21 Mar

Why Are Runners Still Heckled?

Chris Broadbent in running action

Why in 2019 are runners still being heckled on the streets? Only this week, I was heckled by a group of teenage girls and two male drivers on a single evening run. 'Run Forest Run' was always a popular one 10-15 years ago, not so much now that Tom Hanks’ film with the running obsessive fades into popular culture.

But still it happens, with very little wit - and I am really not quite sure why. What are the hecklers getting out of it? Is it funny? Surely not even to anyone with even the faintest sense of humour. To be honest, it’s not that has a personal impact on me anymore.

At one time, I would bite – I have been known to remonstrate with hecklers – and they don’t like it. I am just a bit puzzled by it. But much more worryingly, from talking to female runners, it can be a much worse experience than I, a middle aged man, suffers.

For them it can be distressing and intimidating. Recently, a campaign was launched in Bristol to tackle street harassment of women exercising. Launched by Avon and Somerset Police and Bristol Zero Tolerance, the #JogOn campaign provides practical tips and guidance for women to stay safe and feel confident.

The project was launched to address the concerns of women confronted with some shocking treatment. One reported: “It’s mainly being shouted at in the street when on my bike – either derogatory comments about my weight or sexual comments. I have also been grabbed by men reaching out of car windows while I cycle.”

Others have talked about larger runners being targeted by groups with verbal abuse, often so cutting that these runners do not return to exercise again. Really? In 2019? Are we not better than this by now?