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Why female runners pose more challenges than ever before

Comment on the content: Attack and Sexual Harassment

I run to escape the stress of everyday life, the kind that wears us all down: unanswered work e-mails, dishes that somehow accumulate in the sink, the general Shortage hours a day. It feels so liberating to literally outstrip my stressors, even if it's only 30 minutes or an hour long.

I run to feel human. I stop thinking of myself in relation to my work or relationships and just connect with my body. I run to feel the physical pain, the self-doubt, the impulse to give up everything and call my husband to drive home ̵

1; and feel the accompanying ecstasy as I walk through the pain and go to the other side then continue to run.

I run to feel powerful. Most of the time I run to feel free.

But I'm never really free when I'm running.

Because I'm not just human – I'm a woman. And as a woman, I can never feel completely free. When I run, I can relax a bit for the sensation of freedom … until I hear a call, feel a car crawling behind me for blocks (or even miles) or overly aware of me Every broken branch becomes as I drive down a forest path. Since I am a woman, when I run I can never escape completely – I am inevitably away from the moment.

Running presents itself as one of the most democratic sports there is. [19659006] To be a runner you do not need fancy equipment. You do not need a gym membership (or even the courage to go to a gym). You do not need professional training or a rare body type – assuming your body is up for running, chances are good that your body knows how it works. And for so many women, this is part of the appeal of running.

According to Statista running is one of the most popular sports worldwide. In the US alone, 60 million people were running, jogging or trail running in 2017 – and the majority of these runners are women.

"Two things I love about running are the ones you can do It's a wonderful way to explore a new place," says Katie Sullivan, director of brand and marketing at Swerve Fitness in New York City ,

Samantha Baron, Education Coordinator at Sentergroup, Inc., lives and runs downtown Chicago, agrees. "Running is something I can just do and ," she says. "It's something that seems to be gender neutral."

But the experience of being a runner is not gender neutral.

The average runner of each gender addresses the usual safety concerns, such as: B. lost or avoid traffic. Runners presenting as women are more likely to experience a number of other problems on their runs, most of which are aimed at physical safety.

Harassment is so pervasive among women's runners that it virtually normalizes. "My immediate reaction is that I was not molested," says Sullivan. "But then I realize that I can not really remember a run in NYC – day or night – when I was not peppered with phone calls and sexual comments .That's what I usually call" harmless, " but the recent change in our culture has led me to rethink the way I tolerate it. "

Cultural conversations on sexual assault and gender inequality can help women confirm their own experiences. You can also make women aware (and perhaps more anxious) about the potential threats that lurk on their doorstep.

"Recent events definitely have an impact," says Colleen Elrod, a nursing student who lived primarily in suburban settings. "Well, no matter what time it is, I feel I take a risk each time I run."



And that's not paranoia.

A 2016 Runner's World survey of more than 2,500 female runners and about as many male runners revealed the additional concerns that weigh on women:

  • The majority of participating runners reported Sometimes this is the case, often or always concerned about physical attacks or the recipient of unwanted physical attention during a run.
  • 43 percent of all interviewed women are at least occasionally molested while running – compared to only 4 percent of men. For women under the age of 30, this figure rises to 58 percent.
  • Of the women who were attacked, 94 percent said their molesters were men.
  • 30 percent of the women interviewed were persecuted by someone walking. on the bike or in a car while running.
  • 18 percent of women have been sexually suggested in the meantime.
  • 3 percent said they were physically aggrieved, attacked, or otherwise attacked while running.

And just as the #MeToo headlines surfaced, there were also stories of female runners who had experienced a robbery.

This October, the well-known runner and security attorney Kelly Herron was 12 miles from Vancouver in the "Girlfriends Run for a Cure" half-marathon. She was approached by a male passers-by on the course. In a fraction of a second, Herron decided to break her record time and pursue her assailant in order to file charges.

Unfortunately, this was not Herron's first encounter with an attack while running. In March 2017, she fended off a brutal attack in the public baths of a popular park in Seattle. These experiences prompted Herron to create the Not Today Motherfärder (NTMF) platform, which highlights the topic of runner safety (especially for runners) and gives women personal safety tips.

But harassment and assault are not even the worst thing that can happen.

In the summer of 2016, the running community staggered when three joggers were killed within nine days. These cases were considered incoherent, but they all had one thing in common: Every victim was a woman.

Just as our culture tends to blame women for sexual assault, so people have been looking for ways to declare these deaths as evidence of poor women's judgment. Although all three women ran during the day on routes that were familiar to them (which would not have meant that they were responsible for their murders if they had made a different choice), the armchair advice came from the social media: Women should not walk alone. Women should not walk in the dark. Women should not run with headphones. Women should not be too far from their place of residence. Women should not …

Freedom, compulsion to comply.

Fear of harassment or abuse does not just affect women who walk. Harassment by nature means communicating to your goals that you are not sure.

Research into the consequences of street harassment has revealed that harassed people tend to have problems with the body image, increased depression, increased rape rape, and internalized shame. These are consequences that go far beyond ruined training.



In an attempt to prevent harassment and abuse, runners tend to change their behavior: change their schedules and adopt new habits to feel safer.

Many women choose a strategy when they run.

"I started marathon training in July," says Elrod. "To get my long runs, I would have to run between 4 and 5 am Although I live in an area that I consider to be a very safe part of the city, there have been so many stories lately that people hurt walking I've never felt completely safe unless the sun was completely up and I was on a two-row, two-lane road. "

Sullivan also modifies their runs. "I rarely run at night, but if I do, I would not dare to go to the West Side Highway (fewer people, fewer eyes on you) or a park," she says.

And they are not alone. 60% of women interviewed in the Runner's World survey stated that potential threats meant that they restricted their runs to daylight hours.

Many change their clothes as well.

"I'm definitely thinking of day in choosing my wardrobe," says Sullivan. "On a super hot weekday afternoon this summer, I decided to wear shorts and a sports bra, and saw several crowds of people spending their lunch break outside, and I'll never make that mistake again."

And then there are the security measures.

Each woman interviewed for this article said that sometimes she alerts a friend or family member to her intended route before a run and asks them to follow if they have not heard from her at any given time.

Some women also take more advanced measures. For example, Elrod often runs with 911 on hold and her cell phone in hand. This reflects data from the Runner & # 39; s World survey, where 73 percent of respondents who are concerned about security are using a phone and are not burdened.

Other women bring weapons for physical protection. "When I lived in cities, I ran with pepper spray as well as with my keys between my fingers," says Caitlin Murphy, an intensive care nurse living in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Baron brings maces with each run. "I definitely feel better when I know I have it," she says.

The Runner & # 39; s World data from 1945 found that 21 percent of women at least occasionally carry pepper spray with them. One percent went so far as to carry a loaded weapon.

Of course, every woman who walks will not be bothered, attacked, or even frightened every time she straps her sneakers.

The likelihood of harassment often decreases outside of urban environments. "Because I live in a small mountain community, it just feels safer, and when I'm out there, I see people I know," says Heather Hower, a trail runner who lives in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. "It's like everyone's watching each other a bit."

Even in urban settings, some women are more concerned about vehicles or roadside hazards than potential attackers. "My biggest problem is probably cars," says Baron.

And, of course, men are sometimes the targets of harassment or assault. In general, however, the contrast between the concerns of male cis runners and those of other genders remains strong. The aforementioned survey of Runner's World revealed that only four percent of male runners reported harassment while walking – compared to nearly half of all women surveyed. Meanwhile, only one percent of men said they were sexually prescribed during a run (compared to 18 percent of women), and 93 percent of men surveyed said they rarely or never worry about unwanted physical contacts or attacks, when they prepare for a run. 19659003] The remarkable difference between running in a man and running in a female is even reflected in Google's search results. Enter "Male Runner Statistics" and you will get pages and results pages related to marathon times, training guides and other sports-related information. On the other hand, look for "Runner Statistics for Women" and stories about the dangers of running as women emerge in the first results and continue on the following pages.

While Running, Sport May Be More Democratic In most cases, it's still a challenge for women to escape the realities of deep-rooted cultural misogyny – no matter where, when or how fast they run. For runners to truly be free, our culture must first reconcile with its pervasive misogyny, and men as a collective must cease harassing and attacking women.

"I always wish someone would go to all the high schools and say something not to turn boys from high school into women," says Herron. She points out that boys who learn to treat women with respect are less likely to become men who do not.

Until that day, says Herron There are several strategies that women can use to feel safer on their runs.

"Security strategy # 1 is only to be fully aware of your environment," says Herron. To this end, she makes a habit of constantly scanning her surroundings and wears open-ear headphones that allow her to listen to music while at the same time hearing what is going on around her.

Herron occasionally brings along a weapon, but she is very fussy about using it. "If you're wearing a gun, it should be something that makes you feel good, very well-trained, and has a lot of practice," she says. Her preferred option is a Go Guarded Ring, a jagged plastic weapon that can be worn on any finger. She points out that it is also important to have your weapon at hand at all times. "It will not be good in your belt pouch," she says.

Herron also champions self-defense courses. "I would recommend a self-defense course for everyone," she says, appreciating the skills she has learned in such a course so she can fend off her first attacker. "The fact that my self-defense class was introduced by my employers – I would like to see that, as more HR departments do their job – Taco Tuesday is great, but you can also provide the staff with the tools that could potentially save their lives . "

After all, it is important to pay attention to each other. And that can happen in different ways.

"Men often ask me what they can do to make women feel safer, and I tell them they're looking for shots," says Herron. "Sometimes it's enough to make eye contact to deter them, and I think the boys have to call each other for harassment and misogyny."

An open conversation about runners' experiences can be another form of solidarity. "I wanted other women who were approached or attacked to know that they are not alone," says Herron. "Sharing the stories and hearing that it happened to other people can be very healing, so you are not in that spiral of shame and blame."

Thinking so much about safety can limit women's freedom While walking, Herron says that putting strategies into action can help women feel confident enough to continue on the road and on the trails , "I do not think we can ever get to a place with 100 percent freedom, but I think we can do anything to free ourselves from worries and fears."

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