We Need To Combat Heckling

All runners can do more to combat misogynistic heckling, says Laura Fountain

heckling running

I think it’s safe for me to assume that you’ve never shouted out unwanted comments to a female runner. Not just because you’re a runner yourself, but because you’re a male runner reading an article written by a woman on a men’s running website. So that, to me, makes you one of the more enlightened and open-minded in our sport.

So why, you might ask, am I about to devote the next few hundred words preaching to the converted on the issue of men heckling women out running, when we’ve already established that this isn’t something you get up to in your spare time?

I’m going to answer that with a true story that happened recently, and that I’m sure is happening in parks all over the country every week.

A few weeks ago, in the space of only 10 days, my running groups had three separate incidents of people making lewd or hurtful comments. Some weren’t passing by; they were standing watching us run and refusing to move on. On the third occasion, I’d had enough of being polite or trying to reason with people who don’t act reasonably.

I was with my beginners in the park. It was early evening but still very light. As I often do, I was running with a woman who was at the back of the pack, chatting to her and encouraging her to keep going and to run further than she had in any previous week.

We rounded a corner and a man was stood on the path. We ran past him and, as I find is common with this type of person, he waited until we’d passed before he opened his mouth. He commented on the runner’s body and made sexual comments towards her. I had in my hand my whistle, ready to signal to the rest of the group to stop running their current interval. Instead of ignoring this man and continuing, I turned and blew my whistle loudly at him.

My group stopped running and began to regroup. I stopped running too, at which point the man on the path began to walk towards me. He asked me why I’d blown my whistle at him. I told him it was because he’d been inappropriate.

His response was that he hadn’t, that I didn’t own the park and that I could [expletive, expletive, expletive]. I politely explained that while I didn’t own the park, myself and my runner owned our bodies and that we decided what was offensive.

During this exchange, a group of male club runners ran past. They observed what was going on, and none of them stopped. Not one of them said anything. And that’s why I’m telling you this story. Because while I know you wouldn’t make lewd comments to a woman runner, I also sincerely hope you wouldn’t jog past as another man shouted, swore and made offensive remarks to one.

In the words of Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”


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