Inspired by the #nottodaymotherfucker movement.
You may have noticed a handful of tragic on-the-run female physical harassment experiences come to light recently. This follows a story of an Irish woman, Ashling Murphy who went for a run, at 4:00 pm in a "safe" area. By that evening she was gone for good.
This story made me furious, and it is not the only one. 84% of female runners have been harassed on the run, including myself and nearly every female runner I know. But, let's face it - we run through rain, wind, and snow. We run before our children wake, and we run before our colleagues are out of bed. We run through the excuses our minds muster up. Historically, when we have been harassed, we move on because that's what we do. It is rare, women make a big deal out of anything inconvenient to anyone else.
Aren't there enough barriers for women?
I breastfeed my five-month-old baby boy, Maverick. While this is a gift, it physically requires a lot. My husband and I take shifts to work out in the morning before the day's obligations. I choose to run around 5:00 a.m. because I must be back for my son’s first feeding session, and it is nice to have a few moments to shower and get ready for the day while he is still sleeping. On long-run days, those free moments are exchanged for immediate salty, cold milkshake service upon my return.
I’m also fortunate to have a big supply, so to avoid a clogged duct and extreme discomfort, I pump before my run too. Needless to say, getting out the door in the morning requires more than just strapping on a pair of runners. There are already great barriers if I choose to look at these obstacles as such. I am assured many women feel like this as well.
Additionally, I am training for my fourth Boston Marathon in April, and after a mentally challenging pregnancy, I feel like myself again. I cannot wait to get to that start line healthy, and ready to run. We have part-time childcare, but that is reserved for building my business back up following maternity leave. I am, a classic example of a woman justifying her choice to put herself first.
Truthfully, on the run I am scared.
Truthfully, when I run early I am scared. I’m scared of being followed, abducted, and killed. Like most of the other female runners I know, I turn on my music and remind myself how I have run these streets one thousand times + before, and it is unlikely that the worst-case scenario will happen.
No woman should have to be scared.
In light of Ashling's death and other survival stories like Kelly Herron's, I had a revelation. I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO BE SCARED TO RUN. No woman should be scared.
Particularly since becoming a mom, I practice safe running habits. I run on well-lit streets or parks with other early morning runners. I run within a few blocks of high-trafficked areas. I carry a taser, bear spray, an alarm, and my phone. I also wear bone-conducting headphones so I can still hear a threat while my music is playing.
Coincidentally, I was followed the week after Ashling was killed.
Around 5:50 a.m. on a Tuesday, I sensed a car behind me slow down and hang a left onto a quiet street after I turned from a busy one. I prepared my bear spray and had my husband ready to be dialed. I made a right, he pulled over, let a car pass, and gradually followed me once more. Frankly, I felt in control, but I was fucking pissed. I thought,
Is this really another barrier I have to worry about?
I turned and sprinted back toward the street with traffic and saw him pass me. Those few minutes felt like miles. I am sure he realized I was too prepared as a target. I had called my husband as a precaution. He was nearly out of the garage when I shared I was indefinitely safe.
This is not uncommon and it’s not the first time it has happened to me. We are not the ones who should be scared. Every time this happens to a woman, I want the threat to be the unlucky one. If you touch one of us, you touch all of us. Every potential predator in my mind must know, we are not a population they want to target. We just want to go for a run.
Everything is purposeful.
My M.O. this year is to remind myself how everything is purposeful. Could this man have been lost? Certainly, I thought this because too frequently women feel guilty when we’re not overly kind or available to others. With my husband's help, I have realized that I should not feel like this and I’d rather not know what his intentions were. What I do know is this will be a driving force behind my business and blog this year. The role of feeling biologically healthy requires confidence you are in control and protected. Feeling your best demands a lack of feeling threatened.
Can you or someone you know relate?
Be on the lookout for events to prepare and protect yourself in a threatening scenario. Together we can eliminate harassment as a barrier to running outside.
Do you have a story of your own? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org..