A group of women are going for a run this afternoon in Manchester’s Fog Lane Park, but this is no ordinary Saturday jog. It’s a protest run, following the attack on a woman in the same park last weekend.
The unnamed 25-year-old runner was attacked by a man who tried to strangle her with the wire of her headphones, reported the Manchester Evening News. It happened in broad daylight, at around 3 p.m. on Saturday March 12.
The victim heard rustling in nearby bushes and when she went to investigate, she was knocked to the ground by a man, who held an unknown object to her throat. He repeatedly banged her head against a tree and tried to strangle her, before he was disturbed and fled from the scene.
After hearing of the attack, local resident Lu Hudson decided action had to be taken.
“It struck a chord because myself and my girlfriend were only running in the park the night before, and I go running in there regularly,” the 30-year-old, who was born in Middlesborough but has lived in Manchester for over 10 years, told The Telegraph. “Rather than it being something that we do feel scared of, or change our routine- change where we feel we can access and go about our daily lives- we should feel like we can take a stand. I’m frustrated because it’s not the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last, unfortunately.”
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“I just felt frustrated that I don’t want to be stopped to go about my daily business and about my life and feel intimidated by these people who clearly have no care in the world for anyone else,” Hudson added.
She created a Facebook event to raise awareness and round up participants for a group run, Run Towards, Don’t Run Away, and it quickly gained interest. In less than 24 hours, 350 people had been invited to take part, and at the time of publication, 165 had confirmed their attendance.
“My hope is that we might meet new people, new friends to go running with,” said Hudson. “Start a club, or at least say hello to ‘passers by’ that then become a familiar face when running, to feel that bit safer and any ideas to keep safe can be shared too.”
The message Hudson and her group want to send out is three-fold: we will be strong and live our lives free from fear; we will not be stopped from doing what we love to do; we will claim our territory and be free in our local community.
Plenty of advice has been given online in the aftermath of the attack, such as advising women to run in groups, or not to run at night or with headphones in. While well-meaning, it essentially puts restrictions on what female runners can do, and takes away their freedom.
The woman who was attacked was on her own, and she did have her headphones in, but she was also running at 3 p.m. on a sunny Saturday afternoon. While taking safety precautions is always sensible, there has to be a balance between being careful and being able to run outdoors without feeling susceptible to an attack.
If you want to take part in the run, find out more here. If you can’t be there in person, spread the word on social media with the hashtag #runtoward.