A group of prominent runners has denounced the abuse and harassment they experience when training on the streets and in parks because they cannot access their usual facilities during the confinement.
One runner revealed that she no longer felt safe exercising in public, while another described a violent incident in which an empty beer can was thrown at her.
The women, high-class athletes from Wales, described their ordeals after the Welsh government relaxed closure rules Allowing one person to meet another person from another household to exercise locally in response to the concerns of women who do not feel safe running or walking alone.
Welsh Athletics is working with South Wales Police to explore ways to make the streets safer for female runners.
Welsh 400m international Rhiannon Linington-Payne from Cardiff said: “I have had comments on my figure, comments on the uniform I am wearing and the fact that it is tight. I’ve had wolf whistles. I’ve had cars slow down and people yell while I’m running. Three weeks ago an empty beer can was thrown at me out of a car window.
“It’s a disappointment that so many women are experiencing similar things,” said Linington-Payne, director of competitions at Welsh Athletics. “It’s not just happening here in Cardiff or Wales, but all over the UK. I have been contacted by brokers from London and Manchester.
“This is also an issue that goes beyond sports. It’s about people respecting other human beings no matter who they are or what they look like. Everyone has the right to go about their business and not be challenged. It is much deeper than sport, but it seems to be a common experience in sport. “
Linington-Payne normally trains on the road. “It is a closed environment with like-minded people,” he said. Currently, only people classified as “elite” athletes by Sport Wales are allowed to travel to train. It means that some athletes who perform at a high level and even represent Wales have to train on the street or in parks.
She said she was concerned not only for upper-class athletes, but also for leisure runners facing harassment. “We are saying that people can go and exercise, but it is dark and the street lighting is not good in some places.”
Hannah Brier, a Welsh and British sprinter from Neath in South Wales, said it was ironic that she was not allowed to be on the track for safety reasons, but that she did not feel safe training in public. She liked wearing simpler and looser running gear.
She tweeted: “Regardless of inappropriate comments and feeling uncomfortable / insecure, I have to train to reach my goals. I really feel sorry for those who have stopped exercising and going outdoors due to these issues. We need to raise awareness that it is not okay and it is not acceptable. “
Lauren Williams, a 400-meter hurdler from Powys in mid Wales, said she had only recently felt insecure training. He has also received comments about his kit being too revealing. She tweeted: “I hope that as we speak we see changes and that women feel more confident to go out and exercise in public.”
James Williams, CEO of Welsh Athletics, said he was working with South Wales Police to promote a campaign called Exercise Our Freedom. He said: “We support the right of everyone to train and enjoy their exercise, and everyone should be able to do so without fear of unwanted comments or behavior.
“I think Covid has meant that normal safe training environments have been eliminated; groups of runners cannot run together, so the safety aspect in numbers is no longer available.
“With facilities closing, more and more people have to get creative with their training, therefore running on roads rather than on a track where we could address this form of behavior right away.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism