Teenage Boys are my Running Nightmare

Posted on March 16, 2017 at 7:00 am by Kirsty Midgley | 5 comments

I started running three years ago on the suggestion of my doctor to help with depression following a miscarriage. I was broken, suffering with low self-esteem and in desperate need of healing. The first day I ran I managed to get round the block. After the first month I managed to get round a few blocks. As I got fitter and stronger I gained confidence. I swapped my old sweatpants for some Lycra bottoms and my stained t-shirt for a running top.


Within a few months I’d graduated from couch to 5km and was ready to up my mileage. Not knowing the neighbourhood well I spent a few days planning new routes – a 6km loop and an ambitious 10k. I made sure there weren’t too many up hills, it wasn’t too secluded and I there was somewhere mid-way to stop for a toilet break if things got desperate.  Both loops took me down the side of a local high-school.


I work from home, so I can run during the day. I’d run the shorter route three or four times when I started noticing a group of teenage boys, in a secluded corner at the side of the school. Obviously hiding from teachers, smoking and killing time. I was fair game for their jeering.


There were some classics “run fatty run”, “Is that as fast as you can go?” “You’re not going fast enough to catch a cold.” But there were also some obscenities. Things I can’t repeat in a public place. They were rude and vulgar and while I’m clearly old enough to be there mothers they were in a group, it was intimidating and I didn’t feel confident confronting them.


The worse part was it wasn’t once or twice, it happened enough times for me to change my route. I didn’t report it to the school. I was shocked and ashamed and embarrassed that a group of teenagers could make me feel so worthless. To this day I’m still weary of groups of teenagers.


This was not, unfortunately, the only time I’ve been heckled. Outside a factory one man ran alongside me and pulled my earphones out of my ears because I hadn’t responded to his and his lunch mates advances. I was terrified. I ran off in shock, heart racing, tears stinging my eyes. What he thought was a joke was actually stuff my nightmares are made of.


Sadly I’m not the only women to have experience this, in a quick survey of my friends and twitter it seems it’s more common than expected. Wolf whistles, name calling and hooting.


The scenario is always the same. A group of males showing off, having a laugh, egging one another on. The feeling it leaves behind is the same… fear, intimidation and upset. Have you ever been heckled while on a run?


I’ve changed my route because of these incidents. I’m now more cautious, more aware, and more afraid to run by myself. If I see group of men walking towards me on a run I cross the road.  I still do run by myself sometimes but find more comfort in groups. I don’t think I’m ready to join a club yet but parkrun is great and Leeds Girls Can hold many free ladies only runs around Leeds for all abilities. I won’t let the harassment keep me off the road but it does make me think twice before heading out.

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  1. Graeme Tiffany

    March 16, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    The story saddens me greatly. This said, the title is disingenuous; someone reading only that might conclude things about teenage boys that are wholly inaccurate. Certainly, some teenage boys may be guilty of these behaviours, but they are not a homogenous group. It’s ironic then, given the awful experiences of the author, this title has a discriminatory tone, in painting the picture that all teenage boys are to be feared. The broad thrust of the post relates to prejudicial attitudes and behaviours in wider society, be they related to sex or gender or indeed a person’s size, which are not exclusive to men or indeed applicable to all men. Doubtless also teenage boys are influenced by those older and the media. So let’s talk about these wider prejudices, and the action we can take to do something about them. Writing about our experiences is an important part of this but sometimes we need to do other things, like contacting the school or workplace of offenders, or the police, which would not have been unreasonable in the case of the factory incident. I would encourage and support anyone experiencing these problems to do this. But please don’t hand down oppression to the young; they get enough of it as it is.

  2. Chris

    March 16, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Sometimes you have to make a stand. By not reporting the behaviour of the teenagers to the school they may now feel that this is acceptable. Difficult, especially given your circumstances but a missed opportunity. Have you thought about running with a club. It’s not always convenient but there are often groups that will run at a variety of paces and distances. Even as a middle aged bloke I’m not immune to ‘banter’ which when you’re not expecting it can be challenging to deal with. Hope it doesn’t put you off…

  3. Amanda

    March 16, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    Well done for highlighting this issue. I am very sad that you have had to change your route due to the behaviour of a small number of small minded, thoughtless people. Unfortunately, this type of behaviour is not unusual.
    I was out with a small group recently and we were heckled by a group of young boys, probably only about 12 years old. We were running slowly and they found it hilarious to walk alongside us and state that they could walk faster than we could run very loudly. If I had been alone I would have been very scared.
    I rarely run alone but am about to start marathon training so there will be times when I have no choice.
    I would definitely recommend a running club, don’t be afraid to join one. Most will have groups of different abilities.

  4. Phil

    March 16, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    I run with the South Leeds Lakers, a mixed group, and we regularly have things shouted at us. I think the first thing to realise is that it is nothing personal against you. More often than not it is just an individual showing off to their mates. The first time it happens it is no doubt a shock to the system and you lose sleep thinking about how you would have liked to react. Don’t waste your energy. Just smile and give a wave, you’re running so no one is really expecting a witty response. The main thing is just to keep running which takes you away from the situation. I really would encourage running with a group though, it does make you feel much safer. Any physical contact though is a different matter and you would not be over reacting to report it.

  5. Graham Pawley

    March 19, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    My daughter runs regularly and gets frequent hassle which makes me very angry when I hear about it. She has become mentally tougher and ignores it, always running with headphones, but it makes me angry and ashamed that men can be this thoughtless and selfish. And it isn’t necessarily teenagers, it can be men of all ages. When she runs with me she doesn’t have any trouble at all and she says the difference is massive so you could run not just with other women but with mixed groups. I would also recommend joining a running club for support and to find more running buddies. We all have to fight this and I would urge you to keep running and keep strong

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