US Trail Running Conference Webinar Shares Best Practices to End Sexual Harassment and Assault in Trail Running

Runners Equity Alliance speakers offer suggestions for community action 

The third webinar in a seven-webinar series produced by the US Trail Running Conference and presented by Marathon Printing, the leading producer of custom printed items for endurance sports, was live on Tuesday, March 29. The session subject for this session: Empowering the Trail & Ultrarunning Communities to End Sexual Harassment & Assault , was sponsored by  Salomon. The webinar series is held in partnership with the American Trail Running Association.

This webinar’s content featured members from the Runners Equity Alliance sharing findings from a research study on sexual assault & harassment (SHSA) in the trail & ultrarunning communities, suggestions for community action and ways to get involved, as well as best practices and codes of conduct for racing. Panelists from the Runners Equity Alliance were Jody Sanborn, Dr. Christy Teranishi Martinez, and Crista Tappan.

Crista Tappan opened by sharing the work that the Runners Equity Alliance have been covering over the last two years. “The initial goal was to assess the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault within the running community, and then from there to foster awareness of this, and the inequities within our communities.” Also the initiative sought to increase communication and networking for alliances, and to create a safe space for runners.

Tappan added, “One of our big goals is to have a positive influence on the culture of the running and racing communities. Lastly, and this has been our North Star, to develop a code of conduct for race directors….we are excited to piece things together and are really excited to share with you what we have.” Tappan also shared the demographic data from their research study that illustrated a worldwide sample, with 17 countries represented as well as the United States.

Dr. Christy Teranishi Martinez spoke about their analysis of the data from their research study. “We have all either experienced first-hand sexual harassment or sexual assault, or know someone that has. It’s completely normal to feel whatever you are feeling when you are examining these statistics that I am about to share with you. “ Out of 1502 participants, 909 (61%) reported they had experienced SHSA while running; 517 (34%)  stated they did not experience SHSA while running, and 72 (5%) were unsure. The data illustrates that sexual harassment and or sexual assault “are highly prevalent in our community.”

Martinez explained that sexual harassment or sexual assault is highest among females with 70% of women reporting that they had experienced sexual harassment or assault while running. Conversely, only 17% of men reported experiencing SHSA. The transgender, non-binary or gender fluid group also reported higher levels of experiencing SHSA at 61%. The data also provided a breakdown of reported types of SHSA incidents, from catcalls, to rape or intended rape. Female and transgender respondents reported significantly higher than males across the full spectrum of incidents, with catcalls, unwanted verbal sexual advances and stalking reporting the highest incidence for these groups.

Martinez concluded by sharing key research takeaways. “Women experienced SHSA significantly more than men and transgender, non-binary and gender-fluid, while transgender, non-binary and gender-fluid experienced more than men. Findings are consistent with National SHSA statistics, where 1 in 2 women experience sexual harassment, and 1 in 3 have been sexually assaulted. It is also important to listen to survivors’ stories to understand the way they develop meaning and define their experiences of SHSA. Those experiencing more incidents said they are less likely to run, and have changed the way they run, and stressed the need for a code of conduct put in place in the running community.”

The presentation continued with Jody Sanborn. “Christy shared the enormity of the situation, and now I get to talk to you about what we can do about it. All this bad stuff is happening, and what are we going to do about it….As you saw from the intro I am from the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. I do this work every day, I am the Director of Prevention for the State of Wyoming for all things violence related, and I am also an ultrarunner, I am an avid trail runner. If you’re familiar with the Bighorn 100, that’s my hometown race.  So this is something that I care deeply about, and I am very happy to be here and talk about what we can do as runners, racers, as race directors, and outdoor industry leaders, to address this issue. The time for change is now, there is no better time than now to address this issue….It’s time for us to look at how we can change the overall culture in trail and ultra running so that we can create these safe spaces for individuals to come to the trails, to come to races, and to not have to worry about their safety, or if something does happen to them that whether or not they will be believed.”

Sanborn added, “Sport has incredible social capital….as races and race organizations, we connect runners to the larger community – we know that we can be a positive influence for change and set standards of behavior, for how we want to come to these spaces, how we want to interact with each other in these spaces, that can have a ripple effect out into other areas. That can influence other outdoor sports, that can…..By using our platform to join together around a shared vision, we can be leaders to prevent and put an end to SHSA.”

Sanborn shared that research has shown that SHSA is rooted in inequities, and proposed three pillars that will help transform our trail and ultrarunning communities to be more equitable so we can see decreases in rates of violence:

  1. Believe and support survivors
  2. Be an agent of change
  3. Create a culture of respect

Sanborn proposed four best practices that the trail and ultrarunning community can introduce to create safe and respectful environments for runners. The first is to establish standards for behavior that includes a code of conduct, and a waiver within the registration flow that also links to that code of conduct. This can make it clear that races “will not tolerate acts of harassment towards other racers, towards volunteers, race staff etc.” The second is to model standards of behavior, “as race directors, as athletes, as outdoor industry brands and leaders, you have the opportunity to be a leader and to set forth the types of expectations that you have for everyone that participates in your event, and model those behaviors.” There should not be any exceptions allowed, so we believe and support those that have been experiencing harm, and may have also changed their running behaviors as a result. It is also important to eliminate discriminatory and harassing behaviors and materials from any marketing for a race, event, or brand.

The third best practice is to establish a written policy specific to sexual harassment and sexual assault, that would detail a zero-tolerance policy to SHSA at a race or event. Race participants can also consider only participating in events that have zero-tolerance policies on sexual assault and harassment. The fourth and final best practice is to believe victims and survivors and provide resources to help support them. Sanborn closed by sharing an inspirational quote from RALIANCE: Ending Sexual Violence in One Generation:

“…sport culture and systems influence broader society, the standards and expectations of acceptable behaviors, attitudes and beliefs of individuals in sport and of sport organizations can shift the way society views, responds to, and works together to end sexual and domestic violence.”

Crista Tappan gave credit to everyone who contributed to the research initiative, including those that took part in the survey itself. She also added that the analysis of the research study is “only just the beginning of sharing their findings, We really hope to look at ethnicity and other demographics to fully understand the intersectionality that plays into this topic.”

Each webinar is presented by industry leaders in their respective fields, and offers 
information that can boost a race director’s knowledge and afford insight into innovative practices to implement at their events. Every participant receives a slide deck with step-by-step information that includes best practices from the expert presenters. There will also be an opportunity to follow up on deliverables in-person at the 2022 US Trail Running Conference to be held October 19-22, in 
Mukilteo, Washington.

The next webinar is titled: Sustainability – Latest Innovations on Producing Green Races, and takes place on Thursday April 21, 2022, at 11.00 a, to 12.00 pm MST. Panelists include Bruce Rayner – Athletes for a Fit Planet, Celia Santi – GU Energy & Chris Zair – Trees not Tees. Who is this for? Race directors and event organizers who are interested in taking actions to make the sport greener for the planet. Registration is free – see https://ustrailrunningconference.com/webinar-series/ for more details.

Active at Altitude, organizers of the US Trail Running Conference and the webinar series, reported participants representing more than 22 states, as well as Canada, North Macedonia, Great Britain, and New Zealand.

More info:

For details on the US Trail Running Conference and the webinar series, go to https://ustrailrunningconference.com/webinar-series/

Contact Event Director, Terry Chiplin for further information, terry@ustrailrunningconference.com, or 303-304-9159

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