Run With It: Taking Back the Track

Track at night

The ROT6 Journal Team is excited to launch our 2022 content. From January until March, we will be posting twice a month on the second and fourth Saturday of the month.

We are excited to launch our guest post series “Run with it” with our first guest writer AMANDA RICHARDSON @plantbasedmotherrunner (she/her). Amanda is a fixture in the Toronto running community. She is a co-founder of Chix Run the 6ix (@chixrunthe6ix). Amanda is a proud Aussie living in Toronto and the mum of two boys. She is a plant based runner with the marathon being her favourite running distance.

Back on December 1st 2021, I chose to ring in my 40th birthday by running 40 laps of my local track at sunrise. As a woman running in the dark I played by “the rules” and had my husband come to the track, I wore a light vest, ran in an open space and had friends join, so when the sun came up and my husband went to get our kids, I was in a group. All of this did not deter a man from approaching our group on the track and hitting me across the face. 

As I stood there in the middle of the track, nose full of blood trying to make sense of what had just happened, I knew three things: this incident was bigger than me, it was not how this story was going to end, and I was going to finish my damn run! 

As the story of this incident spread through running friends, running groups and social media, it was clear others felt the same outrage and offered to help turn this incident on its head and spread this story to raise awareness about violence against women and running safety. I had long talked about the idea of lighting up the track at Riverdale Park in an effort to promote women’s running safety, so that’s what we did. Working together with Heather Gardner and Kardia Athletica, Chix Run The 6ix reclaimed the space at Take Back The Track (TBTT). 

Take Back The Track was a twilight event encouraging all runners, supporters, and women’s running allies to come out, in person or virtually, wear pink, wear lights and stand up to violence against women and the safety of all runners. TBTT was an opportunity to listen, to support women runners, raise awareness about the prevalence of incidents like this and share ways to stay safe and support women runners in our lives. 

These issues don’t end with one event. There is ongoing work that needs to be done in this space! 

Photo Credit: Lisa Sun

Collectively we decided to start with ten tips:

1. Be OUTRAGED – outraged that we are still talking about this, still experiencing this, still feeling fear when running and still needing to look over our shoulder. 

2. Educate yourself around the FACTS of the womens’ running experience. 

3. Follow running safety activists & groups like @girlsfightback, @run.buddy, @go_guarded, @run_kiwi_run @respect_her_run and The Runner’s Alliance, among others for running safety tips and information on this issue. 

4. Share stories and information about womens’ running safety with your community – Social media, family, friends and colleagues. Awareness is where it starts! 

5. Stand up and speak out! If something happens to you – speak up, it is not your fault! If you see or hear people talking about “checking out” women runners, catcalling or worse – Say something, call out the behaviour. 

6. Support women and respect their space while out running – give them space, don’t run up behind them. Give them a supportive wave of nod. 

7. Support activities around womens’ running safety – support events like @despitethedark & @respect_her_run and charities doing work in this space like @vtmfoundation 

8. Encourage brands you work with or support to get behind this issue. 

9. Talk to women you run with or women in your life who run and offer to support them – run with them, ride your bike while they run, check in via text. 

10. Become an active ally to running women – show your support and ACT ON IT! 

These ten steps are things we ALL need to do create long term change and they are very important.  

Photo Credit: Andre Morgan (@dre.run)

In the here and now there are some things as runners we can do to minimize risk, take back the power and give us confidence should something happen.

Pre run 

  • Plan your route (keep it varied and not predictable. Even if it has to be the same route, vary the time). 
  • Consider what you post on social media around locations. 
  • Set privacy zones on your Strava or tracker or have it private/friends only.
  • Drop a beacon with Strava or Garmin or use the follow me setting with a family member or friend on your phone & carry it with you on full charge.
  • Wear an ID or carry ID and/or phone.
  • Consider learning self defence.
  • Consider personal safety device such as an alarm or finger ring.

On the run 

  • Run with a friend or family member if possible. 
  • Stick to running in daylight or lit areas at night. 
  • Avoid isolated areas.
  • Consider headphone options – no earphones, one in or open ear style like Aftershokz. 
  • Avoid long ponytails or braids that can be grabbed.  

Together we can make real change here. We can continue to speak on this issue, share these stories and support events like Take Back The Track, which will now be an annual event, until we can all run free.

If you are interested writing a guest post for this series, please message the ROT6 interim Journal Editor Nicole @n.deavour.

Lead Photo Credit: Andre Morgan