Julia Price is a singer and runner whose story of harassment while she was on her daily run just went viral. For good reason. There should be more publicity for stories like hers. But the truth is, most female runners know her pain. It’s just when we are out there, no one is there to defend us.
Price went viral last week when she opened up on Facebook about a recent run where a man called her a “sexy lady.” When she ignored him, he called her a bitch. A little boy who was walking by happened to see her and told the man off. The story was inspirational and certainly an impressive thing for a young kid to do.
As a runner, though, the story was painfully familiar to me. Women who go out in public in jogging clothes, whether inside the gym or in the yoga studio, are used to people assessing our bodies. Ask any plus-size woman how she feels and you’ll quickly know that there is not a gym on this earth that really is a “judgment-free zone.” No matter what they say. But for those of us who take our workouts to the streets or on the trails, there is a whole other level of assessment and harassment that goes on.
I typically run in the morning and if it’s hot, I do it in a tight tank top and jogging pants. It is scary to be in the early morning dark and have someone honk at you. Or scream out the window at you and expect you to respond. It is scarier still to have a man bounce his head up and down to simulate your breasts bouncing when you are the only two people on the dark street.
These are the kinds of things that happen. All. The. Time.
I should be flattered. Or so I am told. At 37, I should be happy that men still want to look my way, right? Um. Nope. It doesn’t work that way. Running is my time. I decompress. I get out of the house and away from my kids. I love it. I need it. It’s my sanity. So when someone honks at me or says something sexual, it takes me out of that zone. Even if I were flattered (which I am not), it automatically takes the focus from the sport to my looks. And it’s a place I really would rather not think about that. And that’s the best case scenario.
At worst, it reminds me that I am unsafe. That, as a woman in this world, I have been subject to countless tales of women kidnapped during their daily jogs. Of women who ended up dead on the side of the road for doing nothing more than trying to fit some exercise in. It reminds me that I need to be hyper vigilant at all times and don’t have the safety in this world to go out at night and take a nice long run.
Look, if we runners could run in a bubble, we would. But we can’t. We have to be in the world, running like the rest of us. So, please, if you see a female runner in her tight pants with a body that makes you want to say hello, refrain. Sometimes no comment is better than any comment, even one you think is respectful or nice. It’s the wrong context. Leave us alone and then when we want to meet you, say in a social setting or at the bar, then we will be a lot more amenable to it.