After Molly Tibbetts was murdered during a run, one Twitter user wrote a powerful thread about her own experience
In July, 20-year-old Molly Tibbetts was murdered while she was running alone in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. Her story is a tragic, heartbreaking one and speaks volumes about the dangers women face every single day. Alanna Vagianos, a HuffPost reporter, shares her own painful, scary experiences as a female runner in a viral Twitter thread.
Vagianos begins by explaining that running was a form of self-care for her. It made her feel better when she was depressed and was really helpful for her overall mental health.
This is the last place I ran alone & carefree. A thread on Mollie Tibbetts and running alone as a woman. pic.twitter.com/3V3XT28YUI— Alanna Vagianos (@lannadelgrey) August 24, 2018
When I got depressed, instead of smoking a cigarette I would run (err, most of the time). I put my headphones in, spandex shorts & t-shirt on, and I would run circles in a small neighborhood off campus.— Alanna Vagianos (@lannadelgrey) August 24, 2018
It was the best form of self care I knew at the time.— Alanna Vagianos (@lannadelgrey) August 24, 2018
One day, a man tried to break in through her bedroom window while she was napping. When she went to the police, they noted that it was dangerous for her to run the same route every single day.
During my last year at school, I was napping on a Wednesday afternoon (as college kids do) when a man attempted to break into my first-floor bedroom window and climb into bed with me.— Alanna Vagianos (@lannadelgrey) August 24, 2018
The police later asked if I was a runner and if I ran the same route. Of course I did, I’m a creature of habit.— Alanna Vagianos (@lannadelgrey) August 24, 2018
I didn’t realize running the same route could cost me the peace of mind of being able to sleep on a first floor ever again.— Alanna Vagianos (@lannadelgrey) August 24, 2018
After Vagianos graduated from college, she kept running. It made her feel good and fought off bad feelings. One night, while she was living in New York City, someone tried to break into her apartment through the fire escape. It was on the seventh night of her running the same exact route. After that, she never ran alone again.
A few months later I moved to NYC. I had stopped running in the midst of a new job & the stresses of realizing I was, apparently, a full-blown adult. Eventually, my depression returned as it always does. I started running again.— Alanna Vagianos (@lannadelgrey) August 24, 2018
I ran the same route six days in a row. On the seventh night someone tried to break into my second floor apartment bedroom via the fire escape.— Alanna Vagianos (@lannadelgrey) August 24, 2018
I will never know if the break in happened bc some random person thought my window was the easiest to get into or if it’s bc I ran the same route six days in a row. I do know that I never ran alone again.— Alanna Vagianos (@lannadelgrey) August 24, 2018
“The lengths that women have to go to protect themselves from being alone in public spaces is restrictive, exhausting, fucking terrifying,” Vagianos wrote.
She notes that her sister was almost abducted by a group of men while she was out running. A friend’s mom stopped running after dark because her best friend was kidnapped and murdered while on a run.
Yesterday, my friend told me her mom stopped running after dark & bought an elliptical machine after her best friend was kidnapped & murdered while she was on a run.— Alanna Vagianos (@lannadelgrey) August 24, 2018
Tibbetts had every right to run on her own. This is not a commentary on her actions, but a reflection on how the epidemic of violence against women (yes, it's a fucking epidemic) forces women to adapt & let go of things so integral to their well-being.— Alanna Vagianos (@lannadelgrey) August 24, 2018
Her Twitter thread struck a painful, powerful chord with female runners. Hundreds of comments poured in from women who were threatened or made to feel unsafe while they were exercising in public. Many said they no longer feel comfortable running outside, even though it’s an incredibly therapeutic experience for them. The whole thread is beyond heartbreaking.
Once went for late morning run in very safe neighborhood, lots of traffic. Guy in a car followed me the last 1/4 mile. Went into apt bldg (not mine), called cops. Doorman saw car, missed plate. BUT cop asked me to do same route next day. They caught him. I was VERY lucky— MDBurgos (@MDBurgos1) August 24, 2018
I don’t hike since my husband died. l’d go & he’d follow me but allow my space to breathe & think. As a writer l miss those long, comfortable sojourns into nature where l could just zone out, but l can’t wander & zone out now. No one has my back. Thank you for sharing your story.— Therra (@Therra) August 24, 2018
My youngest daughter is 18 and runs and yesterday I held my breath until she got back home. When I was 18 a rapist was attacking women runners on one of my running trails. I stopped running. I’m so exhausted that this is still happening and my fear for my daughters.— Stacy (@myeucatastrophe) August 24, 2018
Not a runner, but I walk. A lot. At least 5 miles most days, and sometimes as much as 12 or more. Never without my big scary dog. I’m a rape survivor, and the walks and the dog keep me from the abyss. We shouldn’t have to be scared. It shouldn’t be like this.— Melanie Streeter (@Mel_Streeter) August 25, 2018
Meanwhile, Vagianos is still living in fear from her past experiences.
“I live on the 29th floor now. I keep a baseball bat by my bed. I still don’t sleep very well,” she concluded her thread. “And I don’t really run anymore.”