The story behind the viral women’s safety video

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On February 28, Laura McCloskey Green, physical therapist and freelance content creator, posted a video she made on his social networks. Maybe you’ve seen it, it’s been viewed over 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. As they run, their thoughts are read aloud.

“Is it a person or an animal? is the first. “Is he following me?” Or are these my own steps? comes later.

Underlined by the sound of a beating heart, the thoughts quicken, become more intrusive and begin to overlap. “If I scream, will anyone hear me?”

The video was widely shared, despite having no brand affiliation, and reached many women. “It’s like you’re on my mind,” one woman wrote on the original post. “A powerful and absolutely accurate depiction of what it’s like every time. Thank you for bringing these moments to life so more people finally understand what we’re going through.

It was important to McCloskey Green that she could develop this video on her own. “I think running content, in general, has become so curated that even when we’re trying to have raw conversations about racial justice, social justice, and gender issues, it’s become so refined “, she says.

We spoke with McCloskey Green about why she decided to create the powerful video and how the men and women reacted.

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, it was kind of like leftovers on the cutting room floor. It’s something I thought of and produced in a day.

I’m creating a bunch of different films on my own – short films – and they all have to do with running right now, because that’s something I know better than anything else. And so I had all these extra images of my friends running around before dawn and I was like, ‘Well, I don’t want this all to be ruined.’ Some of them were just scouting spots so I had no intention of using it.

I have been running since I was 13. I have a million ideas about running and especially about being a female runner. And so that was just one of them that I was like, ‘I wonder if there’s an effective way, a relatable way to get this message across?’

I didn’t expect him to have the kind of reaction he did on the internet. But it was also very rewarding.

I threw it to a few friends who helped me think of ways to improve it. And then I was done with that in 12 hours.

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WR: Where are the same friends who helped you put the script together?

LMG: For the script, I kind of threw it on Instagram a few days earlier. And I was like, ‘As a runner, what goes through your mind about safety?’ And that’s where the script mainly comes from. I would say that was 80% of the things I thought of over the years. And then some of them were new, but it’s crazy how consistent it is across the board.

I mean, I birthed it and everything that came back was either similar to each other or similar to things I had already written.

So again, also kind of validating, these thoughts that I’ve had since I was a teenager, well into my thirties. And it was a bigger demographic than I thought. People who responded were from all walks of life: age, country, race. So that was also very interesting.

WR: “Look strong” is specifically repeated throughout. Can you talk about this particular sentence?

LMG: It’s a mantra I’ve always had. I’m tall and broad, so I think I look strong initially, but I feel like in my head, if I look stronger and appear faster than this I feel, then I won’t be a target. It’s also like overall, if you say it enough, you’ll believe it – you’ll actually believe in your own strength, which, of course, is something we [can] always improve. It’s just something that keeps repeating in my head like, ‘Pick up the pace. Get out of the situation. If you feel those hairs on the back of your neck standing up, look strong so you don’t look like someone you want to approach.

It was also an interesting film, because in the end, I was very happy with it. Most [reactions] were like, ‘Wow, that’s so relatable’ and ‘I have those thoughts too.’ And then there were some, mostly men, who were like, ‘Wow, how can you go out and run if that’s how you feel?’

But for me, at least personally, it’s rare that I get scared while running, but I’ve never lacked awareness either. And I think that’s part of being a woman. And I also say that kind of acknowledgment that for those who have additional marginalized identities, those thoughts are probably more magnified and numerous, than just my perspective as a white woman.

But I built the stream of thoughts like it was a ticker. You should always check your surroundings, especially when you are in a new place or after sunset. What I was hoping not to encounter is that it’s scary there.

You know, [I want people to] go for a run outside, because I run outside every day, often before sunrise. So that’s something I hoped wouldn’t happen, but I think for the most part people understood where I was coming from.

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WR: In your opinion, what can be done to improve the safety of female runners? Or is there something you learned from people’s reactions to the state of women’s safety?

LMG: We all know the classic stuff: send a beacon and potentially pepper spray, learn to defend yourself, don’t run with music. We all know them. We have read all of these articles. I think what I kind of took away from that experience and the feedback I received were two things.

The first is that the problem is not the women running, it’s the people attacking them. It’s a bigger problem that I don’t even know how to begin to address.

But two is the number of men who responded and I showed it to, including my husband, who were a bit shocked. As if they know there is a heightened awareness for fair women in the world. But it was interesting to watch those reactions and get those comments from them. And especially white men, they travel the world with a certain freedom that not everyone has. They admitted that they had never had a single thought close to these. It was very interesting for me. This opened up many discussions I had with my male friends about how you can make the women around you feel safer? The women you lead? How can you present yourself as not being a threat? As an ally, as a friend? How can you pay attention to your fellow runners?

So in that sense, instead of just creating other relevant content for female runners, it was really good to challenge the way male runners view female safety in general.

WR: Did the men who contacted you send you a DM? There weren’t many male comments on the post itself.

LMG: It was also very interesting. There were very few comments from men in the public eye, they were more like private DMs, which is so interesting, right? Why are you having the conversation behind closed doors? I’m happy to have it. But it could be something that other men would benefit from just by witnessing it.

WR: Do you think women should start these conversations of male runners?

LMG: Yeah, I think it could start with women. It could start with the people you are closest with, you know, it doesn’t have to be the people in your running group, but maybe just your partner or your neighbor. I think that’s a good starting point. And then of course, it branches out. I mean, there were a few men who approached me and asked if they could share it with their running group. And I was so happy and thrilled to share it in any space people are willing to walk into with an open mind and [talk about it].

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Mara R. Wilmoth