How do we really run safe during a winter lockdown?

Running Tips

If you type “winter running lockdown tips” into google what would you expect to find?

I’ll save you the journey to your google tab – you get a lot of advice on dressing warm and warming up. How to keep motivated. 10 best windproof jackets.

Now, search for “winter running lockdown tips… women”. One key word. And the whole narrative begins to shift.

Spatters of safety seep in. “Avoid running in the dark”, “Don’t run alone”, “No headphones”.

On researching this I was irked.

The gender gap has always been obvious, to women at least.

We’ve never been afforded the same feeling of comfort on the streets as our male running peers.

A sort of comfort where you never even have to consider anyone, perhaps, would feel uncomfortable. No shiver-inducing imagery of what’s lurking down the poorly lit underpass you must use to avoid the still frantic rush hour traffic. No turning back on the Thames Path at the last minute because you realise the street lights stop here. No pre-run safety check ins with friends “I’m running here, I’ll be an hour. I’ll let you know when I’m home”.

Privilege is a funny word.

It refers to luxuries only a few of us are afforded, yet everyone should have.

My issue isn’t with male runners who run fearless and carefree. It’s with the fact we’ve begun to sit, quite comfortably, with the vast majority of fear being bestowed on women.

Why, when I went to my search bar, did the same safety tips not seemingly apply to all runners. Why must I, a woman, think about more than the most comfortable head torch or best stretching tips to ensure I don’t pull a cold muscle.

I would argue those ‘whys’ can be answered with this – We’ve grown up with the priority being to keep ourselves safe, rather than keeping each other safe.

So, winter running tips – for all of us. Practical and longterm solutions, what do you reckon? Including what we can do to keep each other safe in the running community?

Those articles aren’t wrong. In fact, when I’ve been asked by friends I’ve managed to kerang into a running addiction my first tip is usually this:

Hi-Viz is imperative.

I don’t care if you’re sticking to a well lit area. I don’t care that you prefer your sexy all-black nike kit. Yeah, you look hot but you look hotter alive. Wear it. It’s dark, the street lighting isn’t consistent enough to not. First tip of running safely in winter is get home without tyre marks on your back. Looking like a dork in a luminous bib is 10/10 more attractive than dressing for the crossroads catwalk.

Community action;

Alerting other of your presence will help keep them safe too – cyclists, pedestrians and other runners with feel safer with you approaching them if they’re aware of your presence early. No one likes a face bobbing toward the all of a sudden from the shadows!


Speaking of lighting…

Let’s be honest, the best lit areas are the roadside routes. Which is what many of us are stuck running on, especially in London. My favourite daytime running routes are a stark contrast to my make-do nighttime ones! Trees are replaced with lampposts, the river with the flow of traffic. Unfortunately, street lighting isn’t just going to pop up over night and in rural areas there are legitimate reasons, such a wildlife, for the lack of light pollution.

In this case you have three options – you can brave whatever beasties may be lurking in the dark, pound the more polluted pavements near roads and high streets, or avoid running post 4pm completely.

Running in the dark is near on impossible to avoid so:

Ensure you don high-vis, a head torch and, most importantly, let someone know about where you’re heading and how long you’ll be. Yes, I hate this too. I despise the fact that I have to let my housemate know where she might find me should something go wrong. But it’s imperative.

Community action:

Speaking to your local councils about built up areas with a lack of safe pedestrian lighting. It won’t alway amount to anything but it’s worth a shot. If street lights are turned off early in your areas request that they are left on longer. As runners we see the hours only postal workers and milkman see, and they’d probably appreciate the additional safety too.


Location, location location

As mentioned above, I loathe the fact I have to let someone know of my whereabouts. It sets some really dark thoughts festering at the back of your mind. I’m also aware that not everyone has someone who can just check in on them or fetch the at the drop of the hat.

In the absence of an available rescuer there are a few really decent safety features on apps out there. Strava Beacon and Garmin Live track being a couple of examples. Both allow GPS tracking of your location which then is able to be relayed to an emergency contact.

Not everyone will have access to these devices, however, in which case it’s important to have a designated contact you can rely on to know where you’re heading and how long you’ll be. Even if you’re in a densely populated area, it’s just sensible.

Community action:

Input routes you feel comfortable running on route plotting apps like Strava and Komoot. Make the public so other runners can follow your lead in finishing the best, and safest, nighttime routes in their areas. Although, be prepared to lose your Local Legend crown this way!


Ok, scary talk now

Long hair? Tie it up in a bun or in a style flat to your head, or tuck it into your clothes. I’ve avoided talking about attacks so far because I’m not one to want to spread fear amongst the community – I want my work to be about positive awareness. However, in the rare event that you do find yourself being attacked you want there to be as little for the perpetrator to hold on to as possible. Serious talk but it’s important I mention it.

Community action;

Report anything or anyone unnerving or suspicious to the authorities. Even if you weren’t approached there may be a pattern negative experiences in the area. The more accounts that are reported the more likely it is to be investigated. This pre-emptive measure may just save someones life in the future.


Ring a ding ding

I never leave to run without my phone 80% because I’m a millennial with a hardcore screen time addiction, 10% selfies and 10% safety. Ok, maybe the safety aspect is a bit higher.

Phones are a blessing, not a curse. And for the negatives they carry (additional weight, distracting) their benefits for safety vastly outwit any reason not to carry them.

Whether its contacting your partner to come and get your after a crappy run, google maps aiding your poor navigation or contacting the authorities in the worst case scenarios they are bloody brilliant.

On more than one occasion I’ve used mine as a prop to pretend to be having a chinwag with a distant pal when there’s been someone passing who’s let off bad vibes “I’ll be home in 5 minutes, see you then”.

They’re additional peace of mind in every way.

Oh and podcasts, love a podcast. Kept to a low volume in the dark, of course. Got to be aware of your surroundings.

Community Action

Apps such as Safe&TheCity allow you to track and plot safe commute routes, find your nearest emergency services and report action of public harassment. Anywhere from poor street lighting to being harassed by a passer by, you can live time track your experience. By building up a map of areas of concern we are able to help others take the safest route to their destination whilst also alerting the appropriate authorities of any risk or incident. Isn’t technology amazing!


We can’t stop the imbalance in runners safety over night.

It takes graft, time and activism.

But most importantly, it takes action from the community to recognise what makes us feel unsafe and act in the interest of each other.

The smallest actions such as giving each other a wide berth when we pass, making our presence known sooner, rather than later, and being aware of others vulnerabilities will go a long way toward community safety.

As runners we need to incentivise this action ourselves. Until our peers safety and comfort is our priority there will continue to be imbalance and injustice. Speak to each other and listen to experiences other than your own. Educate yourself and act on these stories.

As the evenings creep forward slowly and the days inch longer gradually it’s important not to forget these tips.

Not everyone has the privilege of running in safe, well lit, neighbourly areas.

Be kind and accept that you may not entirely know anothers cirumstance.

Act, speak and run with understanding.

Run with kindness.

Run safe.

How it Started/ How it’s Going

street harassment

So this is quite the journey, huh?

I started this blog because I felt alone in my experience of being harassed on the run.

I was worried that my anger was mis-seated, that I was overreacting, making a big deal out of nothing. because that’s what I had been told I was doing.

We, as women, are taught to downplay our experiences of harassment from a very young age. We quickly learn that “lad culture” is the norm. Or, at least, it’s treated as such.

Christ, in 2016 a fake-tan-facist was elected as the leader of the free world despite his frankly bigoted “locker room” chat. Even this year, 55% of white American women voted for the same mango-misogynist despite his actively sexist and downright degrading comments.

The world conditions us to overlook the status quo, not rock the boat, settle into the structure around us. And for a long time I did.

For most of my life I’ve identified as a feminist but never acted as such. I’ve always been too busy, too shy, too scared to stand up against the playground “kitchen” comments, the workplace waist touches or the out and about aggressions which plagued my self confidence for my teenage and early adult years.

What has struck me, and what has become evident for many, over the last long lockdown of a year is how my behaviours are a direct result of my privilege.

I’ll confess, it’s not until street harassment started affecting my life that I got angry about it. Which sounds simple and blatant to state out loud but, when you haven’t experienced an aggression, why would you lend your time to think about the consequence of it on others.

Ignorance was my privilege, I think a lot of us can relate to that. And the fire of activism was lit in me when I realised this problem plagues many, to a larger extent, with less of a voice than myself.

If 2016 was the year where it all started to go wrong for the western world then 2020 might, for me, become known as the year of social change.

It feels a lifetime ago, that recognition of that spark of activism. Although I still struggle with the idea of calling myself an activist. My ideas aren’t radical. They’re not a fringe movement or societal rebellion. At least, they shouldn’t be. However, the more I find I branch out with my perspective audience, the further I realise we have to go with anti-equality eradication.

There will always be those who will want to snuff your spark out. They may not come in the form of corruption. They will often present themselves as internet trolls, as bullies and, sometimes, as side-line acquaintances who make you doubt yourself.

I’ve learnt that it’s easy to be gas-lit. To let the words of those who seem well meaning to derail you from your track.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered alighting from the feminist-freight train myself. “There are worse things going on in the world” I would let seep in “This isn’t important right now”. But the cargo this work is carrying is more than just my ordeal. It’s the freedom for those just beginning their athletic journey. The shy hobbyists, the casual joggers, who perhaps might lose the love of running without the incentive of safer streets.

It’s for the little girls growing up having to see their mothers fret about what they wear because she doesn’t want to be told she was “asking for it”. Only to be told, years down the line, the very same thing, not out of cruelty, but concern.

The battles we face may begin for us, but overtime they shape into something more. When we are presented with a platform it is our responsibility to mould that to the benefit of others. Our fears and apprehensions become a footnote.

Most recently, that platform has presented itself via aural form. After months of feeling as if the message was falling on dead ears I was invited on both the Runners World and Runners Life podcasts. Both times, quite honestly, I was sure I wouldn’t do the cause justice. That I would underplay the severity of the topic as I see it. I began to question my authority. “Am I qualified to speak on this?” I shut myself down before I had even tried, just as we have done with women for centuries.

But there are those willing to listen. They want to hear our voices. I would be doing the world a disservice if I were to feign loneliness in this fight.

We have to begin to trust that our fervour will prevail. That amid the stutters, the mutters, the “ums”, “yeahs” and “hmms” that the message will win out.

So.

How it started? Angry, honestly. Unguided. Anxiously.

How it’s going? Well, let’s just say it’s still going.

Winter Running – Is it Safe?

street harassment

So, lockdown 2.0, hey? Who’d have thought at the beginning of April that we’d be back here again (or still?), but this time with the looming presence of darkness hanging over us at about 4pm.

I’ll be completely honest, I’m a fair weather runner. There’s no better reason to run than a crisp, autumn day. Sea blue skies, crunchy carrot coloured leaves, feeling the sharp stab of cold air as you inhale those first, heavy breaths.

The idea of heading out after work, dreary grey pavements reflected in dreary grey skies if you’re lucky, pitch black usually, doesn’t fill most people with anything close to resembling enthusiasm.

And then the rain. The. Rain. Whilst I like to think I look like a character from a romantic drama, swept up in a storm into the arms of her lover, I’m pretty certain I appear more on the “drowned rat” aesthetic spectrum.

Winter running can be bleak. I get that, and I’m definitely not the first person to acknowledge it. But is there more that we’re looking past here? Whilst the rain, the dark and the cold appear, on the forefront, to be the obvious negatives, what about the symptoms of these conditions? What about the safety of winter running?

With the government restricting those of us in England to exercise outside during the second corona virus wave they seem to have overlooked the logistics of this for women.

In the first UK-wide lockdown there was a substantial rise in public sexual harassment on our streets. Plan UK found that 1 in 5 young women and girls had experienced some form of street harassment during the spring lockdown. Cat calling, heckling, being followed and abused increased exponentially. Runners World UK recently published an article stating that 46% of female runners in the UK say they’d been harassed on the run.

My shock isn’t at the numbers. My shock, initially, was at the time of the spike in this harassment. It has been theorised that perpetrators of street harassment felt protected by the quietness. That solitary women striding our streets appeared more obvious as targets than before. The vast outdoor isolation of lockdown enabled predatory people to spot lone runners and not be held accountable due to minimal on lookers. And where there were by-standers, there was a reluctance to interfere in “other peoples business”.

But street harassment is everyones business.

I’ve spoken before about by-stander accountability. I may write about it soon. But, to summarise, it is our responsibility to call out crap when we see it. It is one of the first steps to minimising the effects of a harasser. If a perpetrator realises their actions won’t be stood for, that, in fact, their car flung comments aren’t as original as they think they are, then they will begin to feel some sense of awareness.

With companionless exercise now encouraged by law, these matters may be only heightened in the winter months. We’re standing out more than ever. With high visibility clothes a necessity in the dimly lit suburban streets I’ve felt, all the more, like a moving target on my evening runs.

As silly as it sounds, there’s a gender bias in the assumption that running under the rare flash of a sodium street light is the same for women as it is for men.

I spoke to a male friend recently about having to put a cork in my sunset thames path runs for the year due to complete lack of lighting despite it being a well populated thoroughfare for pedestrians and cyclists alike. While his fears concluded with trampling through muddy puddles and being unable to see the scenic, but low hanging, branches mine took a much bleaker turn.

To the thought of being tomorrows newspaper headline.

“Women missing, last seen on towpath, she should have run faster”

And whilst my fears are unfounded from personal experience, I was told enough growing up, as all little girls are, to be constantly aware and on the look out for danger. Running alone in the dark, for a lot of women, is intimidating.

And many women agree.

I’ve spoken to female runners who are perturbed by being catcalled, followed, mugged, or worse. I’ve spoken to those who cross the street to avoid hooded strangers and habitually grasp their keys in their Wolverine like grip. Always ready to claw at anonymous threats. We take the long route home because it’s better lit, steer clear of the shadowed public parks because “public” doesn’t feel such a welcome when any unknown could be waiting in the trees.

It’s clear that, at the best of times, women feel unsafe running. So what can we do to avoid feeling the fear this lockdown?

Whilst I greatly begrudge the fact that the onus is on women to change their behaviour to feel safe, rather than on society to put an end to the problematic nature of misogyny, here are some small actions I would recommend taking this lockdown:

Buddy Up
Be aware that, as of writing this, you are allowed to meet up with another person outside for exercise. Having company for a run will help calm the sense of anxiety you may feel on a solo jaunt.

Lightbulb Moment
Sticking to well lit areas is all very well and good if you can but this completely overlooks the fact that we may have to adapt our behaviour to keep ourselves safe, rather than the liability being on the people who build our cities and streets. There are dangers in being forced to run along busy roads or more populated areas which may also bring a sense of vulnerability in a street harassment and covid sense. So, write to your local council about poor street lighting you deem to be a danger to the public. Even if nothing is done in an immediate sense it is always beneficial to raise these concerns with our MPs. They work for us. It’s their job to keep us safe.

Track and Trace
Take advantage of the numerous safety features on your fitness devices and smart phones. Strava Beacon and Garmin LiveTrack are two great tracking options available. Or for the London dwellers, the Safe & The City app allows you to report incidents from poor lighting to being followed in real time, which then collates these incidents to build up a map of the safest routes around the city.

Oldy but a Goody
Of course the time old telling-someone-where-you’re-going technique is a must for all runners no matter who you are, what, when or why you’re running.

Use the Force
Ironically, be mindful of what you’re wearing. Yes, yes, I know – sounds like I’m slut shaming. Hear me out – I’m the first person to call out victim blaming when people criticise women’s clothing, however in winter, please, wear hi-viz. At the least, you’ll look like a speedy lightsaber racing through the streets, at the most it could save your life or help people locate you if you become incapacitated in any way. The amount of times I’ve plodded along a badly lit section of the Thames Path and narrowly avoided a darkly-clad dog walker has shook me up more times than I care to say. Also, a head torch! Especially handy when your frozen fingers are fumbling to find your keys.

You Do You
Finally, do what you feel is comfortable. Society has a way to go with allowing us to reclaim our streets. Not being harassed or assaulted is still a “woman problem”, a “victims problem” – we are still being burdened with the responsibility of not being attacked, rather than teaching people not to become attackers. If you don’t feel safe running at night, do what you need to do until we possess our freedom. There will be a day where we will own the pavements. We’ll take back the roads from the fools in ford fiestas who hassle us.

So, is winter running safe?

Winter running is wonderful. The frosty sunsets are picturesque, the dusks can be tranquil, the trails and mud are the most fun you’ll have all year and seeing the city lit up under the spill of the shop windows florescent hue makes you see the streets in a different perspective.

There is beauty and joy to be found in running in the rain, embracing the drowned rat demeanour I spoke about earlier.

Yes. Despite my ramblings I believe that there are ways to enjoy the roads and trails as much as we did in those sunnier months. It’s our right to.

Does society have a lot of work to do to make women feel safe running in the winter?

Big time.

And that time is now.

Pippa’s Story #quitthecatcall

Uncategorized

As confident and badass as someone appears to be, more often than not, their experiences with harassment affect them. It’s not always visible, but it’s there.

Our actions and decisions are based on our experiences and, when it comes to harassment, we often base our actions off a fear for our safety.

Badass triathlete, business women, actor and very busy Pippa Moss kindly took the time to speak to me about this.

Pippa was also part of a photography campaign challenging stereotypes about Essex girls which I encourage you to check out!


Hi Pippa, so nice to catch up with you – sorry it’s not under better circumstances! Would you mind speaking a little bit about your running? When did you start?

Started running at secondary school – I wasn’t great but what I lacked in skill I made up for in enthusiasm and so became the reserve for both sprinting and long distance. I was in every sport team going so was pretty fit anyway. I was a pretty small teenager so I was quite nippy at basketball and hockey and all that.

After my Dad died (and during the many bereavements I’ve gone through) it became my way to ‘escape’ – if things were tough at home, I’d get changed and put my trainers on and just run. It became therapy whilst I learnt to figure out how to articulate my thoughts and feelings. 

I’ve since run a half marathon and did my first Olympic distance triathlon last year. The first of many I hope! I want to get better at endurance running and do the London Marathon.

London Marathon is probably one of my dream races too. Your triathlons are impressive! I imagine that means you’re out on the streets a lot training. Have there been incidents of street harassment in your life outside of training? What is your earliest memory if so?

Earliest memory is having my arse slapped when I was walking down Southend highstreet in Essex with my Mum. After that when I was on my first night out with my boyfriend I was pussy grabbed by a stranger. We got him kicked out but I didn’t drink or enjoy going out for a long time after that. I didn’t understand it. I also find it funny how I always feel the need to say I was with my boyfriend at the time. Regardless of being in a male presence, I don’t know how guys think this sort of behaviour is okay. 

Wow, I’m so sorry to hear that Pippa, it just goes to show that the normalisation of street harassment leads people to violent and physical altercations too. So, I imagine there have been many instances of you feeling unsafe on a run, then? What was the cause of these and what actions did you take in the moment, if so?

A lot of instances! There’s the usual, drive-by hooting and yelling at you – if it’s busy you feel safer but if there’s no one around it’s scary. I used to give them the finger or shout something back – but since I start self-defence (yes, I started learning self-defence) I learnt that you have to do everything in your power to avoid a confrontation. Now I just ignore it. I have plenty of other instances of being harrassed, however, where, if I felt safe enough, I would go up to the person committing the harassment and introduce myself and let them know, perfectly calmly, who I am and that I don’t appreciate it. I ask them for their name and tell them mine, offer my hand to shake and just get to know them a little. I feel like this makes them see I’m not just something you can shout a ‘compliment’ to. Fuck knows if it actually acheives anything.

Are then preventative measures you take to try and avoid feeling unsafe, then? I know I’ll often think twice about wearing shorts if the weather is nice (although it doesn’t often stop me).

Depending on the time of day I alter my route. Even though I prefer running in shorts I rarely do. I should wear what I want but I feel my past experience makes me conscious about it.

I know I also base my clothing choice on how busy it’ll be out, like rush hour, for example, I’ll avoid tight clothing. Is there a certain time of day or environments you avoid running in?

I prefer running in mornings and evenings – I used to run in the dark with lights because I felt more comfortable doing so, but as I’ve got older and experienced more crazy behaviour I tend not to do this so much.

I ask people whether or not their experiences with harassment affects their behaviour and habits running and, as you’ve mentioned, it makes you reconsider what you will wear, as opposed to what you want to wear. It seems that this has really impacted your freedom when running?

As mentioned in another question, yes. Sadly, the idea that what you’re wearing can be held against you should anything happen seems to be prevalent. I was a street performer for a while and being an actress I can hold my own, if I’m just living my days I tend to wear what I want. But I find in the gym community/running you sometimes get some ‘lads’ who feel like they have a right to ‘oggle’ at you. I’m just running/gymming to get to work. Not for attention.

Have you experienced any negative feedback from people close to your training and street harassment? A lot of women I’ve spoken to experience inadvertent victim blaming.

In a way. My Mum always says “be careful”. Like I’m just going to be completely reckless and irresponsible. It really pisses me off because women shouldn’t have to “be careful”. We should all, as a race, be respectful. Little girls shouldn’t have to “keep their wits about them” (another favourite catchphrase my family use), we should teach everyone on the planet to respect others from a young age, then we might not have this issue. It’s this subtle phrasing that reinforces the idea that women need to protect themselves, when in fact, we need to teach the perpetrators, not to attack in the first place. We need to nip the root cause in the bud.

Ahh, completely agree! Often these warnings come with the best intentions but it really does put the emphasis on us having to mind our safety, rather than just being able to exist safely. Is there any particular event in which you find there’s an influx of harassment? Lockdown has been particularly bad for me.

To be honest, not particularly. It’s pretty consistent regardless of the social climate.

I can’t really work out if the consistency is a good or bad thing! Sorry you have to deal with it so often though. What would you like to see being done about this? What kind of actions do you think need to be taken?

If that when we reported this sort of behaviour something was actually done about it. I would like us to acknowledge talking to and shouting at and sometimes touching women you don’t know/hardly know in public and privately is a massive problem. #MeToo has helped this in not just the creative workplace, but all. Still I feel a lot of harassment reports are swept under the rug for not being a serious offence. Just a few months ago before lockdown I had a group of lads inform me one of them was a rapist and start vocally harassing women on the tube. I reported it and absolutely nothing was done about it. 


Thanks Pippa, that last encounter you mentioned is absolutely out of order.

it’s evident that there’s a data gap in the UK regarding street harassment. Even though it isn’t currently a criminal offence if you see or experience and incident please report the time, date, location and something to identify the perpetrator by (like a number plate). The more we report the more evidence we have to stand on when we take this fight to MPs.

Hannah’s Story #quitthecatcall

street harassment

I know, for me, that running can sometimes feel like a completely separate part of life to colleagues and other non-running (muggle) friends. I have spent hours trying to get my housemates, drinking buddies and peers to share my enthusiasm for the sport but, often, they just don’t get my obsession.

However, more often than not, the dangers that come with running, specifically street harassment, often leak much easier into our home and working lives.

In this post I speak to Hannah about how her running, and unfortunately the consequences of street harassment on her professional life.

Hannah is an awesome woman who refuses to let this get the better of her which, I think we can all agree, is easier said than done. It isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t the only way of dealing with it. Some of us get angry, some of us write blogs, and some of us are Hannah.

Her story is an example of how harassment in running can be a gateway to the mistreatment of women in their home, or even working life.

Harassment doesn’t stop on the street.


Hey Hannah, so as with all my guests I like to ask them how they first got into running – tell us your story!

I first tried running in my teens but it was more of a punishment then because I thought I needed to lose weight so very quickly fell out of love with it. I did a few Race for Lifes, mainly 5kms but also two Half Marathons, yet still didn’t enjoy running, then I moved to Austria just before my 24th birthday where I met Eric Keeler (@run.the.usa) and quickly became best friends.

We would go on long hikes together and play board games on the nights we didn’t fancy partying with the rest of the town. One of my favourite days we spent together was a few months before he left to run across America, we took all the kit he had been gifted up the mountain to get some good photos of them for his social media. One of the things was “Bugster”, the pushchair he carried all his gear in during his crossing, and we got a lot of funny looks as we pushed it around, seemingly having left our child somewhere. When he crossed the finish line and his brother was running alongside him streaming it all live on facebook I was sat at home crying with pride (lets not say that too loudly though, he’ll get big headed haha). Since we have both moved back to the UK, Eric and I hardly get to see each other as we are now have a five hour drive separating us and not the seven minute walk we had gotten used to, and I miss him, so persuaded him to let me come as his date to the Running Awards last year (2019-I was 26) where, after a couple of glasses of prosecco and having a front row seat at the bloggers forum, I then saw the video clip of Loch Ness Marathon and found myself declaring that I was going to run it… not “I want to do that” but a very clear “I’m going to do that” and by the end of the week I had actually signed up. I didn’t expect to but, just as everyone had told me I would, finished race day buzzing, unable to walk but buzzing. I also never expected to fall in love with running but I have and over the first few months of 2020 it has saved my life.

Running is such a good way to make friends for life, it’s amazing you had someone inspire you that way, as I’m sure you did him too! So, outside of running for a second, have there been many incidents of street harassment you can recall?

I remember builders whistling and shouting all the time, in fact I don’t remember ever walking past a builder on scaffolding who has kept quiet. I couldn’t say when the earliest memory is but that in itself says it was too early. When it’s guys that far up on a building site I always feel uncomfortable but am able to calmly keep walking past, the few shouts I’ve had some someone at street level have led me to keeping one hand in a pocket with my keys between my knuckles just in case.

It’s such a shame that we feel the need to arm ourselves sometimes. I know I’ve held my keys in fear before too, I think most women have. In terms of running, then, have there been any instances where you’ve felt unsafe?

I live in a very rural little area so most of my runs are on country roads with very few others around. I have had a lorry honk at me once which took me by surprise and I jumped out the way, I didn’t look up at the driver as they passed so don’t know if their honk was actually intended to ask me to move but looking at the road they had plenty of space to get around me.

During the peak of marathon training there were a couple of days I ran the 13 km from home to town, then either got a lift back or looped around and turned it into an even longer run. Even though I had never experienced street harassment while running before, the first time I got into the town I was filled with a sense of dread and didn’t have my huge bunch of keys to keep between my fingers so felt even more at risk. I don’t recall being catcalled, maybe I was just too focused on getting out of the town again to notice, but the next day at work when I had 3 men in one day come up to me and comment on my legs, one even asked if I use any cream to stop my clothes rubbing, saying he would be willing to help me apply it. I simply told them they were being inappropriate and walked away. The team respected it but did make joking comments about me running around in shorts and a bra was asking for it.

Working in hospitality I am used to a certain type of banter amongst the team and we expect comments from some of our regulars, particularly a certain few older male regulars. Generally, if the harassment is just verbal we are likely to ignore it, but minimise our conversational time with them, if they begin to invade our personal space and/or touch us then that is the point a verbal warning is issued.

That’s not something I’ve talked about so much but definitely another of the darker sides of running – the sudden need for people you know to comment on your body too. Often innocently but it all adds to the normalisation of the sexualisation of women. Is there anything you think about regarding safety before running, any preventative measures?

If I am running into town I am a lot more conscious of the time of day I go and just keep my head down and focus for the few minutes it takes me to do the loop in and out again as well as keeping my cap pulled down quite low so if I do spot a customer, they hopefully won’t recognise me – yelling at me in the street is one thing but making me feel uncomfortable in the work place is a whole new level. I am looking at better route planning for this coming summer to give me other options to try through the town for if I want to go straight after work, or avoiding the town altogether when on my longer runs. I have invested in a hydration vest that has an emergency whistle on it too to get attention if I even feel unsafe.

Gosh, I can’t even imagine having to see the person who has cat called you in the street at work. How scary! Has any of this affected you you behave on a run?

Hell no! My behaviours do not need changing, it is those who think harassment is okay who need to change theirs!

I wear what is physically most comfortable to run in, I love my body, it gets me through a hell of a lot of sh*t, I’m not going to make it sweaty and uncomfortable just in case there are d*ckheads out there! I do, as mentioned before, sometimes think about the probability of coming across such charming individuals when route planning.

Love your confidence! I agree whole heartedly, we shouldn’t feel like we have to dress differently to avoid unwanted comments. Unfortunately, I know a lot of women experience negative feedback and victim blaming when it comes to the harassment they encounter, have you experienced any of this?

I have had jokes from those I am closest to in my team at work but only because our friendship is so solid and they know I would have sarcastically said the same things myself in an attempt to laugh off any unease I have felt.

Two of my ex boyfriends (one was already an ex, the other I was with at the time) have commented on it, both have had an education and lost the privilege of my attention…I learnt I need to refine my taste in men haha!

Do you notice an influx in it at any particular time? I’ve noticed a lot of it during lockdown, for example.

Not really, although I am very aware of people becoming more concerned about WHERE runners are than how we are dressed during lockdown, but again, living somewhere so rural I am not likely to see others on the road when I am running, they are all on the footpaths which go through the fields.

Finally, what changes would you like to see to avoid this happening to you and other women in the future?

I want to see more education on consent, unsolicited behaviour, and make it all equal. Yes we, women of the world, are more likely to be the victims and not seen as the threats our male counterparts are but if we act like we can get away with unsolicited behaviour then how are we ever going to teach men where to draw the line. E.g. a female customer found my colleague on facebook, sent him a friend request and became his number 1 fan and asked him out, this was seen as cute but when male customers do the same to us it is seen as creepy.  

Hannah, thank you so much. It’s easy to get hung up of the running side of street harassment sometimes. We mustn’t forget the other implications and how its impact can follow us through to other areas of life. I’m sure a lot of us don’t have to worry about seeing our harassers often but, of course, it is life and a real issue for some women. Education on consent and respect really is the first stepping stone in treating each other like human beings and ironing out harassment once and for all!


Liv’s Story #quitthecatcall

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What with the past few weeks unseasonal summer like weather, I think, safe to say, we’ve all bee relishing in wearing a little lighter and less when we’re running.

And we bloody deserve it!

It’s hot and sweat so shorts are comfortable!

Unfortunately, as you’ll read in the following interview with Liv (@livforrunning), this has lead to a lot of us noticing a peak in cat-calls and street harassment.

It seems that, as much as we hate to admit it, people still think it’s ok to body shame and sexualise women based on their outfit.

Liv goes into this with me in the latest in the #quitthecatcall interview.


Hey Liv, thanks so much for speaking with me. Can I ask how you first started running?
My mam inspired me to start running, she was a super hero that wore foil capes and ran the Great North Run. I remember her giving me her first Great North Run medal to hold and to me it felt as special as an Olympic gold. I started around age 14, completed my first half at 18.


Wow, superhero mum – how awesome to have her as a running inspiration! Let’s talk about your earliest experiences of street harassment. Do you remember them?
I don’t think I remember a time when I haven’t been beeped at, regardless of whether I’m running or not. I have distinct memories of feeling uncomfortable due to this from around 13/14. I remember my Dad saying to me as a child, if you feel uncomfortable start walking against the traffic and it’s something I’ve had to use. As a teenager I was harassed, whether it be hand gestures in a car window, wolf whistles walking back and very uncomfortable staring. I’ve been followed slowly in a car more times than I can count. Sometimes the comments are vulgar, and sometimes they are just commenting negatively about what I’m wearing or the worst, my body. As someone who has suffered from an eating disorder, those incidences were the worst for me. I was once moved to tears trying to reverse off a drive that was difficult after I’d just passed my test because a group of workers shouted ‘Of course there’s no way you’d be able to reverse your car, with legs like those’ – which happen to be my biggest insecurity.


Harassment is bad enough in itself, without it highlighting our insecurities. I’m so sorry you experienced that. That sounds especially intimating, considering the circumstances. Have there been many other instances of you feeling unsafe when running?
I think generally as a woman, if I’m running alone, I feel unsafe on a run. It has probably been caused by the countless bad experiences I have had. If in doubt, I get at least 1 beep on a run. At 15, a cyclist passed me as I was running once, at the traffic lights near my house, and hit me across my bum. I was too young to know what to do and he was gone. I didn’t tell my family. Another time I had a van follow me on a road on the way to my university, he slowed down to my running pace and just drove at that pace just behind me. I was on the pavement, there was no need for him to slow down and when I turned, he was mouthing things and laughing and taking photos. I turned and ran in the opposite direction. Another distinct memory is a Dad, roll down his window and say vulgar things at me, in-front of his son, probably under 10. This was at 5pm.
How could anyone possibly expect me to feel safe running alone when here are only three of the many, many, many incidences?


Wow,, Liv, that’s definitely intense. It’s heartbreaking that you’re able to pinpoint such horrific incidents as being just a few of many. Because of this, do you take any precautions when preparing to run?
If I’m at university, I tell my housemates how long I would expect to be out, give or take twenty minutes or so in case I feel the need to run more miles (very unlikely that this happens). If I’m at home, my parents know all of my routes and I tell them where I’m going. My mam roughly knows how long I should be. I always always carry my phone even if I’m not listening to music. My phone has a tracking app on it which my parents can track.
If I feel unsafe for some reason, for example, someone behind me or someone has just beeped at me near my home, I will keep running as I don’t want them to see where I live. I lived alone for a year and never left my house at the same time, as I was worried about someone working it out and following me home.


The fact that you have to worry about your home privacy is a very sad, but also very real, fact of life these days. I would also recommend to anyone using Strava to consider adding a “privacy zone” to any locations you want to keep safe – it hides any activity start/ end location so people cannot track your home or work environments, for example.

Is there a certain time of day or any type of environment you avoid running in?
Prior to lockdown I would have avoided running in countryside or woods alone and would have stuck to housing areas or parks that have a lot of people in them. However, due to lockdown I’ve been running country roads due to the government insisting we don’t drive somewhere too run (totally fair, I’m happy they are dealing with this situation sensibly). I’ve felt ok because the roads have been quiet, but I’ve still had some harassment.
In the village by my university campus I avoid running at 5-6pm because we live close to the M1 and around this time commuters pass through. Street harassment was always the worst at this time, and if I happened to want to run around then I would go with a friend or just have my music really loud so I couldn’t hear them.


That sounds like a pretty common occurrence, unfortunately. Perhaps the business and anonymity of rush hour leads to people being more abusive and reckless due to the fact they can hide in a crowd of traffic. How have you found street harassment have affected how you behave in and out of running?
Previous to the past couple of weeks I don’t wear shorts running, a combination of insecurities but also extreme worries people will comment on my legs again (and they have previously in shorts…). I hate the culture that surrounds women, where if we are wearing less than what is perceived as a societal norm then we are ‘asking for it’ however I do seem to get more comments etc if I am running in a sports bra/shorts. I’m a girl who’s been running for years – I am very efficient at sweating and sometimes it would be great to just go out in a pair of shorts. I’ve been trying to build up my confidence regarding this throughout lockdown as there’s less people around.


I guess that’s one positive to come out of lockdown, at least! I’m with you on the c,othing issue though – I’ve noticed a lot more ‘attention’ in the warmer weather now I’m wearing shorts. We should absolutely have the freedom to wear the clothes that we can feel comfortable in, without fear of abuse. Have you noticed any any negative feedback from those close to you regarding this, and outdoor exercise?
Direct quotes – ‘That’s just running, you just have to get used to it’, ‘If you get angry you’re just as bad as them, just ignore it’, ‘You’re lucky, I don’t get that anymore because I’m too old’, ‘That’s just the risk you take running’.


So, I’ve noticed harassment get worse in fairer weather, is there any other environment you’ve noticed and influx of harassment in?
I often find it’s worse when there’s a sports event and the pubs are more full than usual. I have found that I didn’t expect it to happen as often during lockdown as it is, which sucks if people still feel the need to do this when the country is literally in a pandemic.


Agreed. What change would you like to see around this? Is there anything you’d like people to know?
I would like it to be known how unsafe women feel in general. I think sometimes, in general, and I hate generalising, men don’t realise how often women feel unsafe and in simple daily scenarios that they wouldn’t feel unsafe, we do.

I would like it to be illegal, ideally, to harass people when they are running

I would like it to be known that it’s not just men that harass women, men harass men, women harass men and men harass women too.

I would like there to be an easier way of reporting harassment, I think it’s difficult to report if you don’t know the name of the person or you don’t catch the number plate.

I would like the community to be supportive online regarding this situation.

But mostly I would like it to never happen and for people to stop doing this, but this is the ideal scenario and I don’t know if it would ever happen.

I would like to feel safe running.

Yes, to all of that! Thanks so much, Liv. This has been really insightful. Any last words of wisdom or support for us?
Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) is an amazing book and podcast which I’ve used as one of the platforms to teach myself about misogyny and the patriarchy. It strives for equality for all genders. Give it a listen. Also Jameela Jamil is amazing and anything she writes is incredible, her podcast, i-weigh, is really great too. I find engrossing myself in feminist literature and podcasts really helps me to channel my anger towards something positive when this happens.

I agree, feminism is about empowerment and equality for all – feminist literature certainly puts my jumbled thoughts into order when things all get a bit too much. Thanks again Liv, keep running!

Go check out Liv’s blog Liv For Running to read about her racing and travels!


Illana’s Story #quitthecatcall

street harassment

Last week was Street Harassment Awareness week.

But just because that’s over doesn’t mean that the conversation should stop.

In fact, we should be even more vocal about it – until we feel safe on the streets, whether that’s running or going about our day-to-day lives every week needs to be Street Harassment Awareness week.

After a really positive launch of the series last week, I’m going to start posting more regularly to keep the traction of the message up. It’s tough to feel proactive in our current climate but I don’t want to let the message slip out of the public eye.

This week I spoke to Illana (@run_farther_illana), an active member of the online running community who, very impressively, completed RED January this year during the beginning of her first marathon training cycle.

As with my previous posts, I asked Illana about her running journey and how Street Harassment has affected her and her behaviors within it. She speaks very eloquently about the pressure for us, as victims, to accept the brunt of responsibility for perpetrators actions and challenging the norm.

I’m sure a lot of us can relate to what she has to say.


Hey Illana, so, first thing’s first – What drew you to running?
I started running in May 2019 after beginning the Couch to 5k plan, which I started out of curiosity for running. At the time, my boyfriend had recently started attending parkrun more regularly and hearing his experiences about the encouraging environment and atmosphere about parkrun, I wanted to give running a try in addition to the gym classes I was used to doing.

I love parkrun, it’s one of the main things I can’t wait to get back to after this lockdown! Have there been incidents of street harassment in your life outside of running? What is your earliest memory?
Yes, I don’t think many people (women especially) can say they haven’t been harassed on the street, whether that’s heckling or cat-calling to serious harassment which compromises your physical safety. The obvious examples are from general girls nights out as I’m in my 20s where groups of lads would shout at you from across the street, or when innocently running errands in town having a total stranger verbally harass you. I was heckled by a driver in a work vehicle once – it involved some gross gestures. I was so horrified I reported it to the Police. They were extremely helpful in supporting me and making sure I had the option to prosecute if I wanted to, but I chose not to but I’m glad that the Crime Reference Number contributes to vital data and insight into these incidents.

There’s a lot to be said for reporting incidents of harassment when they happen – it all gets logged and goes toward proving how rife this problem is. Have there been many instances of you feeling unsafe on a run? What caused it and what actions did you take in the moment, if so?
I’ve never felt really unsafe where I’ve felt I needed to take action in the moment. There have been instances where I’ve felt uneasy or unsure, especially if I’m running an unfamiliar route I always contemplate the “what ifs” but usually dismiss the worry quite quickly.

I think most of us can probably say the same for a lot of our runs – the fact that uncertainty is the norm for us is concerning to me. Speaking of the norm, a lot of women I’ve talked to say that considering their safety, even in the back of their minds, is the norm. Do you take preventative measures when running?
I always try and prepare to make my runs as safe as possible if I’m going alone – I’ve purchased a RunAngel wearable safety device, and always run with my phone too. I never run alone in the dark in neighbourhoods or areas where I can’t get immediate attention or help. It’s normal to me to think about my safety – whether I worry about getting an injury or getting lost, but sadly thinking about safeguarding myself against street harassment is part of that “risk assessing” too.

I’m the same – I’ll not even consider running without my phone. It’s sad that there is a need for these devices and apps, but it’s very useful that they’re there for us too. In terms of the environments you run in, is there anything you’ll avoid?
Weirdly, I feel a lot safer running around cycle paths or footpaths that aren’t near the roadside. The only other people I see on these routes are cyclists, dog-walkers, or other runners. However it’s taken me some time to build my confidence and familiarity running around those areas. I hate running on pedestrian paths alongside roads at rush-hour or late evening as I’m always a lot more conscious about traffic and what actions/behaviours motorists can do, drive away, and get away with!

100% my experience too – busy roads are the worst and I can guarantee I’ll get harassed without a doubt on the main ones near me. Have you found that Street Harassment affects your every day behavior, both in running and non-running life? It’s getting hotter now, that tends to be an area of concern for a lot of female runners.
What I’m wearing sadly extends to what I choose to wear when running as well. It’s awful that we have been conditioned within the culture of victim-blaming It’s absurd and ridiculous to worry about simple things, like the length of my shorts or removing layers on a hot day to nothing but a sports bra,  just because we’re worried about street harassment.

Totally! Others behavior should not affect our every day comfort. It’s especially easy to blame ourselves in regards to what we’re wearing, I know I constantly doubt if it was “my fault” because of my outfit choice which, as you said, is conditioning and completely ridiculous. Have you experienced any negative feedback from people close to you regarding outdoor exercise and harassment, like victim blaming due to outfit choices, for example?
No, luckily all other runners and friends I trust enough to vent to about this are extremely supportive and understanding. I think we all have shared experiences and stories to share so it’s a collective understanding of how frustrating, disappointing and annoying it can be. I’m fortunate that the experiences I’ve had mean I only feel those things in response, and nothing so severe has happened to me to cause a massive mental health knock, or impact my life or my relationships with others profoundly.

That’s good to hear – this sort of every day oppression can be tough on our mental health so it’s great that you’ve fought back against it. What sort of change would you like to see, going forward, to hopefully put an end to Street Harassment for good?
Fundamentally, it is the behaviour of perpetrators and the assumption that we should just “brush it off” that needs to change. Why is it okay to accept street harassment as a norm in society whilst many are stigmatised or judged when they talk about it? Hopefully we are resilient enough to ‘let it slide’ and ‘brush it off’, but we should also allow ourselves to get angry and challenge this norm. There needs to be more education and outreach to explain why it’s not okay, whichever environment it takes place in. There also need to be opportunities to empower people to be active bystanders so we are equipped with tools and techniques to safely intervene if we see something, or personally experience something, which is wrong and makes us uncomfortable. Hopefully with the work that you’re doing we can make it more positive space to openly talk, share and empathise with each other within the running community.

Agreed – education is key! Thank you so much for your honestly, Illana. The more I speak to people the more comfort I find in our shared experiences. Which is an incredibly sad blessing and curse. Is there anything else you’d like to touch on?
There might be a lot of people that scroll past these accounts and think “Nope, can’t relate” as they might not have had experiences of street harassment themselves or perhaps their experiences aren’t “bad enough”. But perhaps I’d like everyone to think about the things you worry about on a run, and question whether that stems from a worry for your safety or risk of street harassment. I’m sure after this post people might reflect on where they run, when they run, and the crowds they avoid (although, with social distancing in place, we all know our running habits have changed drastically in response to that too!)

Thanks again, Illana. I think daily harassment is such the norm now that we often don’t notice we’re victim to the subtle biases anymore. It’s important to remember that we don’t have to put up with this – together we will put an end it!


Jess’ Story #quitthecatcall

street harassment

Street Harassment Awareness Week

STOP Street Harassment is an international campaign aiming to raise awareness against Street Harassment – every year they head an awareness week and, it just so happens, my campaign has conveniently cat-call collided head first into it.

I wanted to take this opportunity to begin to share some of the experiences from some amazing women who have bravely said they’d stand beside us in this fight.

These are their accounts, verbatim. They are personal and raw. They matter. They are all too relatable.

I am collating and posting these stories in the hope that, if we shout loud enough, we will quash the victim blaming and stigma associated with it.

This anecdotal evidence is a huge step toward getting out voices heard.

Some will be anonymous, some will not. All are important and are real.

I have asked these wonderful women the same questions to highlight the face that our experiences with street harassment are, unfortunately, all too similar, common and consistent and yet still vastly personal.


In this post I spoke to the wonderful Jess (@kennyyyyy_)

Jess is a wonderful light in the running community. She recently ran her first marathon and proved that training hard, turning up and trusting yourself really can pay off . She’s a wonderfully strong character who I relate to a lot and reminds me that, some times, it’s ok to be silly among the serious.

Hi Jess, you’re part of the Instagram running community, but what inspired you to run in the first place? And when did you start?

I first started running as a teenager, largely due to the classic societal pressures to be skinny (a sadly common reality). I dipped in and out of it throughout my teenage years and university, generally building myself up to 10k, but I was never able to really push myself further or find any proper joy in it as it often went alongside very restrictive diets which obviously aren’t great running fuel! About 2 and a half years ago I threw out my scales, gave the middle finger to diet culture, and started running because I love myself rather than because I hate myself – and this MARATHONER hasn’t stopped since!

I relate a lot to that – to be honest, I started running for the exact same reason. We seem to have had the same experience of running through university too, I think I prioritised cider too much! So we’ve both not always been runners. Does that mean there’s been incidents of street harassment in your life outside of running? What is your earliest memory of this?

There have been plenty! My walk to work is 10 minutes, and I would say at least half of those walks I get some sort of harassment – from a leer out the window to a beep and shout. I couldn’t say my earliest memory exactly, but I do remember being catcalled whilst in school uniform, and even as a fairly attention-seeking teenager I knew how gross that was. I think it felt like an inevitability though, and so we would brush it off as definitely creepy, but expected.

-Have there been many instances of you feeling unsafe on a run? What caused it and what actions did you take in the moment, if so?

One that springs to mind was when I’d forgotten my headphones (which makes me nervous anyway as I can’t take my mind off people around me) and I ended up getting chased through a park by a group of 4/5 lads who’d yelled something at me and I’d told them to fuck off. I’ve also had cars slow down and crawl along next to me, with blokes leaning out the window asking for my number etc. I generally speed up and/or change direction. Sometimes I’ll cut my run short or change my route. To be honest, at this point any male presence on my runs makes me feel unsafe!

That’s horrific. I don’t know about you but I always think of a million witty things to say in response to these situations after but, in the moment, my mind goes completely blank and “fuck off” is usually all I can muster. People always tell me to be carful when responding too – but it’s hard to not want to stick up for yourself! Do you take preventative measures when running – is thinking about your safety normal to you?

I have my mum tracking me on runs, and my partner when I’m staying at his. I also have a whistle on me for most runs. I generally try to stick with very rural routes, I’m lucky that I live somewhere I can run routes avoiding a lot of people!

So is there a certain time of day or any environments you avoid running in?

If it’s dark (evening or morning) I’ll only run in well-lit residential areas, which is a pain in the winter months! I won’t usually run through town centre during busier hours.

And has that affected your behaviours in and out of running?

I tried running in just a sports bra and shorts a couple of times last summer when it was really hot, and I just felt I started to victim-blame myself every time I was catcalled in those outfits (which I would never do to another woman). I just felt so exposed and I’m very wary of doing it anymore so I’ll always wear a t-shirt.

I feel you on that – I have blamed myself before for the actions of harassers but would never even think of doing so to another women! On the subject of victim blaming, have you experienced any negative feedback from people close to you regarding outdoor exercise and harassment?

I’d say the main response from older generations is that I should be flattered/take it as a compliment. The alternative seems to be ambivalence and not seeing it as a big deal. When I was younger there was definitely more of the victim blaming – wearing “slutty” clothing etc meant you obviously wanted that attention. I don’t think anyone would dare say that to me now!

Hopefully attitudes like that are changing. Do you notice an influx in it after certain events? I notice a lot more during sports event, and even lockdown seems to have brought more out of the woodwork!

The worst it’s been for me was when I used to live in Bristol behind the Bristol Rovers home stadium. I remember once I went out for a run without realising there was a home game, ended up getting cornered and followed up my road by a load of rowdy Rovers fans. Never made that mistake again. The pack mentality along with booze just seems to make things a million times worse. Where I live now is so rural that during lock-down I’ve actually experienced it less because there’s just so few cars around, so I count myself lucky for that.

I think, weirdly, being on trafficless roads makes most of us feel safer in that aspect – which is everything our parents probably warned us against. What other measures do you feel would make you feel safe? What would you like to see change?

France criminalised street harassment and started handing out fines and it works! I don’t think it would eliminate the problem, but knowing we have that backing and we have the law on our side would be reassuring at the very least. I’d love to see attitudes to it change, I’d love to see more men calling out their friends rather than laughing off their behaviour and enabling it to continue (that one is a big ask).

You heard it from Jess, we need allies in this fight. It’s important for us to call out harassment when we see it and if we are safe to do so. It’s especially important to hold our friends accountable if we see this. Education is key.


Thank you so much, Jess, for speaking out on this. Your honest account will show others that they’re not alone and it’s ok to speak out.


A Marathon of the Mind

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I’m ashamed to say I’ve never run a marathon.

Everyone and their mothers seem to have ticked 26.2 off their bucket list.

Especially in the social media running community.

There was a time when hitting that kind of distance was for elites only. It was an Olympic event, impressive to the regular hobbyist jogger, seemingly impossible to muggles and, quite frankly, an inappropriate time to spend running if you’re not being paid for it.

Hell, up until the 1967 society told us women’s bodies weren’t designed cope with that kind of athletic stress and there were rules banning us from running them.

But the human body is resilient.

And in the 21st century, the boom of regular, run of the mill, marathoners is sky rocketing.




So, why?

Are we all so bored by our 9-5s that we need to exert ourselves for hours to thrive.

To get that caveman rush of adrenaline?

Deep down, are we just monkeys in Nikes? In need of that sweet, sticky rush of endorphins distance running brings to us.

It makes sense, why we’re still seeking that primal urge to run. It’s in our base DNA. At our peak and over distance, human beings can out-run nearly every animal on the planet. It’s what we’re born for. It’s what we do.

So, yeah, we’re apes. In need of a drug. Of that jolt back into nature.

And, for some reason, we’ve decided that toeing the start of mass participation events is the key to this. It doesn’t hold quite the same poetry as our ancestors dashing across the savannah but, it’ll scratch the itch.

That itch has been bugging me for years.

For the last six of those years I’ve half heartedly signed up for the London Marathon, which has satisfied the craving momentarily, only to be rejected in the ballot, for that itch to move further down my back, out of reach, but still persistent.

I’ve always wanted to have more of a “fuck it” attitude.

I envy spontaneity and, ashamedly, I’ve worked my way out of many opportunities because I’ve been too scared, lack confidence and, though it pains me to admit, have hands down been plain lazy.

Recent events have evoked change in me, though.

We’re all in the same boat,

We’ve all spent hours, lately, day-dreaming about the first thing we’ll do “when we’re out”. Lockdown is a virus induced prison and our release date is, yet, undetermined.

Maybe we’ll get put on bail if we’re all really good and do what we’re told…

I’m no longer scared of fear. I want to embrace uncertainty. I’ve realised my appreciation for what life was before. For freedom. For being unsure.

And, as they say, there’s no time like the present.

That was the motivation for Monday’s marathon.

I say marathon – I ran 26.2 miles. And I’d be a fraud for counting that as a true marathon. I couldn’t currently fathom the endurance of having to keep focussed on that distance all at once. To try and keep my mind and legs in a perfect painful tandem. One day I will conquer it. One day I will feel that sickly, dizzy finish line joy. Until then – multistage feats will have to satisfy.

That’s not to say those miles were easy. My state approved exercise token only covered me for 10 glorious, outdoor, spring miles before it started to feel like I was taking the mick.

The day began like this:

0700: Unceremoniously thrown awake by my alarm. I did not sleep enough for this.

Snooze

0709: Abrupt alarm once more. Scratching around in the depths of my being for enthusiasm.

Snooze

0718: Ok, ok, I get it.

Alarm off. Caffeine.

I shamefully scrabbled for excuses not to start for an hour – The treadmill will wake the neighbours (it might). My housemates might hear (they can’t). I should do some dynamic stretching first (I didn’t). I should eat a bagel (I did).

My reluctance to beginning the run wasn’t from lack of enthusiasm. It was because I had and long, arduous, 25 kilometres on the treadmill planned.

There’s a reason they call it the dreadmill.

Nothing about me looked forward to those starting miles.

The first run scheduled would be my longest indoor stretch. A dull, barely conscious 10k to start off the day.

My legs wouldn’t listen. My feet were barely lifting off the floor. And my head, well, quite frankly, my head was anywhere but the treadmill.

Mile one. Trudge.

Mile two. Trudge trudge.

Three, four, five, mile six was the hardest. Knowing I was staring down the barrel of another 20. Well, damn. Why on earth have I chosen to do this alone?

There’s a lot to be said for crowd support. I never realised how it has carried me through the numerous events I’ve raced. The pain is still there, the battle between your head and your legs, then your legs and head. But at least you get the contagion of cheers to keep you keen.

But not for me. Not today. Today was a battle between me and my tired, anxiety riddled brain. Today was about me proving to me whether or not I had the grit to do this alone. To set a goal and stick to it.

But the morning had definitely began with my brain beating my, lack of, brawn –

“Stop, keep going, stop in a mile, no – keep going”

And this was only kilometre ten. Jesus. I’d better buck up my ideas soon on this solo slog is going to defeat me.

Luckily for me, my past self had scheduled in regular pep talk pit stops – Bagel break #2. My race fuel of choice. A soft, bready delight. A carby ring of hope prior to the many hours of running ahead.

After this, stage 2, was an easy treadmill 5k. Good. Thirty minutes. I can do that. Tiger King and Corona memes were my distraction. The support signs and aid stations of this multistage Monday.

I also had something more to keep me going. Stage 3.

Stage 3 I was really looking forward to. The heat of the past few sticky spring weeks had petered into ideal racing weather. I’d take myself down to the canal to cool myself further. Running past the few other joggers and dog walkers who were cashing in their commute spurred me on.

“I’m running a marathon!” I wanted to cry. “Halfway there!”

But you don’t do that. Not in London. You make awkward eye contact with your passing peer, managing a nod at most, a grunt if you’re lucky.

My enthusiasm for being outdoors, finally off the hamster wheel of dread, was not contagious enough to perk up the grey-mooded city dwellers in the smile-stagnant streets around me. But what did I care? I was running a marathon.

It must have been the comparison to that mornings treadmill traipse but some of those ten miles were the most joyful I’ve had in a long time. I was proving to myself that I could overcome. My head would not defeat my legs and, vice versa, my legs would prove to me that they could keep going. Even if they didn’t want to, they were strong. And I was tenacious.

I rarely feel this.

This affirmation of my ability. Confirmation that I can. And my willingness to work for something I want.

I wont tell you about the final two five ks. They were pretty similar to the first. And, quite frankly, I’m bored of them just thinking back. They were filled with support-seeking calls to friends and out-of-breath Taylor Swift sing alongs.

But I will tell you this –

They made me more sure of myself than I ever thought I could be.

I can do what I find hard.

I can commit and I can triumph.

As I ticked off that final .2 miles my heart fluttered. Slamming the E-stop I stood for a bit. Silently. Then a little whimper.

“Well this is emotional”

“Now what?”

No finish line photo. No bag collection. Just my housemates and homemade banoffee pie.

I sat, sweaty on the sofa and demolished it in seconds.

If all marathons end like this sign me up.

My first 26.2. It’s not a grand story. Just a tale of a runner trying to better herself and conquer corona-induced anxiety.

Of finding something to do to pass another mundane Monday.

And, fuck it.

Yeah.

I ran a marathon.

My Story #quitthecatcall

Uncategorized

Cat Calling.

Let’s talk about it.

When I started writing this post, at the beginning of the Corona-induced lockdown I had my thoughts organised.

I felt calm and concise in what I wanted to say.

But now

Now a fire has been lit within me.

Now it’s time for change.

Recently, I have been sharing my experiences more and more on Instagram, regarding street harassment. I have been overwhelmed with messages of support and solidarity, of well wishes and advice. But what causes a knot of rage in my stomach and has distressed me the most is the accounts of every other female runner on the platform.

I know I’m not alone in this, in the feeling of dread and uncertainty every time I pull my laces tight and cross the threshold of my front door. I knew that before and to have that crushingly confirmed has been the spark that has led me to wanting to take action.

I guess my story is as good a place to start as any.

I’ve spoken to many non-runners in the past about the street harassment of our kind. It often results in the same, age-old, tiresome “but you’re called Cat, wheeey” comment, which I’ve now come to expect so much so that I’ll usually get there first. Saves my eyes rolling, that way.

I’m more than happy to laugh about the serious stuff in life – humour is the buoyant, British way of dealing with most adversity. However, it’s time to lose the smiles, change our grins to war paint and stare this street-born affliction in the face.

The harassment of runners leads to a dangerous precedent for women in most other aspects of life.

I can only speak from my perspective. As a woman who has been pounding the pavements for four years now and, before that, a barely-pubescent teen ambling to the village shop for a Creme Egg, I’ve seen my fair share of heckles, white van whistles and “Smile, love”s.

I’ve been shouted at, sworn at, followed, touched. I’ve chased motorcycles down streets in a blinded fit of rage and I’ve crumbled to my knees after in exasperation. Damning my legs for not being able to keep up with them and my eyes for not being keener.

“Get the registration number, we’ll have a word”

Have a word. That’s what the police officers told me, as I begged them in the street, breathless and bitter for something, anything I could do to stop this.

To not feel safe, to know the law couldn’t protect me, was shattering. In that moment, my confidence in our leaders waned.

Not that my ire is with the police – it’s not. The law doesn’t make their job easy in this matter and, quite frankly, they can do as much as I can with the little information I can maintain in that circumstance.

It always happens so fast. I’m barely able to muster an instinctive “fuck you” before my head is able to spur my body into action. By that point they’re usually just a small, misogynistic dot on an a-road horizon.

There’s a lot to be said for the inclusion of street harassment under the legal umbrella of sexual harassment. In September 2018, France took the steps toward making cat-calling and gender based harassment illegal after a video of a man assaulting a woman went viral, after she confronted his vulgarity towards her.

You’ve probably seen it.

It briefly shook the internet.

Before we all forgot.

Because this aggravating act is so ordinary, such a persistent, accepted element of our existence that we can’t help but sweep it under the rug as soon as it becomes inconvenient.

It did, however, confirm what we’ve been trying to divulge to society our entire lives.

This footage was prime evidence that verbal harassment is a gateway toward other more violent assaults down the line. If you asked any woman this, they could have told you that in an instant.

There is solidarity in the female experience. Not that I don’t have the support from my male peers. But there is a certain amount of nescience in the community. Whenever I’ve posted on social media about the reality of harassment there is always an influx of shock from my male friends and nods of acknowledgement from women.

But how do we expect our male peers to know about these every-day occurrences if there is still a stigma around talking about it. I’m guilty myself of just shrugging these experiences off as “it’s hot out, I’m wearing less, I made eye contact…”. And, whilst I’d never in a million years victim blame another woman with these thoughts, the accountability for my own ‘choices’ does seem to shame me into silence more often than I’d like.

I’m reluctant to say I’ve been fairly ‘lucky’ with street harassment in my running life.

I’ve never been violently attacked.

I’ve never had persistent, unwanted advances for more than a few minutes.

I’ve never had an encounter that’s lead to further repercussions for me.

Is that lucky?

I know plenty of women will be under the impression that, in the same circumstances, they’d feel lucky too.

Because, the horror stories you hear as a little girl seem worse. The terror you read in the media. The influx of warnings to protect yourself, don’t dress like that, carry pepper spray, don’t get too drunk, don’t flirt – he’ll think you’re asking for it, don’t go out after dark, text me when you’re home. The need to carry a wolverine like grip as you walk home from a night out, keys in fist. The stories from friends, from women we love. Who have experienced worse. The feeling that, on any run or night out, that worse, well, that could be me next.

I’m just lucky it hasn’t happened yet.

What a society we live in, to assume that the responsibility of safety relies on our own actions to divert attacks, rather than to prevent attackers being made. That if we only feel slightly threatened that we can count that as a win. That living in a constant state of mild fear is the norm.

So, I want to start talking about it.

I want to quash the stigma of street harassment.

I want us to speak up and the people in power to start noticing.

It’s scary, it’s ambitious and it’s provocative.

Women who have spoken out for their rights in the past have been subject to media abuse, cyber attacks, keyboard warriors criticism. They’ve been threatened with rape and death.

Which is all the more reason to speak out.

Until women are taken seriously, until our experiences are treated with respect this bigotry will thrive.

It’s time to make a change… watch this space.