Should women ever run alone?

Posted August 11

Two young women have been murdered while out running in recent weeks. The Road Runners Club of America offers safety tips for runners, but others question whether women should run alone. (Deseret Photo)

Within hours of setting out for a run, two young women were murdered in recent weeks. Their deaths remind runners that, regardless of how fit they are, they are vulnerable to attack while exercising in public. They also raise the question of whether women should ever run alone.

Karina Vetrano, 30, ran 3 to 5 miles a day in Spring Creek Park in New York City. Her body was found by her father a few hours after she was reported missing.

Vanessa Marcotte, too, was a regular runner who competed in road races, sometimes raising money for charity. Like Vetrano, she lived in New York, where she worked for Google. The 27-year-old was visiting her mother in Princeton, Massachusetts, when she left for the run from which she never returned.

Police say they have no reason to think the murders were connected, and no arrests have been made.

According to The New York Post, the deaths have caused a surge in sales of a sports bra called the "booby trap," which has an inner pocket where women can conceal a small knife or can of Mace.

The developer, Texas resident Jennifer Cutrona, said she created the bra after a man attempted to pull her off a trail while she was running. Sales spiked soon after Vetrano's body was found, she said.

“I keep getting orders from New Yorkers, pinging my phone. At first I was thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ Then I read the story about her. And I got sick to my stomach,” she told Natalie O'Neill of The Post.

Safety advice for runners abounds. Both men and women should tell someone when they're leaving, where they're planning to run, and when they expect to return, Runner's World magazine says.

In Boston, 60 miles from where Marcotte was killed, TV station WCVB suggested apps like Glympse and RunSafe that notify selected people of your location and sound an alarm if you don't return when scheduled.

The Road Runners Club of America says to shun headphones, which are distracting, and to carry a cellphone and a noisemaker of some kind, such as whistle. Run with a dog if you can and "use discretion in acknowledging strangers."

And vary your running route; don't run the same roads or parks every day. "If you run the same streets, the same time of day, someone will notice," wrote running blogger Elizabeth Kalifeh after she was attacked in Mobile, Alabama.

Regardless of safety precautions, there are some women who believe that running alone isn't worth the risk. Among them is Sheri Ball-Garcia, whose story was told in a 2013 article in Women's Running titled "I Will Never Run Alone Again: A Survivor's Story."

Ball-Garcia, a mother of two, was running at 5:30 in the morning, which is supposed to be one of the safest times of day. (Crime generally dips between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m.) Still, she was brutally assaulted and suffered 20 fractures and lost her two front teeth before she managed to escape, according to writer Lindsey Emery, who shared Ball-Garcia's story.

After her recovery, Ball-Garcia started running again — on a treadmill — and later became a crusader against violent crime. She advises women to join a running club or run with friends. "Try to involve your kids and your spouse in your training, too," she told Emery.

"Runners often tell me that they have to train super early, in the dark by themselves, that there is no other time. But the reality is that if you do that, there may be no (more) time, period," she said.


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