Female BYU student runners speak up about safety in light of the kidnapping and death of Eliza Fletcher, a kindergarten teacher who was abducted on her early-morning run in Tennessee earlier in September.
According to the annual National Women’s Running Survey, 47% out of 3780 surveyed women said they had been shouted at or heckled while out running and almost 11% said they had been followed or intimidated while running.
The survey found some of the solutions women runners implement are 1) to stop running altogether, 2) to adjust their running location and 3) to choose to run with other people and not use headphones.
BYU student McCady Creager started running while she was in junior high, and has kept the habit up for five years.
“There has never been anything bad happen while on a run, but there have definitely been times when I have felt unsafe,” Creager said. “There was one time when I thought I had been followed but I couldn’t really tell whether it had happened or not.”
When asked about safety precautions she takes when going on runs, she said she tries to wait until the sun is up, and during the winter months, she starts changing the times when she goes out so she can avoid running in the dark.
“My family has always been pretty concerned about me when I go out on runs, so they have always cautioned me to take preventative measures in case anything was to happen,” Creager said. “I always bring my pepper spray with me.”
BYU Running Club president Kaleigh Renninger, who has been running since she was 12 years old, also said her family has expressed concerns regarding her going on runs.
“My dad would always make the extra effort to show me stories and make me aware of the risks that are associated with being a runner as a female,” Renninger said.
Renninger said she takes her phone with her when she runs alone, she doesn’t wear earbuds and tries to run with other women.
“It’s all about mitigating risks and no matter what you do, there is always a risk when you step out the door,” Renninger said. “But you can’t always let that fear stop you from what you want to do.”
Renninger said that although she has never had any extreme cases similar to Fletcher’s, she tries to avoid sketchy areas and does not let her guard down.
“I am a female and a runner, and if I am those two things and I am outside, I need to be more careful,” Renninger said.
Provo detective Shad LeFevre said although Provo is generally a very safe city, that does not mean people should not be alert or be cautions when going out running.
“If there is anything suspicious, it is better to call and have us come over and talk and check on the individual,” LeFevre said. “We don’t have a problem coming and talking to people.”
LeFevre also mentioned tips on running safety such as carrying a personal defense spray, have a form of communication, run with a friend, run in familiar areas and have a planned route.
“We don’t really see that kind of thing at BYU,” BYU Police Lt. George Besendorfer said. “I would recommend to always be careful if you are running early in the morning or late at night, when there is not that many people around. It is also just nice to have a partner when you’re running and I can’t think of any incidents when two or more people have become targeted.”