After Amanda Richardson was attacked on a workout with her run club, it transformed her relationship with the sport. She’d always imagined violence against women was something that happened, but it had never happened to her. She didn’t envision it occurring while doing something she loved. “The first time it happens you don’t see it coming and realize, in hindsight, how quick it can be,” says Richardson, an organizer with Toronto’s ChixRuntheSix.
At the time of the attack, she was running laps with her crew to celebrate her fortieth birthday. It was horrifying, violent; then, after the police came and she recovered—she finished her laps.
“I couldn’t let that be the thing to stop me from doing what I love,” she says. “I want my kids and community to know that even though these things happen, it can not and should not be an accepted thing.”
This year, nearly two years to the day of her attack, Richardson is organizing Light Up the Dark to celebrate her forty-second birthday and to raise funds for Metrac, a non-profit organization working to end gender-based violence across communities. 23% of women experience physical or sexual violence from a partner or sexual violence from a non-partner. Organizations like Metrac, says Richardson, helps change ideas and policies with a goal of eradicating violence against women and youth.
“We’ve hosted self-defence classes, encouraged our members to carry lights, avoid ponytails, keep friends informed of where they’ll be and avoid dark places, but Metrac provides services for victims and has important conversations with teens,” Richardson says. “We need to change the narrative and promote violence prevention and provide more education with the youth, where it begins.”
Last November, a survey by RunRepeatRun was conducted and 45.85% of women reported being harassed while running. Richardson says she was recently with fifteen female running friends when a leering driver tooted his horn. Meanwhile, a girlfriend of hers was followed by a man in a delivery truck, oblivious to the fact that the car bore his company logo.
When her friend called the company, the man was fired. However, this level of menacing boldness suggests something is wrong.
“It’s scary and prevalent and can show itself in different ways,” says Richardson, also repeating something we’ve heard often about male teammates ogling the women in their group wearing running gear, simply trying to get faster by running with the men who seem to have a different goal in mind. “Sometimes it feels like nothing can change, but with continued education and awareness, we can be so bold as to say: we can change the world.”
Richardson is currently training for the Tokyo Marathon in her quest to fulfill all of the majors. She won’t run trails or at night alone and she gives strangers an exceedingly wide berth, but she’s still running and racing, and organizing great events. On Friday, December 1 at 5pm, she plans to raise awareness about the violence against women and invites the entire running community to join her—while she continues running her laps.
“So much good can be done from running and keeping women active, positive and happy,” she says. “We’re not going to stop running, quiet down or change our message because we know what we’ve already been able to accomplish—and how far we still have to go.”
To follow Amanda Richardson and donate to Metrac or join Light Up the Night, follow the Instagram account @ChixRuntheSix.