Women’s safety while running

When I worked at a running shop, it quickly became apparent to me that a lot of my female customers suffered harassment, and even assault while out running.  These incidents were occurring in areas where I and my male colleagues ran without any problems from one year to the next. 

The purpose of this thread is to ask how widespread the problem is, and what can be done about it? 



  • I have heard as manyt stories of men getting harrassed as women......

     some people seem to get upset by someone beeping their horn or shouting out of a window......

    whilst most just ignore it as messing around.....

    i would not call it harassment

     to me harassment is someone blocking my way and trying to stop me continuing.never ever had that happen


    so can you clarify exactly in what way the harassment stories you have heard amount to

  • I agree with Seren,

    Personally, I've never heard of anyone being physically assaulted and only a few instances of anything being said that was malicious. Most of it seems to be stupid comments from stupid people who are best ignored.

    I'm not saying that women should have  put up with it and I'm not surprised they find it annoying - even intimidating - but I don't think there are many people out there that genuinely want to do harm to female runners. 

    And, as Seren also says, from what I've read on here, male runners seem to get their fair share of comments too - perhaps it's just that women are more upset by it?

  • Don’t get me wrong, I have to put up with fat people shouting abuse at me like every other runner. 

    Some of the incidents that my female customers told me about, went well beyond that.   

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    Where was the shop?

    Maybe your chances of being harassed were going to be high regardless of whether you are a runner or not.
  • The shop was in Leicester. 

    The incidents took place along the canal, which was a major running highway, but also frequented in places by drug addicts and other undesirables. 

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    I used to run with a young women runner as a means of providing protection.

    I was asked to do this.

    To say I took pride in this task would be putting it mildly. She was a national champion, I was a lowly club runner who never even made county level.


  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    But we're they just harrassing female runners or just females in general?
  • I've never heard of any women runners I know being harassed. I'm not counting beeps or nobe shouting out of car windows cos everyone gets that.

    I think the fear of it is far more prevalent than the actual minuscule risk.
  • I suspect the latter Millsy. 

    Obviously female runners need to cover a lot of ground, so they are more likley to put themselves in harms way. 

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    What do you propose is done about it?

    If I was getting harassed I'd avoid that area and probably tell the police.
  • There may be an issue of people not reporting it, as you suggest. 

    Personal alarms are light enough for a runner to conveniently carry, and would be an effective defence mechanism. 

  • I think a lot of it comes down to perceived threat rather than actual threat. Its a bit like when you hear people say how everyones getting burgled and mugged and then you ask them 'Have you ever been burgled or mugged?' and the answer is invariably 'no'.

    The media whip people up into a state of panic with constant 'crime statistics' and then people carry that fear with them so the minute someone coughs behind them, they think it could be someone about to launch an attack.

    Case in point Ben, you are talking about a canal towpath ...... not exactly an area renowned for landed gentry walking up and down, doffing their cap at you as you pass.

  • Flat FootedFlat Footed ✭✭✭

    I worked a stretch of a canal in London about two years ago, busy with bikes, runners and houseboats etc....we had a large amount of what Ben talks about happening. It even went as far as some sexual assaults with females being groped (sp?) whilst running. It seemed the cause was a  mix of sunshine, alcohol and groups of boys, who would start of with shouting out at runners, running along side, obstructing the path and ultimately physical assaults. 

    What it took was people to report it to the police, and we were able to deal with it

  • I run past the druggy-drunks on my local canal path and never get any hassle. I have walked past them a few times and received verbal abuse and intimidating gestures.
    Basically I feel safer and less of a target when I'm running - despite the fact that I'd clearly be too knackered to escape an incident should one occur!

  • booktrunkbooktrunk ✭✭✭

    Never been harassed, had the odd drunk and kids shout things as i went past, that ain't harassment. Once had a drunk try to paw me when helping me up after I face planted by a pub, again not harassment, even though he was pissed out of his skull, at least he came to offer help unlike anyone else image 

  • Little NellLittle Nell ✭✭✭

    Agree with limper and booktrunk ^ ^

    I've had more incidents of verbal abuse (and one actual grope) while walking. As booktrunk says, when out running there's the occasional shout along the lines of "way hey love, you'll never make the olympics at that speed!" (never has a truer word been said! image) or "get yer knees up" (again, ironically, that's usually a timely reminder as I know I run through my hips too much and don't drive through with my knees!).

    I wouldn't consider the odd daft shout harassment - of course, actual intimidation and physical assault are entirely different matters!

  • I find the drunks and druggies by my local cannal

    friendly and I always get a hello.

    I have years ago had a guy in a car follow me and then drop back then follow me again. I twigged this he was pleasuring himself. I crossed the road and then he couldn't follow me. I didn't report it as I didn't make a note of the car reg as I was more concerned with getting away and being safe.
  • A group of men tried to block my way when I was out running near a canal a few years ago, they tried to grab hold of me and became very abusive when they couldn't catch me and I told them (from a safe distance) what cowards they were. I would call that harassment. I've had blokes try to slap my arse when I've been out running, I would call that harassment too. It might just be a bit of fun for them as they show off in front of their mates but it's not fun for me. Since moving to a different city I've had hardly any abuse at all, it's a real relief. Oh I've just remembered this - a couple of teenage boys on bikes tried to intimidate me a few weeks ago, they were of course shouting sexist abuse and kept circling me, cycling up onto the pavement etc. But I was quite pumped so I chased them and tried to push one off his bike, I'm only 5 foot 2 and weigh 105lbs so it was real daftness on my part but it made me feel better to at least give them a bit of a shock.

  • mathschickmathschick ✭✭✭

    I have never had any harassment. I don't run on canal paths either!


  • Oh and last year a friend of mine was running in one of the London parks and was jumped, punched in the face and left with a broken eye socket...


  • tricialitttricialitt ✭✭✭

    I run in/ around Glasgow-never had any bother whilst running. I grew up in London, got grabbed a couple of times whilst walking home  from school as a kid, so I'm pretty nervous, and avoid the roughest areas after dark, but tbh, I feel safer running than I do walking!


  • In London, early one morning, two guys in a white van slowed to a crawl beside me before shouting "I'll fuck you til you bleed" and driving off.  Where I live now I've had the occassional "nice arse" or similar, but friend of mine (who doesn't fit the picture of what a runner shoud look like) won't train on her own because of the abuse she gets.

    Inspite of what some of the men posting further up this thread think, comments from car windows are harrassment.  It's scary and intimidating, because you never know how far the bloke in the car will go and because, as a woman on your own, there's little you can do to defend yourself.  And its humiliating to be on the receiving end of explicit or deliberately personal comments.

  • Quite right Peronel. 

    Of course this isn't something that just affects women when running, you can be walking, cycling or just standing around. And yes men also suffer from harassment but the nature of it is different, no man in a van has threatened to rape my boyfriend.

    While the risk of being attacked is low it does happen, an acquaintance of mine was raped and murdered while power-walking in Glasgow in the middle of the day. 

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    I like to think I give the impression when running that I'm not the sort of man you would mess with.

    My missus reckons they'd avoid me on account of appearing to be a man who messes with himself.

  • Peronel...I am wondering why being a woman on your own you have less to defend yourself than being a man on your own.....

    there is again a belief that you are more vunerable as a woman than a man......to me it depends on the size, strength and attitude of the man or woman....

    talking around the club or on here.everyone gets beeps from cars and things shouted through the windows or even things thrown.....

    why on earth should this be more intimidating to a woman than a man........

    and I think these happen to people walking as well probably..

    so i cannot understand why unless you have been physically attacked in the past why you would feel intimidated enough not to go out...........if I felt worried by  a certain area i would naturally just avoid that area......

  • Been running (mostly on my own) for 4 year and never suffered any incidents. Run mostly on our large common, any time of day including evenings. Only once a young fat boy did a rude gesture and an old drunk threw a kiss. Hardly anything to worry about. On the whole I don't think female runners are more vulnerable to abuse than walkers, commuters, drivers, etc. 

  • Seren Nos,

    Size:  women are on average smaller than men.

    Strength: women are on average less physically strong than men.

    Attitude: many women have been taught not to fight back.  Many men have been taught that catcalling is just a bit of fun.  As a society we tend to blame women for sexual violence ("Were you drunk?" "What were you wearing?" "Don't go out on your own") and target preventative strategies at them.  Women's experience of sexual violence and street harrassment is fundamentally different from that of men, which is probably why you don't understand why, on average, women are more likely to allow fears for their safety to limit their activities than men.

    Are there outliers?  Sure.  (And, after years of martial arts training I'm one of them.)  But it's been 15 years since that comment and I remember vividly how powerless and frightened it made me feel.

    To be honest, I don't care if any man reading this gets it or not.  Just take on board that yelling out "Nice tits" may seem like a bit of fun to you, but is likely to be experienced very differently by the woman on the receiving end.


  • the average female runner in our club is no different is size to the average male runner,...........


    and I also believe that the attitude of women being attacked and blamed has almost gone now......attitudes have changed in the last 20 years...

    and I accept that you don't care what men think or feel reading your point of view as you think they can't understand............but a lot of the people responding on this thread are female....as am I.and when people keep on going on about how vulnerable women are and how dangerous it can be out running on your own.........then it starts to make young women think that it must be dangerous.....

    #I would like to see the statistics where runners have been attacked.......I imagine its lower than women just out walking and probably no different to men out running......

    infact I have never heard of a case although I'm sure just by the sheer volume of runners that there must be some cases.......

    to keep on telling young girls that they are weak and vulnerable and likely to be attacked doesn't give them confidence.which is what all young people should have

  • Totally agree with you serene nos - I was always brought up to believe that I was strong and no more vulnerable than anyone else. Always taught to be confident and keep my wits about me. I think that teaching women that every person they encounter is a would be aggressor is a sad state of affairs. 

    I have been intimidated - surrounded and threatened (ironically by a group of girls, rather than the stereotypical male would - be villains) - when out running once, almost twenty years ago when I lived in a throughly dodgy area. I ended up just running away as fast as I could. They chased but thank goodness tacky high heels and years of smoking meant I was pretty safe!!! Lost count living there and having to run past pubs of the amount of catcalling I received, shouts from car windows etc but really, if that was how those men had fun then let them have it. No skin off my nose.

  • Kathy HKathy H ✭✭✭

    Apart from the one egg throwing incident, I have been fairly safe. In fact, I have caused a couple of people alarm myself, by running past them on a path near a main road or to the ladies' toilet, when they were not expecting anyone to be around.

    Some people are encouraging and considerate. A few tease by pretending to join you in the run, or telling you to run faster. I have been shouted at by people in a car, but do not listen to anything.

    However, I do avoid places when by myself, such as the park or river. I realise that an attack is unlikely to happen, but feel that I can't take the risk.

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