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Stomach knotted like my shoelaces

Women's running safety has been at the forefront of national attention recently following several horrific cases.

Gabby Skopec

When I hear anything about running, I listen in a little closer. Recently, what I’ve been hearing hasn’t been about the health benefits of running, or a story about a high school cross country meet. Instead it’s been much grimmer; there have been multiple women kidnapped and murdered. In one case, a young mother was kidnapped while out for a jog, taken captive for several weeks and then found beaten and bruised with a bag over her head on the side of a desolate highway. These cases add to a growing fear for the safety of women out running.

The issue of women’s running safety has an effect on Iowa City runners both directly and indirectly. I have heard a handful of stories from other runners in the area who have been followed or catcalled while running. And while the number of runners who have personally dealt with such instances may be small, there is something that affects nearly all of us: fear.

Yes, thinking about your safety is a good thing. But in all honesty it’s becoming something that we have to think about all too often. I’ve seen too many articles to count with tips on how to stay safe. Tips like carrying pepper spray, a cell phone, a small weapon. Or to tell someone where you are going and when you plan on being back – the list goes on. These tips are helpful, yes, but should someone really have to employ any of them to feel safe while running? (continued below.)

For many, running is a solitary activity. It is an escape from daily life where they can let their minds wander to whatever they want. But quite often my mind wanders to questions of my safety. Which route is the safest? Where can I go if I am being followed? And the list of questions goes on. Sure, I could hop on a treadmill and run there, but there are a few problems with that. To start, treadmills suck; running in place and trying to constantly think up distractions to keep me from looking at the monitor isn’t the ideal running situation. Secondly, the outdoors are beautiful and motivate me to run. Most importantly, if I stop running outside then I am letting fear take control of me. And that shouldn’t happen. Running should be an activity where no one should have to worry. A place where they can let themselves go. It can simply be them and the miles they have to run or it can be a time to think about troubles of the outside world. But it should not be a place to think about the possible troubles of what could come from going out for a run.

I do not know what the perfect solution to this problem is. Well, people could stop doing terrible things to each other, but that is probably not going to happen. However, there are a few things that could help us out. First off, installing lights, emergency phones and cameras along trails would be a step in the right direction. Furthermore, the trails in the area could use some upkeep; un-maintained brush and lots of trash do not give off a good vibe to trail users. Additionally, a good way to tackle the issue would be with numbers. Those of us who enjoy outdoor recreation should do just that; use the trails and continue outdoor recreation because there is strength in numbers. Honestly, I just want to lace up my shoes with nothing more to worry about than the weather forecast and if I am hitting perfect splits or not.

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Stomach knotted like my shoelaces