It is unbelievable that Chris Boardman’s words can be so basic and obvious to female athletes and yet still so needed by men (Calling all men: this is what we can do to help women feel safe exercising in the dark, 30 October). Exercising solo, especially at night, is often a different experience for the two. One day last year I was cycling along the (very wide) Forth and Clyde canal; my fitness was great and I had a fine tailwind. I passed a man who had been dawdling, when suddenly he sped up and started slipstreaming me, within a couple of feet. This was in broad daylight, but the canal was empty.
I was worried in case he was somehow angered by me passing him, so I kept going for around 5km, after which my panic was really starting to interfere aerobically. I signalled that I was going to stop as he was so close to me, sat down on a bench and pulled out some food. He stopped too. “Thanks. I needed that,” he said, before asking me about the rest of my cycle. I refused to engage as I was recovering from the shock. A perfect example of how some men have no idea how intimidating their actions can be to women.
Dr Kathy Dodworth
University of Edinburgh
Thanks to Chris Boardman for his excellent and timely piece. As a recent graduate of the excellent Couch to 5K programme, I had to force myself out of the house for a run at 4pm on Monday rather than 5pm because the clocks had changed. When I commuted, a run after work was out of the question at this time of year.
Given women’s concerns about their safety when training, and Boardman’s recognition of this, and while I do not see myself ever going near a full marathon (in the past I have run a half), I deplore the decision of the directors of the London Marathon to move it back to April next year, which makes it harder for women to train in the evenings. It may not be possible for 2023, but perhaps they might now reconsider that decision in the light of this article by a respected sportsman, and permanently return the London Marathon to early October from 2024 onwards?
Chris Boardman’s article gave unexpectedly thought-provoking and practical advice – to me at least. I shall cross the path in future to avoid alarming women alone exercising in public at night. I will call out men who comment on them disrespectfully. I was also shocked to read that his daughters walk clutching concealed keys for safety, and his implication that this is normal. As a middle-aged guy with teenage nieces but no daughters, this was depressing, but exactly the spur I need to take his advice.
Hove, East Sussex
Chris Boardman’s steps towards women feeling as safe when exercising in the dark as most men do can of course be readily extended to daylight hours. Our magnificent urban trails in Norwich begin in the heart of the city and sometimes go out into the countryside. They are used by many runners, walkers and cyclists.
Some stretches are lonely and so, even in the light, it’s essential that everyone – including this 73-year-old male cyclist – encourages everyone else by following Boardman’s suggestions. One minor amendment is that if anyone, male or female, calls out “Hello”, as many do, I’m free to respond with a “Hiya!”
I visited the memorial to Sarah Everard and later had a conversation with my 37-year-old daughter that I’d never had before. My eyes were opened to the harassment, touching and verbal comments from men that she and her friends experience on a daily basis. I was shocked, upset and ashamed that it took 37 years and the death of a young women for me to learn the truth of what Chris Boardman is saying.
Horndon on the Hill, Essex