Karina Vetrano was, from all accounts, a fierce woman with a love of life, who hoped to be a writer and had a master’s degree from St. John’s University. She lived in New York City. Vanessa Marcotte was a Google employee who lived in New York City but who was visiting her mother in Princeton, Massachusetts. Ally Brueger was a nurse in Michigan who graduated with high honors and was also working on her masters degree in creative writing. All women loved to run. All women are now dead, brutally murdered while out on their daily jogs. In broad daylight.
Police are not connecting these cases, but it’s hard not to. All brunettes. All runners. Two of them killed in the afternoon on the East Coast, one of them in the Midwest. The cases are tragic and so very sad. All three women were young, just 27, 30 and 31. They both had so much to look forward to. As a person, I am brokenhearted for their families and friends — it’s a tragedy beyond imagination. And as a fellow runner, I am furious.
Running is my life. Running is my sanity. Running is my go-to. Running is my salvation. Running is a daily habit, like brushing my teeth. Running is something I am now afraid to do. Just a couple of days after the second brunette jogger was found murdered on the East Coast in one week, the thought of lacing up my sneakers and going for an early-morning run is giving me pause. And that makes me so angry.
For those of us who run, for whom getting up at 5 a.m. to go 6 miles is a privilege rather than a form of torture, every time we hear of a jogger dying, it gives us pause. They’ve been beaten or robbed or hit by a driver of a car who just wasn’t paying enough attention. You always know it could have been you there on the side of the road. We runners know one another. We smile when we pass one another. We high-five. We wave. We support one another.
Online, there have been comments about Vetrano and Marcotte that suggest they should have been running in more populated areas or have taken along a buddy. But any runner knows that’s not how it goes. Generally I run around my cities, but on vacation, I run through the woods. I have been the only runner for miles. And I have run 6 miles at midnight. On icy roads. Just to get it in. Neither of these women deserved what happened to them. They did nothing wrong. Let’s put the blame in the right place.
Presumably these incredibly similar cases are unrelated. But it doesn’t feel like it. And now, this thing that I love more than anything, this thing that I need, feels scary and uncertain. Should I go on my daily run? Should I sit today out? Should I wait until I have more information?
It might seem silly, but any woman can tell you, we are vulnerable in the world in general. It is a fact that is easy to dismiss until you hear about a woman raped in a parking garage. Or in her home. Or while she is out for a jog. This week has seen a number of “suggestions” online. Run with a knife, one man said. And he’s not wrong. I wonder now if, along with my water and gel shots and music, I should also carry a weapon. Because women aren’t safe anywhere. Not even while we are doing the one activity that keeps us sane and healthy and happy.
My heart is broken for these two beautiful families who have lost their daughters. And it is also broken for a world where a young woman isn’t safe anywhere.