A FEMALE runner has spoken about her experience of being sexually harassed by men while out on a run in Stroud.
Maria Smith, 30, is a regular runner and she took part in the Stroud half marathon last month.
A working mum with two young children, she says jogging gives her time to think and helps relieve stress.
But yesterday morning, her run was interrupted by unwelcome sexual comments from four construction workers as she went past.
“It made me feel really upset. I just wanted to do some running and enjoy my little bit of child free time before going work, without having to deal with a bunch of grown men being rude,” she said.
“I run personally for my mental health, and one of my family member’s not very well, so for me it gives some kind of ease to just think about my day and help relieve any stress.
“To make those sort of comments, they mustn’t really realise what people could be going through and that they’re exercising to help that.”
Maria was going to keep running and try and forget about it, but then decided to turn back and speak to the men.
“I was just going to let it go and then I thought – No, I’m not being bullied or harassed by a bunch of grown men. Why should I allow this to happen?”
So she turned round and ran back to where the men were working.
“I said – How would you feel if that was your wife, mother or daughter being harassed by a group of grown men? How would you like it if they’ve come home and they’re sad because a group of men were harassing them like you’ve just done to me? How would that make you feel?
“And I told them – You’ve stopped me doing something I enjoy, running, and I don’t appreciate it. And it’s harassment and it’s not acceptable.
“And I then just ran off and finished the rest of my route. ”
Maria said she felt it was important to make the point not just for herself and other adult women, but especially for younger girls in the area.
“I wanted to say something because there’s such a lot of young girls who go to and from college here and it could have a big impact on them.
“It makes you feel belittled, it makes you feel horrible really. You feel itemised in a way that you shouldn’t.
“I’ve got a daughter and I wouldn’t want that for her.”
Maria said it could put people off getting out and about and keeping fit.
“It might put people off looking after themselves and their health and fitness, which I think is really important, especially with the pandemic we’re in,” she said.
She added: “I just want to enjoy my running.
“There were hundreds of people watching the Stroud half marathon and I didn’t get wolf whistled or belittled by anyone there, they were cheering me on for running round and doing my part, whereas here you’ve got a group of men, giving me that kind of harassment.
“But it was just one of those days when I thought – Not today.
“It’s not the ideal thing, but hopefully what I said hit home.”
One in four women are subjected to regular sexual harassment when they go running, while 60 per cent have suffered physical or verbal abuse at some point during a run.
That’s according to a survey of more than 2,000 amateur female runners from across the UK, conducted by Runner’s World and Women’s Health.