Opinion | Running should not threaten safety

The University of Iowa needs designated running areas.

Elise Cagnard, Opinions Columnist

I’ve been an avid runner since the 7th grade. From cross country and track to running half marathons with my dad, I’ve always had a love for this sport.

Throughout my experience in the running world, there are differences I’ve noticed between male and female runners — especially the privilege male runners have.

Whether it is running at any time they desire or dressing exactly how they want, there are things female runners can’t do due to safety concerns. The University of Iowa should adopt running-friendly areas available for students.

Eliza Fletcher was a teacher in Memphis, Tennessee, who ran an 8-mile route almost every day at 4:30 a.m. Tragically, in early September, she was abducted and killed on her early morning run.

This devastating event is sadly not an isolated incident.

Over 60 percent of women who regularly run have reported being harassed while running in the U.S. This percentage is even higher for women who run at night.

On the other hand, only about 17 percent of male runners reported similar experiences.

While anyone being harassed is abominable, this higher percent of female runners experiencing harassment shows the root of the true problem: Women don’t feel safe running in public settings.

Miriam Sandeen is a female runner on the women’s UI cross country and track and field team. During her time at the university, she noticed many differences between the women’s and men’s teams. She said many of her male counterparts go on late night runs without a second thought.

When Sandeen goes on a run during sunset, she often equips herself with pepper spray. She also makes sure to keep her location on her smartphone and informs her roommate on which route she will be taking.

Additionally, she takes precautionary measures, such as running with no music and covering up more than she normally would.

“I try to not think about how I dress in terms of other people, but I know wearing less clothing while running makes it seem like I’m more prone to getting catcalled,” Sandeen said.

With all of this being accounted for, it would be incredibly beneficial for the UI to designate safe spots for female students to run.

This entails paths with an abundance of streetlights, frequent campus security check-ins, and additional blue emergency poles in case of an incident.

Blue emergency buttons on campus, which connect students to campus security when pressed, only cost $7,500 to install and $200 a year to maintain. This would come at little cost to the UI and will make female runners feel safe while doing basic activities like running, walking, or biking. After all, we pay far more each year in tuition than the cost of a blue emergency button.

The next Eliza Fletcher could be a UI student. The UI should do everything to ensure the safety of its student population.

This is a widespread issue that will not be  completely solved by implementing a safe running space, but this would be impactful headway in the right direction.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.