We will keep running, cycling, walking and swimming. But alone?

Mirna Valerio running down a trail.

from NBC news

This week has been one of upheaval and dramatic change in the US in ways that will affect the global community in short and long-term ways. We members of the Fit is a Feminist Issue community come from many regions and countries, and I love how we can connect and support each other around fitness, feminism and well-being in our varied and similar lives all over the world.

About 60 million people voted for Donald Trump, which may include some readers of this blog.  It is, however, widely reported that the immediate effects of the election have included attacks on women, people of color, Muslims and LGBTQ people.  Many people in the US are rightly afraid– concerned for their safety and uncertain about how to conduct their daily lives.

For blog readers (and women in general), these feelings and this reality are what we navigate on a daily basis.  In an August 2016 article in Runner’s World, Meghan Kita wrote about women running alone in an environment of sexism and sexual harassment and violence:

You can run, but you can’t escape sexism. Women’s running has come a long way from the days of doctors saying, “You can’t do that; your uterus will fall out of your body.” Women now make up 57 percent of race finishers annually, per the latest Running USA statistics. More than half of our readers are women.

And yet people still suggest that women simply shouldn’t run alone. I once took a self-defense class for women at a local martial arts academy. The (male) instructor spent approximately half the class stressing the importance of one simple safety rule: Women should never do anything or go anywhere alone.

If you think women don’t know that it’s safer to run with other people than to run alone, think again. Every kid grew up using the buddy system. Everyone has heard the trope, “There’s safety in numbers.”

But suggesting that a woman coordinate a group for every single run she does is ridiculous, especially when you’d never give such advice to a man. Some women—just like some men—simply enjoy running alone.

That was then.  But this is now.

Events of this week made me think about long-distance runner Mirna Valerio, who writes the Fat Girl Running blog and also for other media.  In Runner’s World there was a long profile about her, including how she encounters people who are surprised and sometimes suspicious of an African-American woman trail-running in rural Georgia.  She tells this story:

“I’m running along and a police cruiser pulls up beside me,” she continues. “The deputy looks at me, but he doesn’t say anything. We go on like that for maybe a minute, but it felt like an hour. Finally, he just eased away.”

She also tells stories about diffusing suspicion and building communication with local residents.  It’s clear that Valierio enjoys being outdoors, alone, running and enjoying life.  She hasn’t written about any changes in her habits after the election, but then again, she’s not a political blogger.  Her views and concerns are her own.

Which leads me to ask the question:  readers, how are you feeling about engaging in physical activity outside, alone?  Has this week changed your views about safety and comfort?  We’d like to hear from you.



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