Amanda Richardson had big fortieth birthday plans: forty laps with her run crew near her home in Toronto on the track near her house to begin her day. However, her morning run was disrupted when a man approached, early in the morning onto the track, and smacked her in the face as she ran. The man retreated into nearby bushes before the police arrived and Richardson, wiping the blood from her nose, continued her laps to finish celebrating her birthday. Richardson spoke to iRun’s Ben Kaplan about her ordeal, and how she’s using her experience as a teachable moment.
iRun: What happened on the morning of your fortieth birthday?
Amanda Richardson: My husband took me down to the track to meet the girls. He stayed until it was light out and then left for five minutes to go get our boys. My group were all wearing bright lights and the track was busy—there were people walking their dogs, we were doing all the things.
iRun: And then what happened?
AR: We get to the track, it’s 6am. We begin running around the track in our bright colours and ticking off the laps. At around 7, halfway through, the sun started to come up and there’s this beautiful purple and pink sky, so my husband is going to leave to go get the kids, they were just up the street.
iRun: So he takes off and the group keeps running as the sun comes up over the track.
AR: And the group has sort of split up into smaller groups, and the faster girls in the front noticed a guy sort of coming towards the track. We assumed, from a distance, he was a runner coming to join us. All throughout the morning people came and went. So when they saw this other person, we figured he was coming to say hello.
iRun: Which clearly he wasn’t.
AR: He wasn’t. This person came and stood on the track and from a distance, he seemed to be dressed like everyone else: a hat, jacket. Well, from 100-metres I saw this person in the middle of the track and as I got closer, I was trying to make out who it was. I got close, within a few feet, and realized I couldn’t quite tell who he was and then he just moved towards us and opened hand straight armed hit me straight across the face.
iRun: Oh my God, a runner’s worst nightmare.
AR: He was mumbling and literally swiped me with an open hand and hit me straight across the face. He didn’t say anything specific or anything that made any sense. He wasn’t loud or aggressive and then as quickly as he was there and put his hand on my face, I turned away and the girls all faced me to see if I was OK. He went off in the bushes and the girls all called the police.
iRun: He ran away?
AR: He just went off into the bushes. A girl took off in his direction to see where he went and we looked north and south, but he just disappeared back into nowhere.
iRun: Were you OK?
AR: He slapped me across the face to the point that it stopped me and turned my head. I don’t think I’ve ever been hit in the face before and I knew that my nose was bleeding, and my face was hot and tingling. But the main feeling was that I was so mad. How could this person come into my space and think he can stop me doing what I was doing?
iRun: It’s scary.
AR: I had a bleeding nose, but my teeth were all there and I didn’t want to stop. I wasn’t going to go to the hospital and I was in shock but I wanted completion. I walked the rest of that lap, maybe 100 metres, and then picked back up my run. I had no intention whatsoever of not finishing.
iRun: I just find that extraordinary. So many times runners find excuses to quit and you had a bonafide excuse and defied circumstances out of your control.
AR: It made me incensed. Like, no way I’m stopping. I’ll finish this 100% despite you doing that to me. I’ll finish so any runner, any person anywhere, knows that if they want to do something in a public space that’s normal and positive and acceptable behavior, will not be stopped by someone else. No way.
iRun: Do we know anything about who this guy was?
AR: It seems like someone mentally unwell. It wasn’t a robbery and he didn’t seem under the influence. He didn’t seem to be uneasy on his feet or malicious in the sense that he was there to hurt me. He just took one swipe and then walked away back into his own world. It didn’t seem motivated by anything except what was happening in his head.
iRun: It could have been so much worse.
AR: The truth is that he’s in a much worse spot than I am.
iRun: A fortieth birthday you clearly won’t soon forget.
AR: None of us will forget it. I had all these women come down to the track, in the cold and the dark, and one of my girlfriends brought 40 balloons to tie around my waist, and it was just a great way to start the day. I’m glad no one else got hurt.
iRun: Tell me about how you picked back up your run.
AR: I was going to finish the run because, for me, it was about the support, love and friendship of the community of people I surround myself with, my running community. And it was a testament to courage and feeling tired and sick of feeling targeted, as a woman, and I just started running again and it brought front and centre about all the bullshit we have to go through that needs to be changed.
iRun: Are there takeaways from your ordeal that you can share?
AR: Be careful. Take other people with you. Run where its light and there’s other people. But don’t be afraid. Be smart. But not scared.
iRun: And that’s what went through your mind as you began taking down those last 20 laps?
AR: I was processing it. My teeth were still there. My nose wasn’t broken. I was just going to keep running. How dare this person do this to me, no way.
iRun: Where do you go from here?
AR: Our running group is called ChixRunthe6ix and it’s open to everybody and this Sunday at 6pm we’re hosting a Take Back the Track friendship run for our whole community. People can log on virtually or come join us at Riverdale Park East, which is where all of this began.
iRun: Good for you. Reframe a negative experience as an experience to be empowered.
AR: Our running community started with a group of friends during the pandemic, just to make running accessible to all women. And now we’re all about 100% reenforcing that women can and should run, and we’re reaching out to everyone, everywhere, and telling them: run with us, join in, do something for yourself and others, let’s all be part of positive change.
iRun: A great story with a great ending, thanks so much for your time.
AR: I’m fine, but maybe the next person won’t be. And we have to say, ‘No, this is bullshit.’ We all need to be part of the story. We all need to run for change.
To learn more about #TakeBacktheTrack, please follow @chixrunthe6ix on Instagram.