Breaking News
More () »

'I have to constantly be on the lookout': Female runners talk about reality they face every day

After a Memphis marathoner was murdered on a run, some on social media tried to blame her for running alone before dawn.

DALLAS — Natalie Merrill gets a little jealous when she sees men running with earbuds.

“I can’t run in headphones,” she said. “I need to make sure I hear everything around me.”

In her right hand, she carries mace.

In her left, she carries a pouch with a small knife.

“It’s sad that I have to constantly do that, that I have to think about that. I have to be constantly on the lookout,” she said.

Merrill considers running an escape.

But even when she runs, her mind has to stay focused.

It’s a different story for Kevin Roberts.

“I think nothing about getting up at 4 or 5 in the morning. I don’t have to carry mace. I don't have to think about what I’m wearing. I just take off and go run,” he said.

Roberts is one of the leaders of the White Rock Running Co-Op, a Dallas-based running group.

Credit: WFAA
Members of White Rock Running Co-Op before their weekly run.

Merrill is a member.

So are dozens of women who watched coverage of Eliza Fletcher’s abduction and murder in horror.

Fletcher was kidnapped while she was on a 4:30 a.m. run in Memphis, Tennessee.

A 38-year-old man is charged in the case. Police believe it was a random attack.

But on social media, some people have blamed Fletcher – questioning her for being out on a run alone before dawn wearing a running bra with no shirt over it.

The comments have angered a lot of runners – especially female runners.

“In 2015 I had a gun pulled on me when I was running and one of the first things people said to me was, 'why were you running so early alone?'” Merrill said. “She was just doing something she loved.”

Roberts agreed.

“They’re talking about what hours she was running, what she was wearing. It’s crazy,” he said.

Fletcher graduated from Baylor University in Waco.

Conrad Vickroy is a runner who has been teaching self-defense classes to female runners for 20 years.

He wants those who take his class to come away knowing a few martial arts moves, but he said it’s more about empowering women.

“We are not teaching you to become fighters, we are teaching you to remain runners,” Vickroy said.

He preaches awareness, telling women to know their surroundings, have an escape planned, always run with a phone and never run with headphones.

“We want to give them all those pointers, but we also want to recognize the fact that it’s always the attacker’s fault, it’s not the runner’s fault,” he said.

Female runners face a difficult reality, but still they run.

And for that, they should never be shamed.

“We should be able to do that without having to worry every morning,” Merrill said.

Before You Leave, Check This Out