‘People heckle me’: top female runners speak out on abuse on streets | Athletics

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A group of leading female runners have spoken out about the abuse and harassment they experience when they are training out on the streets and in parks because they cannot access their normal facilities during lockdown.

One runner revealed she no longer felt safe exercising in public while another described a violent incident in which an empty beer can was thrown at her.

The women, high-class athletes from Wales, described their ordeals after the Welsh government relaxed lockdown rules to allow an individual to meet one other person from another household to exercise locally in response to the concerns of women who did not feel safe running or walking alone.

Welsh Athletics is working with south Wales police to explore ways of making the streets safer for female runners.

The Welsh 400-metre international Rhiannon Linington-Payne, from Cardiff, said: “I’ve had comments about my figure, comments about the kit I’m wearing and the fact it’s tight fitting. I’ve had wolf-whistling. I’ve had cars slow down and people heckle while I’m running. I had an empty beer can thrown at me out of a car window three weeks ago.

“It’s a disappointment that so many women are experiencing similar things,” said Linington-Payne, who is head of competitions at Welsh Athletics. “It is not just happening here in Cardiff or Wales but across the UK. I’ve been contacted by runners from London and Manchester.

“This is also an issue that goes beyond sport. It’s about people respecting other human beings regardless of who they are or what they look like. Everyone has the right to go about their business and not be challenged. It goes a lot deeper than sport but seems to be a common experience in sport.”

Linington-Payne normally trains on the track. “It’s a closed environment with people who are like-minded,” she said. Currently only individuals classified as “elite” athletes by Sport Wales can travel to train. It means some athletes who perform at a high level and even represent Wales have to train on the street or in parks.

She said she was concerned not only for high-class athletes but for leisure runners who are facing harassment. “We’re saying people can go and do exercise but it’s dark and the street lighting isn’t great in some places.”

Hannah Brier, a Wales and Great Britain sprinter, from Neath in south Wales, said it was ironic she was not allowed on the track for safety reasons but did not feel secure training in public. She has taken to wearing plainer and looser running kit.

She tweeted: “Regardless of inappropriate comments and feeling uncomfortable/unsafe, I have to train to reach my goals. I truly feel for those who are put off exercising and getting outdoors because of these issues. We need to raise awareness that it’s not OK, and it’s not acceptable.”

Lauren Williams, a 400-metre hurdler from Powys, mid-Wales, said it was only recently that she had felt unsafe training. She has also received comments on her kit being too revealing. She tweeted: “I am hoping that by speaking out we will see changes & women will feel safer to get out and exercise in public.”

James Williams, the chief executive officer of Welsh Athletics, said it was working with south Wales police to promote a campaign called Exercise our Freedom. He said: “We support the right for everybody to train and enjoy their exercise, and everyone should be able to do so without the fear of unwanted comments or behaviours.

“I think Covid has meant that the normal safe training environments have been removed – running groups can’t run together, so the safety in numbers aspect is no longer available.

“With facilities being closed, more and more are having to be creative with their training – hence running on roads as opposed to a track where we could tackle this form of behaviour immediately.”

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘People heckle me’: top female runners speak out on abuse on streets | Athletics

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