyone can beat an attacker it would be Eliza.' I had a lot of hope that we would find her and it was just a nightmare all weekend, just checking the news."
They said people across the U.S. and Canada responded to their request. Those runners said they would run the miles for her. It is longer than a usual 5K run, which usually ends up covering around 3.1 miles.
"(Runners from) all these state who have just shared, 'Hey, I can't be at your group run tonight, but I did my run here, and I did my hike here, and I did my walk here," said David Black, the executive director of the Knoxville Track Club. "It's just really meaningful to see it really did
Anyone who wants to run with the Knoxville Track Club can find them at The Runners Market at 6 p.m. It is located at 4443 Kingston Pike. People are also invited to join them at Hard Knox Pizza after the run.
Several runners also said they planned to travel to Memphis to finish the run that Fletcher was on before she was kidnapped.