Chippewa Valley runners share stories of harassment, safety tips

Chippewa Valley (WQOW) – The murder of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts is causing some in the Eau Claire running community to wonder if something like that could happen here.

“Typically I don’t run by myself, I’m usually with my Moms on the Run group,” said Sarah Escutcheon of Eau Claire. “But one afternoon I went for a run from my house. And I live south of Eau Claire. There are some areas that are more secluded on that road.”

A truck with two males in it had passed McCutcheon. But McCutcheon thought nothing of it until it passed another two times.

“At that point, I just had in the pit of my stomach, I just didn’t feel good,” said McCutcheon. “I couldn’t tell if they were just trying to intimidate me. It terrified me, and I thought, “This is ridiculous that I live in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and I can’t go for a run without feeling like I’m scared or in fear for my life.”

McCutcheon’s story is one of the countless instances of harassment runners face out on roads and trails. Last year, a Runners World survey found that 43 percent of women and 4 percent of men experience harassment while running. These cases can either be verbal or physical harassment. Some cases are more aggressive, while others, on rare occasion, turn violent.

The Mollie Tibbetts’ case is one example of someone going out for a jog, she never returned home.

Related Story: Arrest made and murder charge filed after body found in Mollie Tibbetts case

Owners Adam and Alicia Condit of Blue Ox Running in Downtown Eau Claire recently returned from Iowa, where they used to live.

“Being on those same roads, it was just kind of eerie to think about. This could happen to anyone at any time, any age,” said Alicia Condit. “We even just recently spoke with our three kids about some of these same concerns, because of the Tibbetts case. Just like, “What do we do when we are around strangers?” And those topics came up as well with our family.”

Adam and Alicia Condit said running with others can make you feel more comfortable. Other running tips for those running alone, include carrying an alarm, or a can of pepper spray. Alicia recommends not listening to music, so you are fully aware of your surroundings. Adam said leaving a note can tell your loved ones where you are, and what time you expect to be back.

“A phone is really helpful if you need to call out, but sometimes we don’t have reception, and sometimes it’s really clunky to get it out and unlock it, especially if you’re in a position of danger,” said Adam.

But, as Adam said, harassment doesn’t just happen to women.

“College runners, we all tend to wear shorts that are pretty short, and a lot of people, if they’ve never been a runner, they don’t understand why we wear the shorts that we do,” said Alec Boes of Menomonie. “And they look at it as gay.”

Boes said he has had garbage thrown at him, and even been close to physical altercations.

“What I find interesting is I’ve actually seen certain very distinguishable vehicles that have heckled me while running, and then actually come and thanked me for my service when they’ve seen me in uniform,” said Boes.

Boes is a lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

“My hope is that by bringing awareness to it, we would create an environment where my kids can run someday and I don’t have to worry, worry about them being out there alone,” said McCutcheon.

News 18 also reached out the Indianhead Track Club. Members said they stick together for group runs, so nobody is ever alone.



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