Women Deserve to Run Without Fear
door UFC Admin | okt 24, 2019 | News
Eighty-four percent of women we surveyed have been harassed while running. It’s time for that to change.
By CHRISTINE YU
On the last Saturday of June 2019, Bryanna Gondeiro-Petrie left her in-laws’ house in eastern Washington state around 5:30 a.m. and headed down a lightly trafficked road. She needed to get out earlier than normal to squeeze in a quick shakeout run before traveling to Montana, where she would run the Missoula Marathon the next day.
As she ran against traffic, she noticed a black Toyota speeding toward her. Abruptly, the car slowed down. Then the driver rolled down the passenger-side window. Gondeiro-Petrie vividly recalls his “evil grin, as if he hit the jackpot in finding me,” she says.
The road behind Gondeiro-Petrie was empty—no houses, no cars, no side roads, and nowhere to go. A quarter mile ahead, she saw an older gentleman watering his trees, roughly 100 meters down a long driveway. She thought, “I need to get to that driveway.”
“I WOULD HEAR STORIES ALL THE TIME, BUT I HAD THIS ATTITUDE THAT IT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO ME.”
Gondeiro-Petrie sprinted. As she passed the car, the driver opened the passenger side door and yelled something unintelligible and laughed. He then hit the gas, flipped a U-turn, and intentionally drove down the wrong side of the road, coming up fast behind Gondeiro-Petrie. As the car pulled beside her, she reached the driveway and bolted down its length, shaking as she ran. The driver parked on the side of the road and watched her. When she reached the man watering the trees, he finally sped off.
Bryanna Gonderio-Petrie shot on location in Cedar Hill, Texas.
Her concern escalated further last year when she moved with her family to the Dallas–Fort Worth area, where human trafficking is a growing concern. “I started running the same 1.4-mile loop around my house,” she says, which makes long run days tedious at best. During marathon training cycles, she’s logged up to 12 miles circling her home.
After the incident in Washington state, her relationship to running changed even more. She stopped trail running. She became more aware of her surroundings, watching passing men and cars with a hawk’s eye. She frequently changes up her routes, sometimes even midrun if something feels “off.” She carries pepper spray. She hatches just-in-case escape plans.
“I never imagined I would live at a time when I wouldn’t feel safe running by myself,” says Gondeiro-Petrie. “There are days when I feel like I can’t even enjoy myself because I’m on edge.”
There’s a complex calculation that takes place in women’s minds before lacing up for a run. In addition to what’s on the training plan, women often consider the time of day, their route, their clothes, whether to track their workout on Strava, whether to wear headphones, and what protection to carry—Mace, Taser, or an alarm. For many women, running doesn’t resemble the blissed-out, endorphin-filled escape it should be. Instead, we’re on guard, bracing ourselves against a constant threat of harassment. It’s a task more exhausting and mentally taxing than mile repeats.
“THERE ARE DAYS WHEN I FEEL LIKE I CAN’T EVEN ENJOY MYSELF BECAUSE I’M ON EDGE.”
And it’s far too prevalent: In a recent Runner’s World survey, a massive 84 percent of women said they have experienced some kind of harassment while running that left them feeling unsafe. That includes physical actions like groping, or being followed or flashed, as well as subtler forms like catcalls, honks, and lewd comments.
At best, harassment is distracting and annoying. At worst, it’s terrifying and detrimental to our health, negating all the physical, emotional, and mental benefits we get from running. And while the #MeToo movement has brought more attention to issues around sexual harassment and assault, there’s still work to do, especially when it comes to the unwanted attention that women face in public spaces, which includes the places we run, says Holly Kearl, founder of the nonprofit Stop Street Harassment. According to the organization’s 2019 study in conjunction with the University of California, San Diego Center on Gender Equity and Health, 68 percent of women reported being harassed in public spaces like streets, trails, and parks.