Tuesday Topics | Staying vigilant

I am linking up again with  Kookyrunner and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics today, but in light of recent events, I am going to deviate from the suggested topic today and talk about the case of kidnapped and murdered runner Eliza Fletcher

She’s been on my mind since I learned of her abduction on September 2nd and I really hoped that she’d be found alive. It was horrifying to learn that she was deceased (and as of yet, no motive!).  

No, she did not get murdered because she ran at 4:30 am in the morning, or because she was wearing a sports bra and shorts, or because of where she ran. She was murdered because a sorry excuse of a man once again felt entitled to do what he pleases.What does it say about the justice and prison system, if a man who was just released after 20 years for a similar offense (albeit the target was a man last time) goes out and assaults again? 

I hate that women have to think about when they run, where they run, if they can run alone, what they wear, and what safety measures to employ. This kind of thinking actually applies to all women in all kinds of situations (walking to their car, walking home at night, etc.), not just to female runners, in this world we exist in. I think most men have absolutely no idea what that feels like. They might also not understand what it feels like to be catcalled, harassed, or even followed in public.

I started rethinking my running routine after I read on the NextDoor App about a year ago that a female runner was chased by a guy in the early morning near the park where I run. (Not to worry, she got away.) 

I’d like to think that our neighborhood is generally safe, but things have shifted a bit during the pandemic, lots of homeless people have been showing up in previously “safe” places.

I am not trying to vilify the homeless here, in fact, I’ve had many pleasant interactions with homeless people and have helped someone out here and there, but I am mentioning it because there sadly have been more and more incidents reported with homeless folks involved. It just puts you on high alert.

I know that the likelihood of being assaulted is generally low, but tell that women like Eliza and countless others. I am definitely not letting some jerks prevent me from doing the things I love, but I am also not going to solely rely on statistics. So, I am going to share a few things I (feel I have to) do these days to stay safe:

I run with pepper spray and a personal alarm

I hope that I’ll never have to use it, but I purchased pepper spray and an accompanying personal alarm last summer after that “incident” at the park where I frequently run.

I use Live Track on my Garmin

I’ve started using Live Track on my Garmin watch a while back. It’s easy to set up and as soon as I start a Garmin outdoor workout, my husband receives an email with a link where he can track my location while I am on my run. Obviously, it only works in areas with a good GPS signal, but since I am in the city, that’s not an issue.  I wish Garmin would send a text message instead of an email because it’s a more direct method of notification, so I might look into other options. I know both RoadID and Strava have tracking functionality with text message notifications, but they also both require a subscription. Any other suggestions?

I don’t run in the dark (morning or evening) alone. Period.

While I know that this is a topic of controversy (“Stop asking why she was running at 4:30 am in the morning”) and I agree that she – and every other female runner – *should* be able to run whenever and wherever we want, the reality is that I don’t feel safe and won’t run in the early morning or later at night, especially when it’s still dark outside. This is a challenge, especially during the darker months of the year, and I wish I still had access to the gym or that I had a treadmill at home, but alas, these are the constraints I have to work with. 

I stay in our neighborhood 

I mostly run up and down our neighborhood streets and around two smaller local parks right now. We have a beautiful trail by the river (which you might have seen in some of my pictures before) and I love running there, but I’ve basically stopped running there in the early mornings. The only time I’ll run there is a little later on weekend mornings when I know there are tons of people out and about. It’s kind of sad because it’s a beautiful trail to run, but there are also long stretches where I don’t feel safe at odd hours. So, therefore, I won’t go.

Are you taking any safety measures when you’re out by yourself?

  1. What happened to Eliza and so many others is scary and disgusting.
    There is always something outsider pick to blame the victim. But that’s so wrong – it’s not the victims fault and women shouldn’t have to worry doing what the love!!!
    Please be safe! <3

  2. It is very scary and it could happen to anyone anywhere.

    I run in safe areas. I try if possible not to run alone. I never run in the dark.

  3. While I do take certain steps to run safely, I really hate that female runners even have to think this why. I should be able to run when I want and where I want but I know that there are crazy men out there so that stops me from running at night or super early in the morning.

  4. Poor Eliza had no choice but to run at 4:30 am if she wanted to run outside- she had two kids and a job as a kindergarten teacher. It would be a shame if she had to run on a treadmill every day out of fear- although I can understand that choice as well. It shouldn’t be on us, but unfortunately the more we can do to keep ourselves safe, the better. I almost always run alone, but my current schedule allows me to run in the daylight in fairly well-populated areas. At some point I’ll probably be back to dark runs, and though I’ve never run with an alarm or weapon, I’ll consider it in the future. A personal alarm and pepper spray are great ideas.

  5. I’m glad you take steps to keep yourself safe(r). I was talking about the Eliza situation with my husband last week, and he was saying how yeah, people SHOULD be able to go out running at any time of day, without any concern, just like we shouldn’t need to lock our doors at night (no one “should” feel they can just walk into someone else’s house) and I shouldn’t have to worry that someone will steal my car if I leave it running for a minute while I run in somewhere for a second. But the reality of the world is that bad things do happen, sometimes, so all we can do is keep this in mind and weigh the risk of each situation. Life is inherently risky, all the time, and while I’ll admit I am a worrywart, we can’t go around being constantly afraid of everything. What kind of life would that be? So I think you are doing the right thing- continuing to run, but taking some steps to protect yourself, if needed. I always ask myself, when I hear these situations, WHY was this bad guy out and about at 4 am?? Like what are they DOING out there at that time?? Why not just be home in bed already man. Ugh. Whole situation is just awful. I agree with Jenny that it’s so hard for working moms who want to run to find “safe” times to run- if you have to be to work early, and then are busy with kids all night….when else do you go, besides the dark early morning hours?? I blogged about this recently too, but this is honestly part of the reason I stopped running some years ago. My nurse’s work schedule was hard, I couldn’t fit it in in daylight hours and I wasn’t willing to run alone at 4 am or 10 pm. The treadmill does get old.

  6. Here we are again — another woman attacked and murdered on the run. It’s so heart-breaking and I feel so much needs to be done to make all places safe. But as we wait for strategic solutions to be found we need to fend for ourselves. I run only during daylight and when it’s quite busy out. Thankfully, I’ve never encountered more than catcalling but on Valentine’s Day a runner was raped about 2km from my house. That really hit me hard. She was my age too so it stayed with me for a long time.

  7. I don’t ever run after dark. Period. I stopped doing this years ago after a scary incident with a man following me where I ended up hiding out in a driveway and even going into a stranger’s home to avoid him.

    I am so, so aware of safety every time I run, but I try to balance fear with living life. I do run alone on trails sometimes during the day, but I’ve adjusted my route so it’s ALL in the open and mostly heavily trafficked. And it’s always, always light outside. I also do a lot of exercise with other people, and it definitely feels safer as part of a pair. A few years ago when I was doing longer routes, I would play a podcast out loud on my phone while I ran so it sounded like I was talking with someone on the phone.

    I almost always have my phone with me and my watch has an emergency button that will trigger a call to 911. I don’t have pepper spray or a personal alarm, though and I think those sound like valuable resources for many situations.

    It is sad. It does make me angry. But it is also the reality, unfortunately, and so I encourage EVERYONE to prioritize safety!!

  8. I hate this so much, San. “Oh, she shouldn’t have gone running so early, she shouldn’t have worn those clothes” you know what, f*ck that, maybe instead of women having to think so much about their personal safety, men who want to hurt women should not be out at 4:30 in the morning. Or anytime. It infuriates me so much. The onus is always on us to keep ourselves safe, rather than society looking out for us. This goes for everything from dress codes in middle school to when we can be outside our homes by ourselves. *screams into the void*

    Anyway. This is the world we live in. Because that is where we are at, I don’t run in the dark. I always run by myself so I run in daylight and I don’t carry pepper spray or anything, I run on paths that are frequented by dog walkers and sidewalks through the neighbourhood. I wish the world was different but I guess we have to adjust our own behaviour to the realities of life.

  9. I think the key is that what happened to Eliza Fletcher is very rare. We’re more likely to die from COVID, in a car accident, or tripping on a rug in our house, so I can’t really be bothered to worry too much about someone kidnapping me while on a run. I also live in a small town and maybe I would have a different feeling if I lived in a city or larger area, but I think things pepper spray can easily be used against you or just turn out badly if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, so I actively don’t use them. There’s no real answer, but I’m saddened by hearing all these stories of people who are changing their lives because of statistically improbable events.

  10. Your precautions all sound really reasonable, although it breaks my heart that they are a necessity.

  11. This will probably sound dumb, but I take few precautions. Partly because I’ve come across enough creeps to know that they won’t mess with me. I have resting bitch face and I’m loud and can be obnoxious, and most men, when looking for an easy target, will leave me alone. That’s not to say that I purposely run in areas that are deemed dangerous and, sadly, littered with homeless encampments. But I just don’t go out of my way to make sure I’m safe because I just don’t worry about it… my fears tend to land on the more irrational side anyway (civil unrest, far-right insurgence, societal collapse, stuff like that). In my mind, if I have to make any type of accommodations just because I’m a woman, then “they” win. Nonsensical, I know. I’m also in the mountains solo most weekends, so I may have developed a false sense of confidence, although I do plan on purchasing a beacon sometime soon, for my husband’s peace of mind.

  12. I hate women have to feel so uncomfortable & unsafe when just trying to do healthy things & just enjoy life. … My daughter in Nashville ran a race that they had that same morning Eliza’s town did to “finish her run” – which chokes me up just at the thought.
    I love the idea of LIVE trackers… you always want to wear a sign that says “I’M BEING TRACKED” so people will leave you alone. What a world we live in

  13. The only thing I do is not run alone in the dark. That is a precaution that is worth taking for me, though, and that means I can’t run for periods of the year, but that is luckily not peak running season for us. I know that it’s statistically unlikely for me be abducted, but I look at the risk/reward. The downside is so awful – is it worth it? For me, it’s not worth a morning/evening run alone, even if it’s highly highly unlikely it will ever happen to me. Luckily I do many of my runs with my neighbors. When I run alone I feel very very safe in my neighborhood. I run in a very populated area and most of my runs are on running paths that are very busy.

  14. I feel you. I am not running but I would love to roam the forests, go mushroom hunting or just walk around and explore nature. But I do not feel safe and am always alert because who know who else is roaming around. I hate that it is this way.

    I also feel like I am more conscious and maybe alert lately. I have started sending my location to my husband too.

    I actually use the apple tech that is available with all their devices. And maybe that new Apple Watch ultra that is made for athletes works for you. I hear it’s similar to a Garmin. For me the regular phone and Apple Watch works.

  15. I do hate that we have to think about things like this. We should be able to run wherever and whenever we want. I like running in the dark but now am feeling afraid to do it. I shouldn’t but I do. I also have pepper spray but hadn’t been running with it. I know I “should”.

  16. While I’m not a runner, I do like to go for early morning walks in my neighborhood. It’s generally very safe (gated community) but a week after I read about what happened to Eliza, I was walking in the semi-dark and noticed a man sitting in a car with the engine on and in a strange location, and it freaked me out a bit. Thankfully, there were some people around at the time so I knew I would be able to yell if something happened (nothing did; the guy probably had a very innocent reason for being there, but it’s hard not to get concerned!) It was just a reminder that we have to be vigilant about our own safety.

  17. I hate this, San. I hate that it is always the woman’s fault. That it is never the person who actually, you know, *committed the murder*. What. The. Hell.
    As I wrote on Grateful Kae’s post on this, I am really horrible about taking precautions. I walk alone. Before sunrise. In my neighborhood. And I tell myself that I am alert, that I am aware, and that I have multiple options should something unusual/frightening happen. I do pass the police station at the halfway point. There is a 24 hour gas station across the street at another point in my walk. And then, there is the grocery store, where they are getting ready to open in an hour or so. I walk with my phone in my hand. But I am a small person, not able to run very fast, and it would likely be very easy for someone to overpower me. I really should get an alarm. Thank you for making me think of that… And be safe, friend. <3

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