Abuse on the Run

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I’m sick and tired of people who shout, heckle and randomly abuse runners.

In the space of a week I’ve had two different men shout personal abuse directly at me as I sped past them. Both times, I found it very difficult to just laugh it off. What disconnect is there in people’s heads that makes them think it is acceptable to loudly pass derogatory comments on those trying to better themselves? Does the fact I’m moving in the opposite direction make them think there’s no chance of me responding? To quote Shakespeare, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” The fact is I came very close to stopping in my tracks and having it out with the abusers these last two times.

Every week when I run with my crew general banter is thrown at the group as we run. Much of it can be laughed off, but it doesn’t make it acceptable. I find myself getting angry when comments are made about women’s physical appearance by bystanders on these runs. Are we right to run on, or should we be stopping and challenging these people?

Most human beings have some degree of body image issues. I’m not immune to these and having people criticise the way I look upsets me. There was a time when I used to run in tracksuit bottoms in hot weather, because I was self-conscious about my slim frame. Being slim does not make you immune to the slings and arrows of criticism, but it can make you a target. Since this latest barrage of abuse my self esteem and confidence have been knocked and I find myself thinking twice about what I wear when I go for a run.

It is wrong that I have to pluck up the courage to wear what is most comfortable.

It is wrong that I brace myself for further abuse and spend some of my run in a tense state.

I would never shout at anyone as you never know how they are feeling beneath the surface. I’m resilient enough to keep going, and am helped by being part of a great running community, but I’m sure others must be put off running for good. I’m certain women suffer more abuse than men, and salute everyone who continues to do what they love in spite of this idiotic behaviour.

Has anyone out there had direct experience of challenging these abusers? Because that’s what I want to do, on behalf of all those who can’t just pull on summer clothes without a second thought. I want the abusers to learn how harmful their comments can be, to care, to reflect and to change. Unlikely, I know, but if we do nothing, it will continue. By running on these people are emboldened and more likely to repeat the behaviour again. However, there’s a concern it’ll end up in a physical confrontation, which wouldn’t solve anything.

So let me know your thoughts. Because enough is enough.

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