We shouldn't have to ever change our habits to be safe doing something we love. But reality has hit once again in our community with the death of Ashling Murphy whilst out on her afternoon run. Another young woman, murdered whilst doing something she enjoyed. I find myself questioning how we can stop this and it pains me to think we may never be able to fully stop it from happening again. However, as women, we can stand together, we can impact the future and do all we can to protect ourselves and each other.
I also want to make it very clear to you, the reader, that I believe males of all ages should be taught by parents, at school, other males who know better etc about how to treat women with respect and not as objects. I also believe that men should hold their fellow male friends who behave in a derogatory manner accountable for their behaviour. Women should not have to f*&king protect themselves by simply f%^king living.
I’ve put together some ideas below on how women can protect themselves whilst out running and I'd love to hear any other suggestions. Please comment with anything else you can suggest and let’s all support each other as much as we can!
Gear, routes and tech
Let’s start with the obvious and use what we can have control over. First off, clothing. The gear you pull on for a run can be as bright as you want. The louder the better in my opinion and even more so in the darker months, if you’re running at night or early morning.
Next up would be where you choose to run. This one irritates me as we should have the freedom to run where the heck we want. There’s nothing better than heading out in the crisp morning sunshine and running away the stresses of everyday life through the forest or across open fields. Sadly, we find ourselves having to consider the route we choose. For example, changing up the secluded, country path for a busier, public road through town.
Finally, many of us have invested in a running watch or have apps that track our sessions. Most of them have security settings and tracking capabilities. Strava, for example, has a feature called Beacon which generates a unique URL you can share with your safety contacts via text message, allowing them to follow your activity in real-time. There are also alarm devices you can invest in. Run Angel are an Irish based company who developed a personal safety wearable for runners, joggers, cyclists, students, overseas travellers, lone workers and revellers that emits a loud 120DB high-pitched audible alarm when activated. It pairs with smartphone devices over Bluetooth and sends out alerts and location details when the alarm is sounded. An investment worth making.
Local self-defence classes
A suggestion that shouldn’t even feature. Has it really got to a point where we have to swap our Thursday interval session for a Thursday night self-defence class?! Sadly friends, this is the reality we face in 2022 and beyond until we put an end to what is happening. I like to think of myself as pretty strong, but if faced with an attack, I question if, or how long, I could hold anyone off for.
Seek out your local gyms, boxing clubs, karate teams and so on and see what self-defence classes are available. I’d advise looking for one that offers more than just physical movements. We need to be educated on how to act if attacked by surprise. Mentally how do we manage our thoughts in that instant moment to manage the situation in the best way? These are all things to think of.
If you’re struggling to find classes, ask the gyms or clubs if they can put something on. Or ask your local running/cycling club if they would be interested in hiring the relevant expert to come down and host a class.
As sad as it is to be considering this, we need to be prepared for anything like this to happen to any one of us at any given moment. Recent events have proved that it doesn’t matter who you are, what time of day it is or what you’re doing. It can happen to any of us so I really recommend getting to a class of some kind and trying to encourage your friends to come along and support each other in learning how to protect yourselves.
Educating the men in our lives
Quite possibly the most important point to raise. I’m very aware it isn’t always men who commit these crimes and it isn’t always females who are targeted. However, these recent attacks have been by men and when you look at surveys carried out by Runner’s World and alike, the figures are much higher for women who have experienced a form of harassment whilst out running over men. Most results are over 50% more than that experienced by the male runners in our community.
So the responsibility lies with us as mothers, grandmothers,sisters, aunts, sister-in-laws, cousins, friends to have conversations with the men in our lives. We need to openly make them aware of what is happening and make sure they are educated on how to behave or act around female runners. Cat-calling, whistling, shouting or just joking around with your friends are all things that are not acceptable and must stop, before this type of behaviour escalates.
Men, if you’re unsure how you should be acting, then you need to be asking what you can do. Ask your local club, your school teachers, your female running friends, chat about it down the pub with your mates about how you can make the streets a safer place for women to run freely.
It’s alarming the lengths women need to go to just to go out for a run or cycle. Yes, it does happen to cyclists too. Whatever your sport, you should feel safe doing it.
Feel free to comment on this blog with anything else we can do to protect ourselves and to stop this from happening in the future.
Check out apps like Safe & the City. Originally designed for London, it’ll work anywhere now. Anything that makes you feel uncomfortable – from poor street lighing to unwanted or criminal behaviour – report it. If we report even the minor incidents then patterns start to form that can help protect us and others.
I couldn’t agree more.
I find myself questioning am I OK to run…cycle…take the dogs for a walk at this time? Do I wait, but then when is a good time? Daylight…daylight doesn’t equate to safety.
I should feel empowered to not need to have someone to do these activities with. Instead I’m left thinking am I safe doing it.
As a mother of a ten year old boy. I’m very much aware that I am responsible for raising him to be the best he can be and be aware of his privilege.
Stay safe 🙏