An Open Letter to Men from Female Runners

A woman running alone.

On the surface, the question was relatively benign, aside from an abrupt delivery: “Do you know what time it is?” he asked. “No, I'm sorry I don't,” I said as I picked up the pace a bit.

I could tell he didn't like my answer. I was wearing a watch and holding a phone, after all. I could check the time if I wanted to, but that's just it—I didn't want to.

“You can't check on your phone?” he said, with an agitated tone to his voice. No, no I can't, I thought.

Still, the part of me that was raised to do as she was told and to be polite to everyone ignored my inner voice and forced a reluctant glance at my phone before shouting back the time. Simultaneously, I picked up the pace even more.

I'm not sure what his intentions were. Maybe he did need to know the time, but the fact that he noticed I had a phone didn't sit right with me. Was he trying to catch me off guard? Was it just an attempt at getting me to stop? Thoughts swirled in my head over a seemingly innocuous interaction.

Then I got mad—mad at him and mad at myself for the way I felt.

I don't like judging others by looks, their gender, or even a few words. I don't like thinking about whether you really are lost and in need of directions or if you see me, a lone female out running—miles from any help—and think that this is your chance to have your way with me.

It makes me sick to think about but, as a female runner, this is the world that I live in.

I've been called vile names after not returning a hello to a passing male runner. I've listened as a male volunteer at a marathon pointed out another woman’s “camel toe.” I've had stuff thrown at me out the window of a car by a man. I've been whistled at, cat-called and objectified by men. I've had to call the police on more than one run because of a man.

So, here's my open letter to the man on the trail—and to all men, really. I'd like for you to run a mile in my shoes.

That time you asked me for directions and I said, “No, sorry, I'm not stopping,” I wasn't being a jerk. I was worried for my safety. These days I worry about my safety more than ever, as stories of women being attacked, raped or even killed while out for a run continue to surface. I worry that if I don't take extra precautions, I will become a victim. I need to be extra careful around people I don't know. 

I think I know you are probably harmless, but there is also a part of me that doesn't know. Men sometimes react in ways I don't understand.

One day, a man yelled at me out of his car window while I was pushing my three children in a running stroller. Regrettably, I reacted in the heat of the moment. I didn't know that showing him a certain finger would unleash the beast inside him. I didn't know that he would turn his car around and chase me down. I didn't know that morning when I went for a run that I would fear for my children's lives.

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About the Author

Dorothy Beal

Dorothy Beal is an RRCA and USATF Level 1 Certified Running Coach. She became a marathoner in 2003 and hasn't looked back since. She is the creator of the I RUN THIS BODY™ and #IHaveARunnersBody MOVEments. When not training for marathons or chasing her three children around, you can find her sharing her active life in pictures on Instagram or talking about all things running on her blog at mile-posts.com.
Dorothy Beal is an RRCA and USATF Level 1 Certified Running Coach. She became a marathoner in 2003 and hasn't looked back since. She is the creator of the I RUN THIS BODY™ and #IHaveARunnersBody MOVEments. When not training for marathons or chasing her three children around, you can find her sharing her active life in pictures on Instagram or talking about all things running on her blog at mile-posts.com.

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