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On February 28, Laura McCloskey Green, a physical therapist and freelance content creator, posted a video she made on her social media. Maybe you’ve seen it—it’s been viewed more than 26,000 times. The video is short, only 54 seconds, but manages to send a very clear message: Running alone as a woman requires constant vigilance. It can be scary. And we’re not going to stop doing it.
In the video, faceless women run alone in the dark before sunrise. While they run, their thoughts are read aloud.
“Is that a person or an animal?” is the first. “Is he following me? Or are those my own footsteps?” comes later.
Underscored by the sound of a beating heart, the thoughts pick up pace, become more intrusive, and begin to overlap. “If I scream, will anyone hear me?”
The video was shared widely, despite having no brand affiliation, and hit home with many women. “It’s like you’re in my head,” wrote one woman on the original post. “A powerful and absolutely accurate depiction of what it’s like each and every time. Thank you for bringing these moments to life so that more people finally have an understanding of what we go through.”
It was important to McCloskey Green that she was able to develop this video on her own. “I think that running content, in general, it has gotten so curated that even when we try and have raw conversations about like racial justice and social justice and gender issues, it’s become so polished,” she says.
We spoke with McCloskey Green more about why she decided to create the powerful video and what the reaction has been from men and women.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Women’s Running: Just to start, where did the idea come from?
Laura McCloskey Green: To be honest, this was kind of like the scraps on the cutting room floor. It was something I thought of and produced in a day.
I’m kind of creating a bunch of different films on my own—short films—and they all have to do with running currently, because that is something that I know better than anything else. And so I had all this extra footage of my friends running before dawn and I was like, ‘Well, I don’t want this all to go to waste.’ Some of it was just scouting locations, so I wasn’t planning on using it.
I’ve been a runner since I was 13. I have a million ideas about running and especially being a woman runner. And so this was just one of them that I was like, ‘I wonder if there’s an efficient way, a relatable way to kind of get this message across?’
I never expected it to have kind of the reaction that it did on the internet. But it was also very validating.
I threw it to a couple friends who helped me brainstorm ways to improve it. And then I was done with it within 12 hours.
WR: Where those the same friends that helped you pull together the script?
LMG: For the script, I kind of just threw it out to Instagram a few days earlier. And I was like, ‘As a runner, what things stream through your head regarding safety?’ And that’s where the script mostly came from. I would say it was 80 percent things that I have thought over the years. And then some of those were some new ones, but it’s just wild how consistent it is across the board.
I mean, I put it out there to the world and everything that came back was either similar to one another, or similar to things that I had already written down.
So again, also kind of validating, these thoughts that I’ve had since I was a teenager, and well into my 30s. And it was a larger demographic than I thought. People responding were all across the board: age-wise, different countries, races. So that was also really interesting.
WR: “Look strong” is specifically repeated throughout. Can you talk about that particular phrase?
LMG: That’s a mantra that I’ve actually always had. I am tall and broad, so I think I appear strong to begin with, but I feel like in my head, if I appear stronger and if I appear faster than even how I feel, then I won’t be a target. It’s also like the whole, if you say it enough, you’ll believe it—you’ll actually believe in your own strength, which, of course, is something that we [can] always improve upon. It’s just something that’s always repeated in my head like, ‘Pick up the pace. Get out of the situation.’ If you’re feeling those hairs on the back of your neck stick out, look strong, so that you don’t look like someone that you would want to approach.
It was also an interesting film, because in the end, I was very pleased with it. Most of the [reactions] were like, ‘Wow, this is so relatable’ and ‘I have these thoughts as well.’ And then there were some, mostly from men, that were like, ‘Wow, how can you ever go outside and run if this is how you feel?’
But for me, at least personally, it’s rare that I’m fearful on a run, but I also never lacked awareness. And I think that’s part of being a woman. And I also say that kind of recognizing that for those of additional marginalized identities, these thoughts are likely more magnified and numerous, that this is just my perspective as a white woman.
But I built the stream of thoughts like it’s a running ticker. You always have to check in with your surroundings, especially when you’re in a new place or it’s after sunset. What I hoped wouldn’t come across is that it’s scary out there.
You know, [I want people to] go running outside, because I do run outside every day, often before sunrise. So that’s something I was hoping wouldn’t happen, but I think for the most part, people understood where I was coming from.
WR: What do you think can be done to improve safety for female runners? Or was there anything you learned from people’s reactions about the state of women’s safety?
LMG: We all know the classic things: Send a beacon and potentially have pepper spray, learn how to defend yourself, don’t run with music. We all know those. We’ve read all of those articles. I think that what I kind of gained from this experience and the feedback I got were two things.
One is that the issue is not the women out there running, it’s the people who are attacking them. That’s a bigger issue than I even know how to begin tackling.
But two is the amount of men that responded and that I showed it to, including my husband, that were a little shocked. Like they know that there is a heightened awareness for women just out in the world. But it was interesting watching those reactions and getting those comments from them. And particularly white men, they travel through the world with a certain freedom that everyone else doesn’t. They admitted that they’ve never once had a thought even remotely close to these. That was very interesting to me. It opened up a lot of discussions that I had with my male friends of how can you make the women around you feel safer? The women you run by? How can you present yourself as not a threat? As an ally, as a friend? How can you look out for your fellow female runners?
So in that sense, as opposed to just making another relatable piece of content for women runners, it was really nice to challenge the way that male runners look at women’s safety in general.
WR: The men who reached out to you, did they DM you? There weren’t many male comments on the post itself.
LMG: That was also very interesting. There were very few comments from men in the public eye, they were more private DMs, which is so interesting, right? Why are you having the conversation behind closed doors? I’m happy to have it. But this could be something that other men would benefit from just by witnessing.
WR: Do you think that women should be starting these conversations male runners?
LMG: Yeah, I think it could start with women. It could start with the people you’re closest with, you know, it doesn’t have to be the people in your run group, but maybe just your partner, or your neighbor. I think that’s a good place to start. And then of course, it branches out. I mean, there were a couple men that approached me that asked if they could share it with their running group. And I was so pleased and delighted to share it in any space that people are willing to just enter with an open mind and [talk about it].