Tips for Not Attacking Female Runners

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Sexual harassment and assault stories are flooding the news. If you’re a woman like me, you’re probably thinking,

“This isn’t exactly new.

What’s new is the attention it is getting and the fact that finally, (some) men are being held accountable for their actions. With all this in the media, many articles are surfacing about how to stay safe if you are a female runner. The tips were irritable, at best. Here are some of the suggestions (and consequently, my thoughts on such suggestions):

Tips to Stay Safe if you are a Female Runner (as gathered from many sources):

  1. “Don’t run alone” – Oh ok. Then I’ll never run. Good plan.
  2. “Don’t run in the dark” – During winter in Michigan, the sun is up from 8:30AM-4:30PM. So my options include quitting my job or not running. Next.
  3. “Run on a treadmill” –Everyday? You want me to train for a marathon 6 days a week on a treadmill? Be serious.
  4. “Don’t wear your hair in a ponytail, it is easy for someone to grab you by the ponytail” –Cool. I’ve been looking for an excuse to shave my head.
  5. “Vary your routes so your daily run isn’t predictable” –I’ll run where I please, thanks.
  6. “Run in public areas. Definitely avoid running in the woods alone” –How do you expect me to train for a trail ultra on public sidewalks? Let me guess, this is where the treadmill tip resurfaces?
  7. “Run with a dog” – Have you met my dog? 3-4 hour runs will severely cut into his nap schedule

And my favorite:

8. “Run confidently, meaning tall and focused, to display confidence” –What? What does this even mean? I’ve never encountered a female runner oozing uncertainty and looking deranged. Please provide me with a photo of what you mean by this.

So there you have it. This is what the ‘experts’ suggest when providing tips for how to stay safe as a female runner. Interestingly enough, none of these articles are aimed at predators. And that is the real issue here: it is putting the responsibility in the victim’s hands. Here is my version of tips for keeping women safe while running:

Tips for Not Attacking Female Runners:

  1. If you see a female running, do not attack her.
  2. If you feel like catcalling a female runner, do not.
  3. If you feel the need to speak with a female running, don’t.
  4. If you get the urge to touch a female runner, don’t.
  5. If you think a woman wearing a ponytail would be an easy target because of how easy it is to grab said ponytail, chop your hands off.
  6. If you think it’s funny to scare or catcall a woman, it’s not. Reevaluate your definition of funny.
  7. And again, just to reiterate – if you see a female running – leave her alone.
Tips for Not Attacking Female Runners - Run Leelanau
See that guy behind me? He didn’t disturb me at all. Be like that guy. (Photo Credit: Run Mackinac)

Unfortunately, we are surrounded by predators and we must do what we can to keep ourselves safe. It is sad that the responsibility falls on the victims, but it does. We need to change the conversation from “what can woman do to stay safe” to “it is not ok to attack/violate female runners.” It is time to shift the responsibility from the victim to the predator. Sadly, that will be a slow shift, as is any significant societal change. Until then, ladies, stay safe and trust your gut – if something feels off/unsafe, it probably is.



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