Multiple Welsh athletes speak out about facing abuse from strangers as they train in public due to COVID-19 restrictions
Several female sprinters training with Welsh Athletics, including former Wales 400m champion Rhiannon Linington-Payne, have spoken out about the harassment they’ve received while training outside due to pandemic restrictions.
Most indoor athletics tracks have been forced to close as part of the Welsh lockdown, with only individuals classified as ‘elite athletes’ permitted to train at specific locations.
As a result, more athletes are having to train in public spaces and have been verbally abused by strangers. Linington-Payne told the BBC that she’d been wolf-whistled at, received inappropriate comments about her body and even had a beer can thrown at her.
The 29-year-old athlete from Cardiff explained that most of the abuse she has received has been derogatory towards women. We were disappointed to uncover this trend in our recent National Women’s Running Survey, too, with almost 80% of you saying you’d been heckled or shouted at while running, 20% of you saying you’d been followed or intimated and, most shockingly, 30% of you saying you’d considered stopping running due to safety concerns.
Welsh sprinter Hannah Brier also noted the irony that she was banned from training indoors for her own safety, but now felt unsafe outside. Brier had an incident last summer where she felt intimidated by a man who followed her and drove past her multiple times, shouting abuse. She ended up calling her dad to come and pick her up, and has since found herself moving away from her bright, flattering running gear and opting for plainer clothes to avoid attention. “I’m not going to get noticed if I wear all black,” she told the BBC.
We commend the athletes who spoke out about their experiences for bringing this issue into the public eye, but the reality is that being harassed or abused is an all too common reality for women. With 46% of the women we surveyed stating that they’ve adjusted their running routes to feel safer, it’s clear that something needs to be done to tackle this aggressive and sexist behaviour.
As a response to the statements above, Welsh Athletics has begun working with South Wales Police to crack down on intimidating or abusive behaviour. If you’ve been the victim of harassment or abuse while out running, you can find support and take steps here.