Tuesday, September 6, 2022

The running community mourns, too.

I don't watch the news if I don't have to. Call it uninformed, but I'd rather not know most of what I see when it is on. Scrolling through social media tells me enough and most of it isn't good. Eliza Fletcher's picture on my feed hit me hard pretty quickly, though. It's difficult to scroll on past that. It checked a lot of my boxes- female runner, in her 30's, mother, teacher, Tennessee. I hate to see how this ended for her, for her family, friends and entire community. And I don't know why I felt led to write something about this stranger, but I think it might be because I feel like she could've been me or I could've been her or that this could happen anywhere to any of my precious and fierce running friends.

Already I've heard or read:

"Why was she running in the dark?" to which I'd jump to defend her by saying that as a mom this might be her only time to herself. It's hard for me to even type this all out and break it down for you. If she's anything like the runners that I know, she made time for her goals. Period.

"Well, running in a crop top or bra is asking for something sinister." Be better than this, people. This might be the most egregious. Women can and should run in whatever clothing that is breathable and comfortable to them. When you say something like this, you participate in victim shaming. 

She should've done this, She should've done that.

What SHOULD be the case is this: Women shouldn't have to fear going out on a run every single time they step outside.

Unfortunately, women are often thinking and planning around obstacles always out of necessity and habit. I've talked to our male counterparts and the same thought process and fear rarely pops into their minds much less dealing with it every single day on every single run.

My reality is-
I don't listen to music while running because I'm afraid I won't hear someone approaching.
I don't run in the dark anymore because I've been scared too many times. I've been yelled at in the wee morning hours. Cat called at 5am. I had a panic attack the last time I ran a Ragnar (relay race) during my nighttime shift.
I don't even like to run alone anymore because I was followed once and that almost made me find a new way of exercising all together. Just the other day, someone stopped me while I was out and asked if I was sure it was a good idea to be running alone. Creepy, but they had a point.
I carry mace, but every time I strap it on I know in my mind that it's only a small tool. The same would be true for a gun, too. If I'm approached in a car, I can easily see how I could be overpowered while caught off guard.

We can take precautions, but anything can happen. The very last thing onlookers should do is shame Eliza Fletcher in any way for waking up and participating in a sport she loved. There's space for sadness, a big huge gaping hole for those people she left behind. There's no room in the conversation for discussing what she should have done.

I hope you'll keep running. I hope you will stay safe.

Other tips for those who run or are getting into running:
Use a tracking app. Tell someone what your route is and when you'll be back. Don't develop a set routine. Mix up your routes and times of day. Fight for your goals and those who attempt to destroy them.

Eliza's face is etched into my brain and I will think of her when I lace up. I pray for her boys and her entire family. The running community mourns, too. 


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