Huntsville woman advocates for runner safety

Huntsville
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Two high-profile murders of female joggers in Texas and Arkansas has some runners on edge. For one local woman, this news hits close to home.

25-year-old Sydney Sutherland and 43-year-old Sarmistha Sen were killed last month while running. The shock of their deaths was felt through running communities across the country, including Fleet Feet owner Suzanne Taylor.

“[As women,] we’re watched more, we’re watched more,” Taylor said.

Taylor has been a runner her entire life.

“I’ve run every distance from 5K to Ultramarathon to Ironman,” she said.

The story of the two slain women hit Taylor close to home. When she was in her 20’s, she was stalked by a Federal Judge who lived nearby. She says she never would have thought someone like that could do something so vile.

“I never thought I would be stalked,” she said. “You think you’re fearless and things won’t happen to you.”

She took the lessons she learned and apply them in her store today. She makes sure her store is fully stocked with personal alarm devices, pepper spray, and she even offers group runs. Staying in a group, she says, is the easiest way to stay safe. The most important rule women need to remember, however, is a simple one:

“You just really have to be careful and be aware of your surroundings,” she said.

In addition to vigilance, Taylor suggests wearing your hair in a bun instead of a ponytail, telling family or friends where and when you’re running, and keeping your routines quiet on social media.

“We do have to be cautious about where we ran or what time we ran or creating some kind of pattern that somebody could try to follow us.”

Taylor was also making a habit to host and post safety videos for runners to learn self-defense with HPD. She plans to host more of those workshops at Fleet Feet post-COVID, as soon as it’s safe to gather in crowds again.

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