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Why running solo as a woman is way different than it is for a man

Photo: Kate Shill Gardner by TIm Gibson for Well+Good
Photo: Kate Shill Gardner by TIm Gibson for Well+Good

How safe do you feel running outside alone? It was a question Runner’s World asked 2,533 women and 2,137 men—along with a lot of other probing q’s—and it triggered a flood of responses from women, who were finally given a space to talk about enduring harassment while they do something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.

Female runners spoke out about how comments ranging from the way their chest bounces when they run to “jokes” about gang rape completely undid any mental benefits going on a run should have. And the online survey shows that men definitely do not hear nearly as many comments as women do.

Thirty percent of women have actually been followed while out on a jog, the survey shows.

In fact, 73 percent of women run with their phone because they have concerns about safety or harassment. With men, it was only 26 percent. Women also limit their runs to daylight hours much more than men do (60 percent vs. 14 percent), perhaps due to very life-threatening concerns. (Just months ago, three women runners were murdered within days of each other.) And scarily enough, 30 percent of women have actually been followed while out on a jog, the survey shows.

So what can you do? While it would be dangerous to not keep safety in mind when you lace up, continuing the dialog about how harassment should not be tolerated is the first step in untangling a complex social issue. The silver lining: since there really is safety in numbers, it’s the perfect excuse for you to schedule standing running dates with a friend you otherwise wouldn’t get to see as much. Bottom line: never let fear stop you from going out there and crushing it.

In training mode? Here’s how to make sure you’re ready for race day, no matter how far you’re running. Plus, here’s the gear you actually need—according to experts