I had intended this week’s posts to be all about my prep for Saturday’s NDW50, but something occurred on my run into work this morning that got me wanting to write about something entirely different.
The thing that happened? I got beeped at. Again. This in itself is not so unusual – I got beeped at yesterday too, unfortunately. During the winter I get this, on average, maybe three times a week. But it’s summer, and if I choose to run down the path along the road into town wearing shorts and a t-shirt, then once or twice per day becomes a distressing norm.
This morning the beep happened fairly early on in the run. In such cases I usually let flow an internal stream of expletives directed at the driver, but show no outward sign of having noticed. Today was no different – I didn’t give the lorry driver the satisfaction of a reaction, but just carried on my way with not much of a second thought. Until, that is, I caught up with the inevitable backlog of traffic that builds up along that route. With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach I realised that I would soon catch up with the lorry in question, and have to pass it again. For a couple of minutes I fantasised about calling the lorry driver out on his behaviour; goading him into descending from his cab, kicking him hard in the nuts and then running away, leaving him crying in the road in the middle of the morning rush hour. But did I do that? No. I did what millions of women do every single day in situations where they’ve been made to feel uncomfortable by the behaviour of men; I practised de-escalation. I felt fairly sick as I closed the distance on the lorry; what would I encounter? Another beep? Something shouted from the window? The traffic started to move, and for a while I was able to run in his blind-spot hoping that I wouldn’t catch up after all. Then he slowed and I was level with the cab. He kept pace with me down the hill – I felt tense and uncomfortable, but refused to acknowledge that I’d clocked his earlier attention with either a look or a change of pace. Finally the traffic forced him to come to a standstill and I was able to pull away and round the corner at the bottom of the hill, turning away from the main road and any unwelcome gaze that may have followed me.
The rest of the run was a bit quicker than I’d intended; I was wound up by the encounter, and wound up with myself for letting it get to me. And yet this behaviour isn’t acceptable. Nobody should be made to feel intimidated by unwanted attention. By some idiot sitting in the safety of his cab who, if I’m charitable, presumably thought I’d see it as some sort of compliment. It’s not. It’s not a compliment if it makes someone feel intimidated, uncomfortable, self-conscious, and awful. Women so often can’t win in situations like this. If we happen to carry a bit more weight, or are struggling with fitness for whatever reason, then we’re censured for it. If we work hard, show dedication, and our physiology reflects that, or if we’re simply lucky with our physiology, then our ‘reward’ is putting up with the kind of shit detailed above.
I hate that I have to deal with it. I hate that women everywhere have to deal with this and much, much worse, every single day. I work really hard at my running; I’m in great shape, and I’m really proud of the fact. I don’t wear shorts in the summer for the edification of passing drivers – I wear them, surprisingly, to help regulate my temperature. What irks me most is that the driver(s) in question probably don’t give a monkeys about how strong I am, or the crazy distances I can cover under my own steam, they make a snap judgement based on my appearance and don’t give a second thought about how their actions, however small, might make me feel.
Unless the lorry driver was a fellow ultrarunner, and he was simply being supportive of my training. In which case, I apologise.