The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Dangers of Running Outdoors for Women

Graphic: Valeria Reyes

Running is a part of many people’s exercise routines, but for women, the activity comes with a multitude of dangers beyond muscle fatigue and shin splints. 

In February, 22-year-old Laken Hope Riley of the University of Georgia left her apartment for a jog. When she did not return, a friend reported her missing. Like many others, Riley was simply trying to exercise, but she became the victim of a gruesome murder. Her death serves as a mournful reminder of the considerations that female runners have to make.

As a female runner, the many precautions that I have to take before every run are disheartening. It makes me sad and even furious that a woman cannot go out for a run without fearing for her life. While men are not exempt from the dangers of running, women are more often victims of assault and harassment while running outdoors. This is perpetuated by the sexualization of women and the media’s response to crimes against women that often involve a victim-blaming mentality. It is not fair for women to face these harsh realities, but until something changes, women should be aware of the life-saving precautions that should be taken. 

As the sunny spring weather slowly makes its way to Hamilton, N.Y., more people will be heading outdoors to exercise. It is vital for the women of Colgate University to make safe running choices. While there are no guaranteed methods of safety while running, there are several preventive measures that can and should be taken. One of the most common pieces of advice given to runners is never to run alone, but for those who prefer to enjoy the tranquility of a solo run, there are plenty of other safety precautions.

Many runners wear Apple Watches or Garmins with built-in safety features. Apple Watches have an Emergency SOS feature that sends alerts to authorities of your location and texts your emergency contacts when activated, while the Garmin has the Assistance Feature, which allows you to hold the power button to send a message to predetermined emergency contacts. Other smartwatches contain similar features, and you can find specific information about those features on official company websites.

For those old-school runners who do not sport GPS watches, I believe it is important to keep your phone with you throughout your run. By doing this, you will have access to any of your contacts at the touch of a button. Colgate students should have the numbers of the Campus Safety and Hamilton Police Departments saved to their contacts. Relying on a watch or phone is helpful, but being aware of your surroundings at all times can also prevent an attack.

Music can be a motivating factor during long runs, but both in and over-the-ear headphones can restrict hearing. This can leave runners unaware of their surroundings such as cars, animals and people. You do not have to give up your music, however, as there are open-ear headphones available on the market. But if you would rather not buy yet another piece of equipment for the so-called cheapest sport, you could opt to have one earbud in and leave the other ear completely free of distractions.

In rural areas like Hamilton, it can be hard to find populated areas to run in, but it is important to be conscious of where you choose to go. Long stretches of road may seem nice since they have such beautiful views, but they are often isolated. Instead, runners should stick to somewhat populated areas to avoid being the target of an attacker. Strava has a Global Heatmap feature, which shows the most popular areas for running.

Women should also be cautious of catcalling. While catcalling is not physically harmful, from my perspective, it is a degrading and scary reminder that there are people out there who see women as sexual objects. I sometimes find it difficult to stay motivated knowing that these people exist, but nobody should give up running just because some people feel entitled to sexualize strangers.

Even if you think you have found the perfect and safest route for running, you should avoid running the same route too often. This predictability makes you easier to track and increases your likelihood of becoming a target. Runners who track their runs on apps like Strava should ensure that their privacy settings are turned on so that not just anybody can see when and where they run. 

Running before sunrise or after sunset can enhance the dangers of running, even in heavily populated areas. Still, running is great for your health, and if you can only fit into your schedule when it might be dark outside, there are other precautions you can take. Besides taking steps to protect personal vulnerability, having reflective clothing is a must if you need to run in the dark, and it would be beneficial to invest in a flashlight or headlamp, as well. Running can always fit into a healthy routine, and nobody should avoid running just because they have busy days.

While every human should be able to safely exercise in the great outdoors, women have to take more steps to stay safe. In a world full of adapting technology, women have more access to safe running than ever, but it is important that we are all educated on running safety. These steps may seem exhausting, but the dangers of the world should not discourage anybody from moving their body in healthy and productive ways.

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