RWF–Running While Female

Just about 2 months ago, my fiancé and I moved to a new neighborhood in Jersey City. We went from living downtown in the “happening” area to a more “up and coming” area because we went from renting to buying. It’s a neighborhood we’re still learning a lot about, but I do know a few things–I’ve never felt unsafe walking around or going for a run by myself, a lot of families live there, and it has a TON of potential. Up until this morning, I’ve been nothing but overwhelmingly happy and excited about our decision.

One of my big concerns was finding a new running route. I had a really good one in my old neighborhood, and I like consistency during the week when I need to get in a few miles and then get to work on time. Within a couple days of moving, I found a great new route around a reservoir and a park. It’s hard in cities, finding a good route that minimizes the number of streets you have to cross. I hate getting interrupted by traffic lights, so I liked that a full lap of the reservoir and park meant a whole mile of uninterrupted running. Two months in, and I’ve gotten very comfortable with the route. I even run into a few “regular” people that I see quite often along it each morning.

Today, I woke up for my run at my normal time and headed out. It was like any normal run, except I’ve been incorporating some quick sprints lately in between jogging to get my speed up, but that’s a post for another day.

Anyway, toward the end of my run, as I was finishing up my last lap around the park, I ran into a man walking toward me who had his phone camera out, pointing at me and having it follow along as I ran by him, presumably recording me as I ran. He was also waving at me, fully acknowledging what he was doing. I was immediately taken aback–confused. Then, I was angry. What nerve! I approached him. I told him he had no right to do what he was doing. I told him he was being a complete creep. I cursed a little in between. He looked completely perplexed as I ran away. I felt completely violated.

I know it was a bit of an emotional reaction and probably not the safest thing I’ve ever done. If I thought about it for a minute longer before reacting, I probably wouldn’t have done it, and I’d never do it again because I know that you can’t control how someone is going to react. It’s hard, though, to justify letting him get away with this. Is this something he does often and gets away with? Does no one ever speak up? Does he think what he does is ok? Does he win if I start to change my running path to avoid him now? I feel like I have no control now. I don’t feel safe running in my own neighborhood. I don’t want to alter my behavior but now I feel like I have to run somewhere else.

It’s hard being a woman. Seriously. Women get objectified on a daily basis. I was literally just running in my neighborhood, on a chilly, rainy morning bundled up in pants and a long sleeved shirt (though I should be able to wear shorts and a tank top and also not feel like I’m asking to be objectified by anyone) minding my own business and I was harassed by some ignorant moron. And what can I do about it? I don’t think he technically did anything illegal, but I feel violated all the same. What can we do, as women, to feel safe and also not violated without having to put ourselves in danger by speaking up? What a conundrum.

I’m still pretty down about it, and I don’t know where to go from here. What am I going to do tomorrow morning? I don’t want to give up the thing I love because of one idiot and I don’t want to have to change my routine to avoid him, but I’m extremely nervous to go running there again.

Our neighborhood is safe, and I love our neighborhood. I hate him for making me feel like I’m not safe and that my neighborhood is somehow betraying me. I know it can happen anywhere too, which is the scariest part. Has anyone else run into a similar situation? How did you deal with it?

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