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.

Pippa’s Story #quitthecatcall


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.

My Story #quitthecatcall


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.