Early Morning Running

I openly admit it: I am a fair-weather runner.  I love running, but I am a rather a diva about the weather.  To lure me out of the gym, I need it to be not too cold, not too windy and not raining.  Like not raining at all. In the summer months, I run outdoors when I can (i.e. when the weather meets my approval) mostly early in the morning – as in anytime after 5:00am.  We have lived in our lovely, safe neighbourhood (in four different houses) for twenty years now – and I know the area like the back of my hand.

Recently, while running past the park behind my house around 6.30am, I hear a voice shout “Look at you, Mrs Joggy-Pants!”  It is a woman’s voice, a friend walking her dog.  We both laugh and have a quick hug as I run past.  In that moment, feeling pleased to have seen a familiar face, I realise that at least once every time I am out running, someone interacts with me in a way that feels unsafe.

Having seen threads discussing this on social media, I know I am not alone on this topic.  Many women bemoan the harassment they are subject to, often from male drivers, when out running alone.  I thought about what I would say to others if I could, to encourage them to have more consideration for those who want to feel safe out on the streets, in the early mornings (or anytime.)  The following may not be relevant for everyone, but they are based on experiences I have had in my neighbourhood when out running alone.

 

  1. When off its leash, I realise your dog is just trying to be sociable as it runs towards me. But some dogs bite – no, not yours of course, but I would feel safer if you could train it to stay with you, or just keep it on the leash.

 

  1. Mornings when the weather is fine, perhaps you don’t need to have your hood up? It’s okay if your hair is a mess – lots of us look dishevelled at sunrise, so you will fit right in.  You look much less sinister with your hood down.

 

  1. Those little marked sections at the edges of the road on our estate are cycle-lanes, just for people on bikes. I helped pay for them through my borough council tax; if you use them, it would save you whizzing past me so close on the path.

 

  1. When you honk your horn at me, is it to show your approval for my strappy gym top? Or my penchant for Nike branding? Because I don’t feel flattered, or even complimented. Generally, I feel rattled because I was just lost in my thoughts at that moment when you sounded your horn, and you startled me. When I’m running in the countryside and you do that, I also feel afraid because it’s so isolated on the back-roads.

 

  1. If you are approaching me from behind in your vehicle, and you do that thing where you slow right down so you can stare me up and down, grinning aimlessly as you pass, I feel uncomfortable … and a bit like a caged animal in a zoo.

 

  1. When you pass me on your motorbike, I already think you are so clever to be able to balance like that on two wheels, so you don’t need to prove your worth by accelerating to zoom by, making so much noise. It probably frightens the birds and p*sses off the neighbours, too.  Driving over 30mph is illegal, anyway.

So that’s just a small list of ideas for anyone reading who wouldn’t want to leave a woman feeling anxious or worried for her personal safety in the quiet hours of early morning as a result of their actions.

The elephant in the room is perhaps the fact that most of the list (bar the dog walking issue) is most likely to relate to men.  It would be great if gender didn’t come into it, but while violence against women is still so prevalent, it cannot be ignored that women sometimes feel less safe in situations where they feel vulnerable out in their community and concerned for their welfare.  Most men I know would never deliberately engage in the actions above.  But for for those who haven’t given it thought before now, perhaps they will, knowing an awareness of their actions could help women feel safer.

 

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