The importance of women feeling safe on our streets has been a hugely highlighted topic across the media recently.
I don’t for one minute presume that men are exempt from feelings of unease or fear while going about their daily routines, but this article is based upon my experiences as a woman, and is therefore dedicated to the ladies.
Street harassment in general is something most of us have had to contend with at some point in our lives, be it embarrassing cat-calls or downright disrespectful remarks tossed our way. Amidst the various, relatable scandals blown across the news in recent months, I was pleased to see that the BBC had featured an article solely focusing on unwanted attention while exercising.
A few weeks ago, the most read news story on the BBC detailed an absolute hero of a female cyclist, who - sick to the back teeth of having vulgar remarks aimed at her while she was minding her own business exercising - pedalled after a driver who had shouted at her. She proceeded to confront him on his distasteful choice of language, and filmed the whole thing to shame him. The lady deserves a medal!
How many of us ladies have experienced similar harassment while out exercising?
Cars slowing down - or stopping altogether - drivers craning their necks out of the windows to gawp. Drivers beeping their horns. Big groups outside pubs yelling crude comments. Leering passersby throwing what they probably consider to compliments after us as we run past.
This undesirable interest is off-putting, degrading, and often quite intimidating too.
What gives anybody the right to make us feel uncomfortable in this way?
Running is liberating. It frees us from the chains of life, granting us with the gift of escape. It is a lifeline to so many of us.
The small number of inconsiderate individuals are unknowingly taking away our confidence and indeed divine right to relish in this freedom.
In the past, I have changed my route to avoid groups I know are out to cause uncalled for discomfort. I have cut my runs short and returned home – downtrodden – after feeling spooked by a car slowing down alongside me, the driver and passengers spitting out ‘banter.’
I don’t get it – why can’t we even seemingly do something as simple as exercise without being made to feel unsafe?
My hair is piled on top of my head in a greasy bun, my acne is out, I’m sweating, and I’m wearing an ancient, oversized fake-tan-and-bolognaise stained hoodie. Nothing to see here, trust me!
And seriously... Come one now - literally nobody has EVER met their future husband after he screamed a derogatory comment about one's backside out of a car window while she was attempting a 5k PB.
I really don't understand what people are hoping to achieve? It's not alluring in the slightest!
Recently, I attended a running event, and was subjected to unwanted attention from a member of the public while I was waiting for the race to begin.
Upon being informed that I was married and not interested, the individual became aggressive and threatened to ‘smash my husband’s face in,’ before yelling swear words and abuse at me across the event for a good 2-3 minutes. I walked away, which was met by a further barrage of abuse. It was utterly mortifying.
Thankfully, the stewards at the event were absolutely fantastic, and intervened straight away. The man was removed from the event by security, however did take it upon himself to return twice more!
Needless to say, the whole incident really dampened my evening and left me feeling quite shaken.
I often write about the warmth and silent unanimity of the running community. It’s the little things that remind us that we’re not alone on those freezing cold 7am starts, be it a cheery greeting, or a simple shared eye roll at the worsening weather.
When I ran my first ever marathon last year, my app barked out my distance as I passed two guys jogging in the opposite direction. They beamed, putting their thumbs up, and sent me on my way with encouraging calls of, “Go on! Enjoy your run!”
It was the unexpected boost I needed to spur me on.
Delving deeper into the kindness and support of our incredible worldwide running community, I want to particularly highlight the unity of female runners.
When I’m out running and I see another fast-moving florescent pink coat in the distance, I know I’m safe. Women joggers: we are safety in numbers, looking out for one another across the miles. It’s an unspoken bond and an infusion of our power.
As runners – female runners especially – we share more than we realise, and in this, our collective experiences cement our fierce protection of one another.
I’ve had a fellow female runner compliment my trainers as we shared a fleeting passing, pounding the pavements: “Great shoes, hun!”
On another occasion, I’ve been pulled over with a stitch, and two female runners have checked on me, slowing their own paces.
And will you just look at the pure goddam love and strength that ferociously alights events such as Pretty Muddy!
Who run the world...?!
A lot of it is common sense, but below are some Safety Tips for Runners that I try to make priority every time I head out -
*Always tell someone your intended route, distance and how long you expect to be. Of course, we runners are wonderfully unpredictable – we’ll reluctantly head out with the intention of a half hour 5k, and then end up running our personal best half marathon! In these instances, I always make sure that I take a few seconds to pull over and text my husband to let him know that I may be longer than intended.
* If running in a quiet location, or early morning or late at night, try to avoid the temptation to use headphones. Music is fantastic in spurring us on and can make such a huge difference to our workouts, but being totally aware of our surroundings is imperative in these situations.
*If you ever do find yourself in a situation whereby you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, get yourself to a busy, public place as soon as possible and make contact with somebody.
Although often a pain to lug around, I always make sure that I have my phone on me, fully charged and with topped-up data.
*Vary your routes, times and distances: it’s a no brainer.
*Is running with somebody else, or even a group of people, a possibility? Running clubs, gyms and exercise classes are great places to meet likeminded enthusiasts.
I'm proud to be a part of the MedalMad virtual running community.
You can check out their website here: https://www.medalmad.com/
If you're unfamiliar with the concept of a virtual run, basically, you run a distance of your choice any place, any time, before submitting your result and choosing a medal.
Medal Mad’s array of gorgeous medals just keep on getting better (anyone else find that they’re spending more money on this site then they are on their mortgages...?!). Why not get your gals together for a Medal Mad challenge?! Your friends needn’t be runners to participate – you could plan a group walk, bike ride, or even a swim, with each participant receiving a medal. Some of the best Medal Mad bling for a girl’s day include the sassy She Ran With Honour 5km and the impossibly pretty Beauty & The Beast themed Run Like A Beast 5km.
You could even take your pooch as your ultimate bodyguard and complete the Dog Buddy 5km together!
Taking part in virtual runs - with the added bonus of some new medal bling - is a great way to inject the fun back into exercise and convince your mates to tag along, too.
* Blog originally posted on MedalMad
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©