If you followed the news at all this summer, you’ll remember the two girls in Boston and NYC who were both murdered while they were running alone. The murders of Vanessa Marcotte and Karina Vetrano really shook me to my core. Not just because they were both around the same age as me or that they run alone as I often do, but because I’ve been in situations, all involving men, that have scared me.
I’ve been running at the same park for nearly 10 years. On any given day, if you’re a runner at Memorial Park, you may see me running. I’ve even grown to make some running “friends,” regulars who I’ve run past for years. We don’t always know each others names but we still smile and wave. Occasionally, we even say hi to each other. However, I’ve been saying “hi” to these random strangers, less and less over the past few years. The truth is, men scare me at times and I don’t think they even realize it. Dear Men, you can be scary.
I didn’t just randomly decide one day that I was going to be stone cold when someone smiled at me or that I wouldn’t say hi back when someone else did. There was an accumulation of events that just became too much and worried me that I may by inviting unwanted advances.
On one occasion, a man sent an email to my work email letting me know that he had Googled me (another runner told him my name), searched my recent marathon time, and even looked at my pictures from the race. That takes effort people!
Another guy who was seated next to me at a dinner party, someone I didn’t recognize at all, described my car and where I parked because he would see me often.
There was also the guy who (typical story) ran on my heels for an entire three miles. I sped up, he sped up. I slowed down, he slowed down. Finally I turned around and gave him a Go-To-*ell look, and he laughed and apologized. NOTHING ABOUT THAT WAS FUNNY, it was SCARY. How was I supposed to know he wasn’t going to do something to me?
About two weeks ago, I noticed a guy who turned his direction to run with me. He ran right next to me, so I sped up. So did he. I slowed down…and you know where this is going. Finally I looked at him and said “Give me a break!” and sprinted off. About a mile past him, I turned around and went back in the direction where I left him. I assumed he would be gone, but realized at some point I was approaching him. I passed him, but he caught up to me and on a dark stretch of the park, he started to run so close to me that I was about to run into a fence. I moved away, but he did it again and finally said something. I cut him off and looked at him directly in the eyes and said “You need to STOP, you are creeping me out!” I then sprinted off, checking behind me as I went. I know for a fact that I am not the only girl this guy has followed, I’ve spoken to two other girls that he has done the same thing to within the past week. He’s not even a runner, and a give away is the shoes he wears. He sits and waits for girls, like they are his prey. Houston Police has been notified about this guy.
I do my best to be smart about running, especially because I run alone. The situations I described above were just a few of the times where I have been nervous.
So a note to all you men out there…don’t approach a girl when she is alone at the park. Or when she is walking to her car by herself, or really, any time she’s alone. Don’t assume we have an attitude or aren’t nice people just because we don’t wave or smile back. Until you know what it feels like to be a woman who knows that she can be over-powered, don’t make any assumptions. Women should feel safe no matter where they are, and for the most part, I feel that men respect that. But there are times when that safety can be jeopardized and it can affect our daily lives, which isn’t fair. If you want to approach a woman, be sure she isn’t alone. Know that when a girl is at a running park she is probably just there to run. If she is at the gym, she isn’t looking for a personal trainer to critique her form or for someone to give her tips. Let us run and work-out, in peace.
For my fellow female runners, here’s what I do and suggest you do no matter where or when you run, in order to be more safe:
- let someone know exactly where you plan on running, create a map using MapMyRun
- let someone know a time range in which you plan on starting and plan on being done (my loved ones know that if I’m not back by so-and-so time, they need to worry)
- carry pepper spray with a strap
- carry a personal jogger alarm
- don’t assume anyone is “harmless”
- let someone know where you park if you park somewhere to run
- make eye contact with people so they know you are aware of their presence
- check behind you often, especially during a long run when you may be alone for a long period of time
- keep your music low enough to where you can hear someone approaching you
- carry an old or current i.d. with a loved ones phone number written on it, or use a Road i.d.