AFTER LEARNING THAT ALMOST HALF OF UK
female runners have experienced some form of harassment while out doing their miles (see our Running while female report on page 40), I told my wife how shocked I was at this statistic. She almost matter-of-factly recounted the occasions when it had happened to her. I was stunned and, because I felt like I’d had my eyes opened to such a long-standing issue, embarrassed. I’ve run lots of times with women and I don’t remember witnessing a single offence. But the women receiving this abuse aren’t running with men. Most often, they’re running alone and men are the aggressive harassers.
Our report raises all kinds of uncomfortable issues but offers no easy solutions, because there aren’t any. Gender-based harassment is a complex social problem, not just a running problem. But running is supposed to be an escape from everyday stressors. Now I know that isn’t always true for some, and I’m grappling with what to do with that new, unpleasant knowledge.
Talking openly about on-the-run harassment – and its prevalence – is a step in the right direction. At the very least, it might lead to greater empathy and awareness, especially among male runners. Even if women can’t be spared this odious treatment out on the roads, I hope it’s helpful to know they aren’t alone. Runners are a tribe, and all of us can agree that such behaviour is deplorable and cannot go unchallenged.