Body Image in Running, Inspired by Mary Cain

* Disclaimer – I wrote this a few weeks ago but wanted to hold off posting until my blog revamp was complete. However, my blog still looks like a dog has vomited all over it, and the revamp is taking longer than expected, so here you go. *

The notion of ‘smaller is better’ and ‘thinner is faster’ is nothing new when it comes to long distance and middle-distance running; however, Mary Cain’s recent statement has really got me thinking about how body image in running is portrayed.

If you haven’t already, have a watch of Cain’s video for the New York Times, in which she speaks about the emotional and physical abuse she suffered as a result of constant pressure to lose weight whilst training with Alberto Salazar at the Nike Oregon Project. Cain didn’t get her period for three years and she broke five bones. She went on to become depressed, and experienced suicidal thoughts.

Whilst Cain’s story is horrifying, it’s not particularly unusual; it’s a narrative that I have heard numerous times. “I got caught in a system designed by and for men, which destroys the bodies of young girls”; one of the main problems is that females are being trained in the same way that men are being trained – it goes without saying that this is insane. I have many issues with Nike, one of which is the brand’s treatment of its female athletes – but that’s a story for another time.

Women are praised when they work on their bodies, and the myth that intensive exercise creates the ‘perfect’ body shape is still prevalent. I mentioned in a previous post that I have been congratulated (on multiple occasions) by other runners on my weight. HOW is this still happening, and WHY does anyone think that this is acceptable?!

There’s no denying that body weight is one of multiple factors that affects performance, and for high-level athletes this is heightened. However, mental and physical health should be by far the most crucial factors.

It’s not surprising that many women go on to develop a dysfunctional relationship with food and training. My own relationship with food has been complicated, and comments made by friends and family have contributed to certain patterns of disordered eating that I now recognise as being unhealthy and unsustainable. Saying this, body confidence is a complex issue; you don’t simply wake up one morning and decide you are 100% comfortable in your own skin.

Sport-related body image issues can lead to amenorrhea, poor mental health, osteoporosis, infertility… I could go on. Managing this issue in the female running community is a huge task, and we have a long way to go. However, Cain’s video (alongside statements from other women who have shared their experiences) is a step in the right direction.

One major change that I have implemented is really focusing on the type of content that I’m exposed to – although of course, this is sometimes beyond our control. I personally find body positivity accounts unhelpful, but diversifying my feed and following accounts of a wide array of people who inspire me (rather than encouraging feelings of self-doubt) has been an overwhelmingly positive move.

There is no single acceptable body type when it comes to running – or when it comes to anything, obviously – so let’s keep the conversation going. Slow progress is better than no progress!

Three Things I’ve Learned in the lead up to my first Triathlon

In precisely 11 days, I will have (hopefully!) completed my first triathlon.

I haven’t stuck to my training plan; in fact, I haven’t even looked at my training plan. I could potentially regret this when it comes to triathlon day, and in general I would always advocate following a structured training plan.

However, the reason I’m taking part in this triathlon is purely to see whether I enjoy it. I don’t have a goal in mind; therefore, a plan isn’t necessary for me right now. Please don’t mistake my lack of structured plan as a lack of motivation, as that is definitely not the case! This is also not to say that I haven’t but the work in – I have, but in my own disjointed, unscheduled, rather messy way.

So, here are a few things I’ve learned over the past few months…

  1. I don’t dislike cycling (i.e. I really like cycling but don’t want to admit it)

Whilst running will always be my one true love, I am beginning to find an unexpected joy in cycling.

There is something liberating about riding through the spectacular Surrey hills. Running up and down a hill is challenging, but it’s just not as exciting because you will never achieve enough speed – and, unless you run ultramarathons, you will never go as far.

Unlike running, cycling is a low impact sport; it’s easy on the joints and great for building muscle, especially in your quads, glutes and calves. This has been great post fibular fracture, and I have generally felt stronger since incorporating cycling into my workout schedule.

2. The cost of running vs. triathlon

As a sport, running is relatively accessible; compared to triathlon (and pretty much every other sport), you need a lot less equipment.

I have been ever so lucky as I’ve borrowed some key items including my wetsuit, tri-suit and race belt – plus my bike and helmet were hand-me-downs. If I did not have access to these, the cost to train for my first triathlon could easily have been in the thousands!!

This does not even take into the consideration the cost of the triathlon itself, which is (understandably) pricier than any running race I’ve ever participated in. The triathlon that I am taking part in is a large-scale event, taking place in historic grounds. It’s also in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – it’s no surprise that these events are so expensive to organise and execute. However, it’s still a barrier to entry which I cannot simply disregard.

Whilst there are alternative methods to getting hold of lower cost equipment (e.g. buying second hand or hiring out kit), I would still argue that triathlon is not an accessible sport. I believe that participating in sport should be available to all those who wish to partake, not just those (like me) who are privileged.

3. I am good enough

Although one of my goals for this year was to be kinder to myself, I often let negative thoughts take over.

‘I’m not strong enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough’; this is an unhelpful internalised message, but unfortunately it’s a thought process that I re-visit time and time again.

I have been experiencing a fair amount of triathlon related imposter syndrome, and whilst training for a triathlon has not miraculously changed my mindset, it has made me re-think the way that I speak to myself.

‘I CAN’.

‘I WILL’.

*Insert other melodramatic goal orientated statement/positive mantra of your choice*

But in all seriousness, two months ago I refused to get on the bike unless someone was riding with me, and the thought of swimming in open water terrified me (it still does, but less so!)

Stop doubting yourself. Take a deep breath. You are good enough. YOU ARE BEYONCE**

**Don’t follow Beyoncé’s ridiculous 22-day diet plan though. Still disappointed in you for promoting this Queen Bee.

My First Triathlon and An Ankle Update

I don’t like to say I told you so, but… following on from my appointment at the fracture clinic, it turns out that I WAS RIGHT about my ankle and thankfully it’s not seriously fractured. I have an ATFL sprain (anterior talofibular ligament) which explains why my ankle is so swollen. I also have a very small hairline fracture on my fibula.

This is not fantastic news, but it’s certainly good news; it could have been a lot worse, and this is probably the best-case scenario.

So, what next? Well, I will be taking it easy over the next couple of months. DISCLAIMER: this is my version of taking it easy. Take from that what you will. Do as I say, not as I do etc.

However, this tranquil bliss will be over when July approaches, as I begin training for something very un-Mell like… (obviously this is dependent on how quickly my ankle heals, please pray to the ankle gods).

I’m keen for a new challenge, and to tick off another point from my 30 before 30 list, therefore I’ve decided to take part in my first ever triathlon at the end of September. I will be raising money for Macmillan Cancer, and any donations would be much appreciated! If you would like to donate, please click here. 

I have opted for a super sprint triathlon; although I was far more inclined to go for the ‘fun’ beginner’s triathlon, I was convinced otherwise by the power of peer pressure.

To many (and I’m sure there are some seasoned triathletes reading this), I know that this does not sound like a particularly daunting event. However, for me it’s quite a big deal.

I haven’t swum in over 15 years and I’m a nervous cyclist, therefore (as people keep quite understandably asking me), why did I sign up for a triathlon in the first place?

1. To face my fear of cycling downhill/round sharp bends/round any bends (I have no idea where this fear has come from – as a child, I loved going out on my bike and was a fearless lion).

2. To take a step outside of my comfort zone and learn something completely new.

3. It’s on my 30 before 30 list, therefore it’s a commitment that I’ve already made to myself. Plus, I now have sub 2 years to complete this list…

4. I loathe cold water, and being cold in general, therefore throwing myself into a nippy open water swim seems like a sensible thing to do!

5. I can’t really run right now, and probably won’t be able to run much further than 3 / 4 miles comfortably for a while. Therefore, I have two options – to sulk about it, or to make the most out of a frustrating situation. I will always opt for the latter.

I’m both excited and incredibly nervous. This is all very new to me, therefore any hints and tips for first time triathletes would be much appreciated!

London Marathon 2019

It’s hard to put into words how much I enjoyed the VMLM (even though those who saw me in the latter stages of the marathon might think otherwise, so perhaps I will rephrase that and say that I enjoyed approx. 86% of VMLM).

I don’t think I stopped smiling for the first 22 miles. I felt much stronger than my previous two marathons, and it was exciting to experience all my hard work paying off. I also think there’s something magical about running a marathon in your own city. I’m obviously biased when I say that London is the greatest city on earth – but for me, it is. The nostalgia of running past key places from my childhood definitely enhanced my VMLM experience; school trips to the Cutty Sark, summer walks over Tower Bridge etc.

Of course, it wasn’t all sunshine and unicorns. Miles 23 – 26.2 were vile. Just…horrendously VILE. There was a small vomit incident, tears, severe anxiety and a trip to St John’s Ambulance (who were incredible) after almost fainting at the finish line. The final few miles proved to be a tough mental battle, but a mental battle that I powered though due to my amazing supporters, random strangers, and my own willpower. 

I don’t really remember crossing through the finish line, as I temporarily lost consciousness and it’s all a bit of a blur. I wasn’t even aware of my new PB until messages from my friends and family started pouring in…in fact, I had just told my group pacer that I had finished in what turned out to be six minutes slower than my chip time!

Just to clarify, I’m aware that losing consciousness after (or during) a marathon is BAD – I’m certainly not proud of this and watching the footage of my wobbly post-finish episode is quite terrifying. One positive aspect to come of this is that after chatting with some medical experts, I understand why I fainted and can therefore work on this aspect of my training next year.

Something else VMLM taught me is to not underestimate the sheer power of my own brain. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about my anxiety and panic attacks; four days before VMLM, I genuinely considered not running as I wasn’t sure if at that point in time, I would be mentally strong enough. One of my best friends gave me a good talking to, and I am so glad that I listened to her!

There were certainly parts of the marathon that were mentally challenging, particularly those final few miles where I could feel myself growing increasingly panic stricken. However, as mentioned previously, I powered through this mental battle and proved to myself that I am so much stronger than I give myself credit for. Yes, getting a PB was fantastic, but recognising my own inner strength was even more fantastic.

Sorry to end this post on a super cheesy note, but I just wanted to say a big old thank you to my friends, family, South London Harriers, and to everyone else who supported me in the lead up to VMLM. I am beyond grateful.

Five Worst Pieces of Marathon Advice I’ve Received

With less than two weeks to go until London (WHATTT), I have rounded up the worst pieces of marathon advice I’ve received over the past couple of years. Whilst I am by no means an expert on this matter, quite frankly, sometimes the experts are also no experts on the matter (absolutely terrible use of the English language, my apologies).

So, here are the top five worst pieces of marathon advice I’ve received:

  1. Don’t drink until you’re thirsty

I understand that I shouldn’t drink an excessive amount of water in a short period of time. However, if I followed the rule ‘don’t drink until you’re thirsty’ then I genuinely wouldn’t drink once throughout the marathon! I rarely feel thirsty when I run, no matter what the distance. I definitely experience signs of dehydration (headache, dizziness etc.) but I don’t actually have the urge to drink – therefore, I will definitely be discounting this piece of advice and taking on the recommended 400-800ml of fluid per hour.

2. Don’t do strength training, just run more

It goes without saying that running will be the primary focus of my marathon training. However, I find it bizarre that there are still people who ‘don’t believe’ in strength training for runners.

I must admit that my strength training is currently verging on non-existent, and I’m feeling the impact of this. I’ve had a few injuries since decreasing my strength training, and whilst I can’t claim that it is solely the lack of strength training that has caused these injuries, I would be surprised if there wasn’t a link between the two.

3. Don’t run, just do strength training

A slight contradiction to point number two; I was advised by a Personal Trainer to solely focus on strength training throughout the duration of my marathon training. NO RUNNING. I genuinely almost fell for it (he was very persuasive), before realising that he was probably trying to con me into purchasing additional PT sessions…

4. Lose weight to run faster

I’ve mentioned this one in a previous post; not too long ago, someone attributed my (alleged) weight loss to my increase in running speed. I’m not denying this as a concept; there’s certainly evidence that weight effects speed!

However, I don’t think a fixation on weight loss is healthy, and I have no interest in getting wrapped up in body image. I also don’t find it a particularly helpful comment, thank you very much Hortencia.

5. Don’t run a marathon, it will ruin your knees (bore off)

I’ve saved the most popular piece of ‘advice’ for last – I’ve been passed this bit of wisdom at least 186 times. I know there is quite a bit of controversy around this, but I am yet to find any compelling evidence that running long distance will damage my knees.

Therefore, I shall continue to run run run until I’m 86 years old. Or 96 years old. Who knows…?

Taking a Step Back; When to Stop and When to Push Through

Disclaimer: I still haven’t worked it out.

With less than six weeks to go until London Marathon, I have come down with a rather nasty chest infection. However, I expect zero sympathy here, as I very much brought this upon myself – or at least made it worse.

Although I began to feel unwell over a week ago, I took no time off running and instead stubbornly braved Storm Gareth and took on the wind, rain and hail; thus, what started off as a common cold has resulted in me sounding like an 80-year-old chain smoker.

Although I feel fairly vile, I’m still nervous about resting. This is, obviously, really stupid. I will definitely be reducing my mileage this week, but the thought of taking a few days off sets off all kinds of anxiety. Just to reiterate, I know that this is REALLY stupid.

The fact that I’m aware of my own stupidity, whilst still persevering, has forced me to confront some uncomfortable truths as to why I can’t simply take a few rest days like a ‘normal’ person. I would say this is down to three reasons:

  1. Fear of Failure
  2. Escapism
  3. Control

I’m not going to elaborate on either of these points, as I try very hard not to ramble unnecessarily (which is often quite a challenge), but to summarise – I take pride in my persistence, sheer grit and determination. However, I also think that I can take this too far, hence running 12 miles through hail storms on Sunday whilst wheezing and coughing like a mad buffoon!

This morning I set off at 5am to run 10 miles with a friend, who for the record did strongly advise me not to run. By mile 3, I was retching dramatically on the side of the road, and FINALLY concluded that it’s time to take a few days off. Of course, it should never get to the stage where one is making vom stops on the A22 at 5am to come to this realisation!

I think it’s interesting that like a lot of people, I rarely take my own advice. For example, I am currently working from home as I don’t want to infect my colleagues or spread my germs around on public transport, but I am more than happy to force my own body to the point of extreme discomfort…

Knowing when to stop and when to push through is a very important lesson, and one that I definitely need to master. I would love to hear your thoughts on this – how do you know when to take a step back? Is this something that you struggle with?

The 20-Mile Dread

This Sunday, I will be running the Thames 20; a paced 20-mile race along the River Thames.

Although I have tackled the 20-mile beast previously (plus I took part in the Thames 20 last year), it still fills me with dread, uncertainty, apprehension and all the other bad things.

This doesn’t make a lot of sense, given the fact that I ran 18 miles a couple of days ago and genuinely enjoyed it (apart from the bit where a cyclist simultaneously ROARED and swore at me when I was running along the canal. That was frightening, and I’m still unsure as to why he was so raging – get a grip). However, I know a lot of runners who feel the same way; it seems that many people have a mental hurdle when it comes to tackling the 20-mile distance.

I don’t think it matters how many marathons I run – I say this because I plan to run many more in the future – there will always be a little voice in my head that says ‘of course you can’t run more than 20-miles, you’re not strong enough, you don’t know what you’re doing’ etc. I know this is a very negative and unhealthy thought process, and for that I apologise, but that’s just the honest truth of how my mind works sometimes.

Of course, it’s natural to experience anxiousness around particular workouts or distances. However, I don’t want this to hold me back, and most importantly I don’t want this to sap the fun out of running. I’m keen to run an ultra this year (even though I was recently told by a non-runner that I will be putting myself at risk of hallucinations and potentially DEATH), therefore it’s important that I learn how to shift my mindset.

I have a few mantras, although these seem to be more effective during shorter, faster runs. I’ve created a rather spectacular long run playlist, which definitely helps. I plan out my post-long run meals (plural because there are so many, most of which involve me inhaling copious amounts of sweeeet, delicious, crunchy peanut butter) which ALWAYS helps.

All the above, plus a number of additional techniques, are things that are helpful to me during a long-run. However, it’s the pre-20-mile nerves that I want to focus on, which on this occasion I seem to be experiencing almost a week in advance of the run.

How do you tackle the 20-mile beast, or any distance/workout that you find intimidating? Now, more than ever, your suggestions would be ever so helpful!

Hampton Court Half Marathon and 10 Week Countdown

(As always, this is not a 68,263-word race review – DON’T WORRY).

I entered Hampton Court Half Marathon last minute, due to experiencing extreme FOMO. A brief recap of the race:

Hampton Court Half was a brilliantly organised race and hands down my favourite half marathon thus far. The course was varied and scenic, the pacers were fantastic (shout out to Phil), it was perfect running weather, I nabbed myself a PB and of course, I got to run with some of my favourite people.

My only complaint is that the promised high-quality medal that I was looking forward to (because I am a medal fiend) was of such poor quality that as soon as I put it on, it ripped in half. The same thing happened with my replacement medal, and others were clearly experiencing the same issue as the volunteers began collating a pile of all the broken but beautiful sheeny shiny medals. First world problem’s aside, it was a great morning and two days later I’m still on a post-race highhhh.

With sub 10 weeks to go until London Marathon, I’ve realised that I feel significantly stronger (both mentally and physically) vs. this time last year when training for Brighton Marathon. This will be my third marathon, and something feels different this time.

This is partly down to nutrition and hydration – for the first time, I feel like I’m eating and hydrating properly during my long runs (when I say properly, what I mean is that I’ve finally found what works for me). This will be put to the test next weekend when I run the Thames 20, and there is an 86% chance that I’ll be eating my words/vomiting on a friendly marshal by mile 16.

It’s also down to the simple fact that I’m taking my marathon training a lot more seriously this time around. Instead of scheduling in tempo runs and interval sessions and then deciding seconds before my run that I am ABSOLUTELY NOT capable of running that fast, I’ve just been getting on with it.

However, arguably the most important factor is that I have a stronger support network and am lucky enough to be surrounded by people who will push me when the going gets tough. I believe this is particularly important when it comes to endurance running (which I would class as marathon distance and beyond) when often the struggles can be more mental than physical.

I guess what I’m trying to say, in a long and slightly convoluted manner, is that I’m really excited to run the London Marathon. This is the first time that I’ve truly believed in myself, in terms of my running ability, and despite the ridiculously early starts and dreaded long runs, I’m looking forward to the final 10 weeks of training.

Are you running London? Do you have any tips? (I recently asked someone this and they told me it was the most underwhelming race of their life and that I would probably hate every second of it. If you are going to come up with any similar helpful tips, I would politely ask that you keep your thoughts to yourself. Thank you and goodnight).

January/Winter Gratitude

I have found January to be a very exciting yet overwhelming month, with starting a new job, marathon training, buying my first little flat (!!!), a variety of volunteering commitments, financial struggles (new flat = permanently in the -£ for the next 86 years), etc.

Like many others, I have found myself counting down the days until January is over and we’re one month closer to spring. However, I also believe that by wishing time away you miss all the great things that are happening right now.

Something that has really helped me over the past couple of months, and in general when I’m feeling overwhelmed, is the five senses mindfulness exercise. This is an exercise that I discovered during CBT, focusing on bringing awareness to each of the five senses (I promise this isn’t as wishy-washy as it sounds).

This exercise involves isolating one sense at a time, essentially allowing you to reconnect to the present. I have a list on my phone that I refer to whenever I feel a bit overwhelmed – this list is too long to share, but here are a few of my favourites: 

Smell

Old books, new books, all the books.

Taste

Sipping a cup of tea. I know I’m supposed to say herbal tea, but that would be a lie – I am, of course, referring to a classic English breakfast.

Sound

Listening to Fleetwood Mac. Obvs. My marathon training playlist is also quite spectacular.

Sight

Experiencing the sunrise on a morning run. Reading screenshots of positive messages sent by friends and family. Looking through photos of inspirational places I have been, or any photos that trigger great memories.

Touch

Taking a warm bath. Spending a couple of minutes stroking a dog/cat/any animal that isn’t a tarantula.

All the above are simple things that I can do to calm my mind. Usually, I will pick one sense and focus solely on that – for me, taste and sight are usually the most effective self-soothing strategies.

I understand that there are many different versions of the five senses mindfulness exercise; this is just what works best for me, and of course, you need to work out what works best for you.

I know a lot of people are feeling a little bit wintered-out (I don’t think that’s a legitimate phrase but urban dictionary says it is soooo that’s that) – so why not give this exercise a go?

Please do let me know if you try this (or if it’s something that you already implement) – I would love to hear what your thoughts are and whether you think this is a helpful tool.

Balancing Marathon Training with Life

As week 4 of marathon training commences, thus the mileage steadily increases, now seems like the perfect time to talk about marathon training vs. life/work/family/social commitments etc.

Here are four things that I implement, or at least try to implement, to help ease the maranoia.

1.Run EARLY

This is stating the obvious, but it’s arguably the most important point.

On weekdays I wake up between 4:30am – 6am (dependent on my schedule for that day), partly because running first thing is my absolute favourite, and partly because often that’s my only available time slot to run. 

I must admit that the early morning runs are more appealing over summer, and sometimes I genuinely resort to slapping myself around the face to force myself to get out of bed. Slapping aside, I know that running always sets a productive and positive tone for the rest of the day, and that alone is all the motivation I need to just get on with it.

2. Meal planning (not meal prep) 

I rarely (i.e. never) meal prep, and I know I knowwww I should. Obviously if you do meal prep then that’s great – but personally, spending a couple of hours on a Sunday to prep my food for the week just doesn’t appeal to me, and there are other things I would rather be doing with that time.

However, I do roughly plan out my meals for the week. I’m a ravenous beast after long runs (to be honest I’m a ravenous beast most of the time) so I find this ever so helpful. 

3. Run-commute

This is something I will be able to do as of March (currently there’s not a shower in the office, so it would be a little unfair to subject my colleagues to the smell of my sweaty self all day!)

I used to run commute for part of the journey when I was working in Central London and it was a GAME CHANGER; raising my energy levels before work, saving some £££, and not being squished up against a commuter’s sweaty armpit on the tube are all huge pros.

4. Don’t be afraid to say no

I am terrible at this and often find myself committing to a million different things because I don’t want to hurt or disappoint anyone. As a consequence, I sometimes end up cutting a long run short, or not being able to focus on a session as in the back of my mind all I’m thinking is “I only have 20 minutes to get to XXX location as soon as this is over”.

Of course, this can and should be applied to all areas of life, not just running. However, I find it particularly challenging when marathon training to juggle all the things that I feel I should be doing.

Sometimes it’s okay to put yourself first and say no – taking care of yourself is NOT selfish.

I want to conclude this post by emphasising the fact that I know I have it easy compared to some. I have friends who have three kids, high pressured jobs (some work multiple jobs) and various other commitments – yet they still make the time to fit in a 20-mile run on a Sunday morning. These people are my inspiration, and if they can do it, I absolutely can do it.

How do you balance marathon training with life? Do you have any tips?

Am I a “loud woman?”

A couple of weeks ago I read an article* about “loud women” (whatever that means) and immediately felt compelled to write about it. Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily class myself as a “loud woman’” and obviously this is a ridiculous phrase, there were many aspects of this article that resonated with me and I wanted to share a couple of them.

  • Loud shaming

I can’t count the amount of times I have been told to use my ‘inside voice’, both as a child and as an adult. Approximately 70% of the time the person telling me to be a little bit quieter has a very valid point; of course, there are certain situations where one should be quiet, and I definitely need to learn how to whisper!

However, being told to use my ‘inside voice’ always brings about a familiar sense of shame – the feeling that I have spoken out of turn or embarrassed myself in some way, when in fact this is just my voice, booming out like a big old foghorn.

Am I being ridiculous? Am I being over-sensitive? Perhaps, but I do believe that loud shaming is an expression that should be recognised and acknowledged.

  • What is a loud man?

Obviously loud men do exist, but I think the word ‘loud’ has a different meaning across genders. If I were to simplify it, I would say that loud men are confident, go-getters, intelligent and attractive. Loud women, on the other hand, are overpowering, intimidating and somewhat hostile…perhaps even irritating?

I am being rather presumptuous here, as I have based this purely on personal experience, and the experiences of those close to me.

Therefore, I would love to open this discussion to a wider audience. I would also be really interested in hearing your thoughts in the context of running** (of course!) so please do get in touch!

*The article was written by Viv Groskop, author of How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking

**Gender equality in sport has always been a controversial topic, and one that I am interested in exploring in later posts.

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Running While Female

I have SO MUCH to say on this topic (even more so than usual), therefore I’m going to publish 2 separate posts on a later date which will explore the following:

  • Cross Country (in line with recent discussions around gender inequality in XC running)
  • Running in a group

This post will focus solely on my experiences of running alone (as a female, obviously), as my experience when running in a group has unsurprisingly been quite different.

As expected (although obviously this should not be expected!!), many of my unpleasant experiences have taken place when running in summer. I was once told by Hortencia (if you have read any of my previous posts, Hortencia is a fictional character representative of a variety of moronic people I have come across) that I’m “asking for it” by wearing short shorts. Obviously, the phrase “asking for it” is complete and utter BS and I find it SO infuriating that people still say this.

I want to emphasise that nothing terrible has ever happened to me when running alone; certainly nothing that breaches catcalling, innuendos and other inappropriate comments made by someone in a car or on a bike. I wouldn’t say that I have ever been majorly concerned about my safety – it’s more that I find it incredibly irritating – although recently, 2 men shouted at me from their car so abruptly that I ran into the middle of the road out of shock.

I hate to admit this, but a culmination of cat calling and mildly (sometimes REALLY) repulsive comments has made me feel slightly vulnerable. If I’m running in the summer months or in the evening, occasionally I select routes that avoid main roads because I simply cannot be bothered with the possibility of unwanted attention. Sometimes I wear headphones purely to block out the sound of potential unwanted attention (can’t hear the morons over my music!)

It infuriates me that sometimes I feel the need to modify my run due to the potential behavior of others. It infuriates me that I feel that I cannot run in a sports bra and shorts in 30-degree heat. It infuriates me that some of my friends will only run on a treadmill to avoid harassment. It infuriates me that in 2018 this is still an issue that needs to be discussed! In case you couldn’t tell, I’m INFURIATED.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on this – what has your experience been as a female runner? I’m also curious to know how you deal with unwanted behaviour when running – how do you respond?