Teenage Boys are my Running Nightmare
I started running three years ago on the suggestion of my doctor to help with depression following a miscarriage. I was broken, suffering with low self-esteem and in desperate need of healing. The first day I ran I managed to get round the block. After the first month I managed to get round a few blocks. As I got fitter and stronger I gained confidence. I swapped my old sweatpants for some Lycra bottoms and my stained t-shirt for a running top.
Within a few months I’d graduated from couch to 5km and was ready to up my mileage. Not knowing the neighbourhood well I spent a few days planning new routes – a 6km loop and an ambitious 10k. I made sure there weren’t too many up hills, it wasn’t too secluded and I there was somewhere mid-way to stop for a toilet break if things got desperate. Both loops took me down the side of a local high-school.
I work from home, so I can run during the day. I’d run the shorter route three or four times when I started noticing a group of teenage boys, in a secluded corner at the side of the school. Obviously hiding from teachers, smoking and killing time. I was fair game for their jeering.
There were some classics “run fatty run”, “Is that as fast as you can go?” “You’re not going fast enough to catch a cold.” But there were also some obscenities. Things I can’t repeat in a public place. They were rude and vulgar and while I’m clearly old enough to be there mothers they were in a group, it was intimidating and I didn’t feel confident confronting them.
The worse part was it wasn’t once or twice, it happened enough times for me to change my route. I didn’t report it to the school. I was shocked and ashamed and embarrassed that a group of teenagers could make me feel so worthless. To this day I’m still weary of groups of teenagers.
This was not, unfortunately, the only time I’ve been heckled. Outside a factory one man ran alongside me and pulled my earphones out of my ears because I hadn’t responded to his and his lunch mates advances. I was terrified. I ran off in shock, heart racing, tears stinging my eyes. What he thought was a joke was actually stuff my nightmares are made of.
Sadly I’m not the only women to have experience this, in a quick survey of my friends and twitter it seems it’s more common than expected. Wolf whistles, name calling and hooting.
The scenario is always the same. A group of males showing off, having a laugh, egging one another on. The feeling it leaves behind is the same… fear, intimidation and upset. Have you ever been heckled while on a run?
I’ve changed my route because of these incidents. I’m now more cautious, more aware, and more afraid to run by myself. If I see group of men walking towards me on a run I cross the road. I still do run by myself sometimes but find more comfort in groups. I don’t think I’m ready to join a club yet but parkrun is great and Leeds Girls Can hold many free ladies only runs around Leeds for all abilities. I won’t let the harassment keep me off the road but it does make me think twice before heading out.