Still not asking for it

Still not asking for it

“There’s a complex calculation that takes places 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.”

Christine Yu, Runner’s World

A 2019 issue of Runner’s World magazine (vol 54 No 6) conducted a survey that found 84% of women runners had been harassed on a run. “Harassment” could mean anything from catcalls, honks, lewd comments, groping, and being followed. In the same survey 67% of women found they were at least sometimes concerned they would be physically assaulted while running. And 16% said that they have felt threatened enough while running that they feared for their lives.

These fears don’t come unfounded: runners Mollie Tibbetts, Vanessa Marcotte, Karina Vetrano, Alexandra Brueger and Wendy Karina Martinez were all killed while running.

And the cover of that issue featured Kelly Herron, who was assaulted in a bathroom on a break 4 miles into a 10 mile training run. 

This fear, this complex calculation has happened to almost every women runner I know.

It’s happened to me.

Just recently I was running on a well travelled street, home to multi-million dollar waterfront homes, when a black GMC carrying four men drove by and started honking, waving, whistling and then slowing down to tell me I was sexy and had a nice ass. I silently fumed, but said nothing.

Apparently my reaction is common: women usually stay silent as a protective measure, because they don’t know what else to do, but also due to fear that if they engage with a harasser or fight back, the situation might escalate. But I also turned to Instagram, where posted what I wish I’d said.

This is also common: “Social media has become an avenue for women to reclaim their experiences, and nudge the conversation forward,” writes Yu. She adds women who post about their experiences are often met with a chorus of similar stories (“worst part about running” two women commented one after another), as well as support from men. This sharing and chorus of recognition also shows just how prevalent these instances of harassment are even today.

Friends often ask me how I run at night or run trails alone. I explain that I take precautions (wear lights, tell my kids my route, carry my phone, don’t wear headphones and always, always stay aware and even keep an ongoing ‘if this happens I’ll do that’ plan) but the fear is still there. And perhaps the worst part is that I know that if something was to happen, I’d have to face the question: “Well, what did you expect?”

I expect to live in a world where I don’t need to consider carrying bear spray when I run. When I don’t second guess whether to enter a trailhead when I see a car already parked there. When my heart beats fast only because of the effort of the workout, and not because of the ATV that might be following me on the remote rail trail. 

Running gives me the opportunity to face my fears about chasing big goals: I’m not going to let fears of being attacked stop me from that. Regardless of what women are wearing when they run, when they run or where they run, they’re still not asking for it.

Note: Shortly after writing this post I started researching “bear spray” and “pepper spray” for runners. According to this article by Cottage Life there is a difference between the two, and the latter is illegal in Canada. I’m still not comfortable carrying anything, but… I’ll be giving this more thought.

Do you run with any defensive “items”?

Benefits to running alone

Benefits to running alone

When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, people were ordered to “shelter-in-place” and “physically distance” themselves from everyone not in their immediate family circle. 

Social media lit up with runners bemoaning the loss of their running groups and training partners.

Me? Nothing changed.

I run alone. 

As I’ve built more running community through social media and racing, I’ve learned first-hand the benefits of running in groups: long runs feel easier when I’m distracted by running with friends, and well, they’re just a lot of fun. But I live in a small village and there are no people to run with. So if I want to train a lot, I run alone.

Some runners, especially women, say they’re scared to run alone. But I find the benefits outweigh any of the risks. Here are just a few:


I work full-time and juggle two teenage kids on my own. That means I’m often stealing hours to get my runs in. This kind of unpredictability makes scheduling time with others challenging, and so I’ve learned to embrace the spontaneity. If I wake up early and want to catch the sunset before work, great! Off I go. If it’s 9:30 pm and I still have 12km to run, then I strap on my Noxgear and get my miles in. Or if I find a pocket of time on a Saturday morning, I can also decide last minute to jump in the car and drive an hour to the trailhead.


I’ve heard a lot of runners talk about how hard it is to motivate themselves to get out the door without their training partner or group, but running solo means I’m responsible for my own motivation, that that’s built some strong mental grit. I can look back on my training plans and say, “I did that. I ran all those miles because I set a big goal for myself.” And if I don’t get myself out the door, I have only myself to call out. It’s no one else’s responsibility but my own, and that makes for satisfying and sustainable training.


When I run on my own, it’s just me and my footfalls. This gives me the space and time to pay attention to how it feels. Where do I feel tightness? How is my breathing? Am I bunching my toes? What can I do I release holding?

I’m also more present to my surroundings and the sheer joy – and privilege – of running.


“Do you want to run faster? Then you need to slow down.” That’s the opening sentence of Matt Fitzgerald’s book 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower, that builds on the idea that the secret to running faster is to run slow most of the time. Intensity, or how hard you’re running relative to how hard you’re capable of running, can be classified into three general zones: low, moderate and high; low is around that point where you have to start breathing harder or can no longer carry on a conversation. Studies have shown that runners of all abilities and experience levels improve most when they do approximately 80% of their training at low intensity and 20% at moderate and high intensity. 

The point of this? When I run with a group, I typically adjust my paces to stay in the group. When I run on my own I can keep my own pace. And that makes for more productive training.

You might train with a group, and race with hundreds or thousands more, but running is ultimately a solo endeavour. It comes down to your own set of feet, and putting one in front of the other. Embrace it.

Want more? 

* Running coach Amanda Brooks of “Run to the Finish” has a great blog entry on “9 Powerful Benefits of Running Alone”

* Alex Nichols of has a article on “The Benefits of Training Alone” that has more on the science of 80/20 running