This article was originally posted by Charlene at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.
This is an uncomfortable post for me to write. But sometimes uncomfortable things should be talked about.
I live in a small town where very people run. I am known by strangers as, "The girl who runs." I am used to people asking me in the grocery store how far I run each day and that is something that I am sure you all encounter.
A few things though the last few months have started to trouble me. I have always felt safe running. My only worries for my own personal safety have only been about traffic or falling. Like I stated before people often use my running as a way to start a conversation or introduce them self to me. Usually those conversations are quite normal. But lately some of these conversations have been strange. Like people say things that they really should not. Like things that make me think that they might have a somewhat unhealthy interest in my running. I am not a person that is easily offended and as a long time regular of the dive bars in this town I have heard about everything and am quite used to the more suggestive comments that people sometimes make. Most of those comments are actually pretty normal considering the people that they come from. I have some friends in low places. Those type of comments or cat calls no matter how crude are not what I am writing about here.
People sometimes slip up and say more than they mean too. Sometimes this is just a small slip like instead of saying that they see me run they tell me that they watch me run. But then there was the lady in the van that stopped me one day and told me how worried she was about me as she she had been monitoring my weight and my running for years. She repeatedly asked me to get in the van with her. Perhaps she wanted to abduct me and fatten me up -JK. She was an odd one but harmless but the incident did cue me in to the fact that people that I did not know were taking more of a notice of my hobby than I was comfortable with. I think every runner struggles with feeling a little bit self conscious at times but as the years go by we would like to think that we just blend in.
I do a lot of my speed work at the HS track as there are very few safe places to run fast around here. Sometimes there are people there as the infield is used for various practices that do not involve the track. I go ahead and do my workout and just make sure that I stay out of the way and do not run down any small children. One night at a social function a man asked me if I run at the track to show off my body to the dads and the boys. This was the most offensive thing that anyone had ever said to me in my entire life. One other man recently asked me if I think about him when he drives by me. But he stated it in a way that indicated that he thought I ran to attract his attention. Both of these men are from the Dad practice group at the track and are of a profile (married, mid forties, ex jock, and giving off a certain vibe) that way back when I got boobs I decided should be avoided.
Obviously, I sense a lack of respect for female athletes behind these comments. I know that many people perceive women who train to be competitive with all having eating disorders but the whole running to attract male attention really threw me for a loop. That to me is an unhinged rationalization that reminds me of those stories of juries acquitting rapists because the victim was wearing a mini skirt. These comments also lead me to believe that perhaps I am watched more than I ever thought. Part of this is that commentary in general on my running has been increasing in frequency to the point that my friends notice and tell me how weird it is that so many people bring it up. I still feel safe in my little town but I got to admit this totally creeps me out.