The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

When Running For Fun Becomes Running For Your Life

How the healthy existence of the female runner is not guaranteed so long as we are silent.
Photo Courtesy / Unsplash Jozsef Hocza

To be a female runner is to understand your body in relation to its surroundings. Your feet on the pavement. Your shirt against your stomach. Your eyes and ears must be open even when they’re being clogged with sweat. You’re aware that you’re running incredibly heavy and slow today because you’re on your period. You’re aware of the jiggle in your thigh and the flattening of your chest. Of the rustle you hear in the bushes, and of the one you don’t. 

To make sure you don’t get murdered, be alert at all times. No headphones, nothing to obscure your vision. Even while your eyes are watering and your nose is dripping and your body hurts and you’re just trying to make it to the next mile marker before you turn around, make sure that you’re aware of every single thing around you at all times. 

Running is promoted as a great way to ease stress and provide a number of mental and physical health benefits. But it doesn’t seem to be all that stress-relieving if it’s making women feel and act like hunted animals. It doesn’t matter where a woman runs, the current state of our society affirms that she is not guaranteed safety. 

Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student recently murdered in Georgia is a bright soul to be added to the list of women killed when running. A list that is forecasted to grow longer and longer until something changes. 

But from what it seems, the only change being offered is for women to do more. Local Atlanta, G.A. station WSB-TV interviewed Alec Sunwoo, a running goods store owner who offered, “Sunwoo said they should always run in groups. They should try to run different routes so predators don’t know their every move. Also don’t wear headphones or earbuds and get a device that will sound an alarm easily if you need help.” Sunwoo isn’t alone in this advice.

Even this ABC article by Katie Kindelan does a great job of laying out the anger in women runners following this casualty and all the others, and yet still offers at the end “Tips from self-defense experts.” Until change is made it seems all women can do is take care of themselves, but that doesn’t feel like enough.  

Riley’s murderer was discovered to be Jose Ibarra, 26, an undocumented migrant from Venezuela, allowing for heated discussion to perpetuate about the border crisis, as now legal officials are pushing harder for change.

One can’t help but wonder that if this was not a white woman killed by an illegal immigrant would lawmakers and media would be calling for change? When a tragedy fits it makes national, long term discussion. 21 people were shot, one killed, at the Super Bowl celebratory parade, but it didn’t fit an agenda, so we got plenty of discourse during the event, but not after. 

Even when it fits the agenda, nothing but band-aid solutions are slapped on to make it look like something is being done. According to Georgia’s WSB-TV, “A state House committee passed a bill that would make it a crime for any Georgia sheriff to refuse to report to federal authorities any suspected undocumented immigrants in their county jails.” Fine, but Riley’s murderer was not detained prior to this event. 

Riley’s murderer being an illegal immigrant proves that this is only a current topic of national discussion because it pertains to a talking point for politicians to capitalize on. Which, to be real for a second, are words I’m disgusted to write out. 

The media is looking to use Riley’s death as a push for border security, but most rhetoric surrounding border issues are just racist whining and weak policies put into place by complacent lawmakers and influence holders on both sides who seek nothing but personal gain from their gated communities. 

Politicians only care now because a woman was killed in relation to something that can get them votes. That can make them say “look what we did! We did xyz to close the border so nothing like this happens again!”

But it’s been happening and it’s going to keep happening. Eliza Fletcher was on her morning run when she was kidnapped, beaten, and shot in the back of the head. Sydney Sutherland was run down with a pick-up truck, raped then beaten to death when all she wanted to do was go out for a jog. The family of St. John’s University alumna Karina Vetrano is still seeking justice after she was raped and murdered on an evening run near her home. 

If you look into those cases, you’ll see the assailants’ race, demographic or legal status doesn’t mean anything. 

In 2020 the United States government shut down our world in a matter of days. They could stop rampant crime if they wanted to, they could prevent tragedies like this but it’s easier to offer thoughts and prayers up on the podium that towers over heartbroken citizens. 

What needs to change cannot be summed up in a catchy, highlighterable sentence. This issue is political, it’s systematic, it’s cultural and it’s not something to be taken advantage of for votes. 

Legal action is good and it’s effective when it’s actually put into place, and not just put into place but productive. We can’t keep implementing flimsy efforts of over policing, it does nothing for legitimate change.   

I’d say let’s speak up, but we’ve been speaking up. This isn’t anything new. Sure women (and men who care) can adopt “see something say something” attitudes and carry a weapon, but the only people who have been silent and careless are our lawmakers. 

Until they decide to speak up, us women will continue to live our lives to the fullest extent we can, like we have always done. Taking the advice of Alec Sunwoo and Katie Kindelan, because we’ve been left with no choice. We have formed running communities and have accomplished incredible feats, athletic and not, never because of but in spite of those in charge. So we’ll run, we’ll take public transportation, we’ll go out when we want, and we’ll be okay or we’ll die with no help from the United States government. It’s nothing we haven’t done before.  

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About the Contributor
Elizabeth Kaufmann, Opinion Editor & Human Resources Manager
Liz is a senior English major serving as the Human Resources Manager. Having been with The Torch since the start of her freshman year, Liz has held multiple positions within the publication and has loved every second of it. Being from Long Island, Liz commutes to the Queens campus. Liz self identifies as a reader, a writer, a coffee enthusiast and a specialist in long walks.  Liz can be reached at [email protected]

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