Issues: The dangers of girls running


Meg Murphy

Photo by Meg Murphy

It is always the same old routine.

After school head to the locker room to change. Then meet outside the athletic building for new information and what the workout will be. Head to Chopin and make the trek to Essex or Dougherty Ferry to begin the run.

For the KHS girls Cross Country team, the start of practice is all too familiar. But another, more terrifying, occurrence lingers in the back of their head.

“A lot of times you forget about [the possibility of] people following you,” Rachel Finan, freshman, said. “You realize you probably should be paying more attention to it. It should always be there in the back of your mind.”

For girls who run frequently, receiving lewd comments or getting followed by cars is nothing new. 64 (177/278) percent of KHS girls said they do not feel safe when running alone. And that should come as no surprise. Over the past two years stories of female runners being harassed on the roads are shared throughout the locker room.

Finan, new to the girls cross-country team, has been running 5Ks since she was 5. Now a teenager, she is able to run more often, sometimes alone. Earlier this year, while going for a run in Kirkwood Park, Finan was stopped by a police officer who told her that a car had been following her and that she should attempt to take a photo of the license plate number to report. She was confused and scared. Quickly, Finan ran to the top of a nearby hill where the car couldn’t follow her any longer and returned home.

“I haven’t run alone since,” Finan said.

It is not just Finan who has experienced someone following her while running. Her teammate Katie Rudolph, junior, was a part of a group that faced a masked figure with an airsoft gun while on a run during track season of last year.

You don’t run alone. You just don’t. I mean there are probably very few females who have gone out for a run and not felt in some way noticed.”

— Gina Woodard

“It sounded like a balloon popping,” Rudolph said. “Everyone was fine, but we were all pretty scared and we just wanted to make sure that everyone was okay.”

Both Rudolph and Finan said that in the wake of the Mollie Tibbetts’ murder, girls on the team have become even more cautious. Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student, was kidnapped and killed while out on a run alone. Gina Woodard, girls cross-country coach said this has led to stricter enforcement of an important team rule: never run by yourself.

“You don’t run alone,” Woodard said. “You just don’t. I mean there are probably very few females who have gone out for a run and not felt in some way noticed.”

Meredith Lang, senior and cross-country captain, said the dangers with running extend further than just being followed. Being honked at or cat-called are other common instances of uncomfortable experiences on the road.

“You’re not working out for anyone else.” Lang said. “It is annoying that people think that they need to comment on [us running] when they are driving by, when in reality, it does not affect them at all.”

However, to stop running is not an option. The team is taking more precautions to be safe on the roads such as coaches driving along the routes and making sure no one is alone. In the meantime, the team is looking forward to the rest of their season.

“I would just consider [these current dangers]  a minor setback,” Lang said. “I definitely want to continue running and it is something I can see myself doing in some capacity for the rest of my life.”

What’s being done:
Woodard said that currently, the team has a rule where no one will run alone. This keeps girls from both the possibility of being followed or in the case that one of the runners would pass out during the run due to heat or dehydration, from passing out alone. On the national level, the social media movement, “#milesformollie” is a chance for female runners to demonstrate that they are not afraid of running alone, even after the murder of Mollie Tibbetts.