Lindsey Swift's open letter to a white van driver who heckled her whilst she was out running (see: http://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/new-runner-harassed-on-first-road-run-keeps-training) has received a lot of media attention over the past week, and rightly so. Lindsey speaks out against an act which is completely disrespectful in any circumstance, not just towards a runner; but anyone choosing to put effort and time into something positive should be encouraged, not abused.
I absolutely hate it when people shout abuse at me when I am out running. Usually it is men in vans or young lads in cars trying to impress their friends, and the majority of the time it will be some direct or indirect reference to what I am wearing, which they can't seem to see is perfectly acceptable running attire. The worst example was when a man shouted I was a 'slut' from his van window, I presume simply for the fact I was wearing running shorts. It was not so much the comment that angered me, but the fact it was in front of many other pedestrians and young children, which made me feel embarrassed. I have also frequently been heckled just walking home from the gym, clearly wearing exercise clothing and carrying a bottle of water, which apparently is still not enough justification to some drivers.
Thankfully I do not take comments like this to heart - why should I feel like I can't wear running shorts? - but it does really anger me, and like Lindsey I fear how comments such as this could really discourage other runners.
On the flip side, I have had some lovely and amusing things said to me whilst I have been out running. Receiving my first 'Run Forest Run' shout from a random car driver really made me smile. Whilst on one particularly long marathon training run I remember an old woman, who could barely walk herself, stopping and asking if she could borrow a bit of my energy, which really gave me the impetus to carry on for however many miles loomed in front of me. These are examples of enouragement though, not abuse.
What I hope is that the publicity Lindsey's letter has received will help runner's who do receive abuse to be able to ignore it. I would also love it if her letter made people think twice before shouting something, and act more respectfully.