#MeToo – Women Runners’ Experiences of Sexual Violence, Assault and Harassment

Chicory’s Story:

For at least 2 years, I had a really regular loop near our condo that I ran a lot. It’s really one loop plus an out-and-back that totals 3 miles. I loved my loop — hardly any traffic, no street crossings, mostly flat, easy to drop water, and nobody weird. Until last August.

There are several walkers in this neighborhood, and we all had our own variations on how we loop through the neighborhood. It’s a wave-on-first-sighting relationship, except for the one lady who never says good morning back to me.

Sometime in July, I noticed a new guy on the scene. Middle-aged, overweight — like most of the other walkers I see over there. In fact, the first time I saw him I recall he had a bag and I assumed he was walking back from the nearby grocery store. I said good morning as I went by, nothing particularly notable.

A few weeks later, I see him out walking. I say good morning, and he asked if I was coming back through that part of the loop. I assumed he was just being friendly, basically a spin on “how far is the crazy girl going today?” commentary.

I said yes, I was coming back through — and this whole exchange happened while I was still running. Eventually I’m back on that part of the loop, and I see this guy again. I say something as I run by like, “See, I made it back!” This is on the “out” section, so a couple of minutes later I’m passing him again. This time he asks which way I’m running and where I’m going to “cool down” (hell, this is a 6-mile recovery run, the whole thing is practically a cool down) — and this street loops around, so either way I go, I’m coming back by the same cross street (I’m just going the longer way around). I’m like, yeah, I’m looping around that way. Guy says he’ll meet me over there.

As one might imagine, this whole thing is getting a little creepy. It’s not full-out creepy yet, but we’re getting there. And I’m stuck on this damn loop with no convenient way to avoid him at this point.

So I loop back around and sure enough, there he is. Clearly this guy wants to chat so I’m just going to bite the bullet. It’s one of those situations where there’s no reason not to be friendly. But, I also picked a spot to stop close to where I knew another guy was out in his driveway.

Guy introduces himself. Okay, great. Then he says, “I’ve been out walking an hour and a half waiting for you to show up.”

Um. Weird. A little stalker-y.

Then he goes back to being normal, talking about how he walking again to try to lose some weight.

Awesome. Great. Good for you.

He wants to know if I’m a personal trainer.

I am not. I run competitively and teach Pilates.

He seems to want me to be a trainer.

Still not a trainer. Definitely not one who is going to like come to your house, weird dude.

I say I have to finish my run and get to work.

He introduces himself again. Okay. I hadn’t forgotten your name in the past two minutes, although he introduced himself as Michael the first time and Mike the second, so apparently we’ve moved to nicknames already.

As I’m trying to extricate myself from this awkward situation, he’s kind of fumbling his words and seems unsure what he’s trying to say.

“Well, I hope … Well, I’d like to see you again.”

Michael, Mike. This is not a date. We’re not making plans to see each other again. I’m not giving you my contact info. I’m not telling you where I live.

Basically at this point I’m like, “Okay, have a nice day,” and I run away.

For the next few days and weeks, I vacillated between wanting to run my loop and not wanting to run into this guy. So I pretty much kept running into him, of course.

I have a friend on the local police department, and lived in a city very big on community policing. I had coffee with her and gave her the whole story. She put it into their system for officers to be looking for him on their patrols through the area.

About three weeks later, I had another nerve-wracking run in with him — he was yelling my name from down the street. Like repeatedly, and really loudly. I hightailed it out of there and sent an update to my police friend.

Eventually, the police identified him and had a talk with him. I never saw him again, and I went back to running my loop until we moved a few months later.

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Salty Running Editor-in-Chief. Ultrarunner, yoga teacher, academic, and feminist. I write about ultrarunning, feminism, and the intersection of running and life.

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6 comments

  1. I hate that you have to write this, but I am glad you did. The attitude that allows for this is so ingrained in our society, that it is difficult for most people to even see… “that’s just how it is”. If we don’t point it out, it’ll never be noticed or changed. That being said, once you do start calling guys out on their behavior you quickly go from being “nice” to “bitchy”.

    This happens more at work than when I am running. I work in a male dominated field that often requires working in remote locations. By 1 year into my career I had to report two guys for harassment who just wouldn’t leave me alone no matter how I asked. There were numerous others who were a little less persistent. About this time, a co-worker (guy) told me “you know, you were this really nice girl when you started, now you’re kind of a bitch”. At the time, that bummed me out and it felt like I couldn’t win. Now I am proud of the label, I hope it makes them think “don’t f**king mess with her”.

    1. Good for you for reporting them! Sorry you have to deal with them, though. I’m with you — I’d rather the bitch you don’t mess with than the girl taking their shit.

  2. Every day, I hear another story. Yesterday it was Kevin Spacey. This morning it’s the NPR New Chief. If every man who has ever sexually harassed someone got a news story for it, the news would be even more full of jerk guys than it already is, and I’m not sure how that’s possible. It’s never-ending. But maybe, just maybe, we can build up enough momentum that some men will think twice. Maybe we can plant our feet, take a stand, and push back. Push back against institutional sexism, push back against harassment being something we almost expect when we try to advance our careers, push back against men who think we’re out there running for their personal gratification (both by ogling us, or by us being in shape to look more attractive to them). Maybe.

    All we can do is try.

    1. I am so disappointed everyday as we learn about more prominent men who have abused, harassed, and raped others (not just women). It demonstrates a systemic problem and, more clearly than before, illustrates that this is about power. Every day, every time we call it out, every time we run, every time we refuse to be silent, we chip away and someday, hopefully soon, we’ll break through.