Adidas' The Ridiculous Run Campaign Perfectly Sums Up How Society Has Failed Women Runners

In September 2022, kindergarten teacher Eliza Fletcher was abducted and brutally killed in Memphis when she went for an early morning jog. This abhorrent act is not an isolated event, as violence against women in public has remained a problem for years. There are a staggering number of women who have been harassed, assaulted, and even killed during their daily run. One 2022 survey by the Women's Running UK Survey of over 3,000 women joggers found 47% reported being verbally or physically harassed at least once. 

The latest video campaign from Adidas, 'The Ridiculous Run,' highlights this alarming reality, pointing to how society unfairly places the burden of preventing violence on women, rather than on their attacker. Depicting a series of women jogging with a safety entourage, the ad serves as a reminder of how society has failed to address how ridiculous it is that anyone feels unsafe running outdoors at all.

The 'ridiculous' safety precautions women runners must take

In the video for The Ridiculous Run campaign, an entire crew of motorists, bodyguards, and even a horse brigade follows a woman during her run to protect them from harm. At a glance, it seems absurd, but it is not so far from the reality of many women runners. According to a survey by the brand of 9,000 runners in 9 countries, 92% of women feel concerned for their safety while running, with over a third having experienced physical or verbal harassment. And so, women often take extra steps to protect themselves from violence in public, including having their friend track their location or even altering their schedules to not work out at certain times. Many of the respondents to Adidas' survey admit to following these exact measures and more. The Guardian, meanwhile, reports some women have gone as far as carrying a weapon.

Even experts have advised women take extra precautions. Professor of Criminology Laura Dugan told NBC News, "It is probably smart for women to have a certain level of risk aversion while they run because they are vulnerable targets to predators." However, for many runners, continuing to expect women be solely responsible for their protection, rather than educating men on ending violence fails to address the root of the problem. As user @runCLTrun wrote on Twitter, "We don't need to educate women runners on safety. Women know how to be safe. No amount of mace or running in populated areas will fix the underlying issues. Do better."

Getting to the root of the issue

Part of why violence remains a prominent issue is due to a culture of victim blaming. Following the cases like Eliza Fletcher's, the dialogue is often centered on criticizing them for the safety precautions they did not take, such as the time of day they were running, where they were, what they were wearing, whether they were alone, whether they were even wearing headphones. It doesn't check men for their role in perpetuating or condoning violence.

The other issue is there exists a glaring lack of awareness about how dire the situation is. Responding to a news story sharing information about harassment on Twitter, user @CRCliff writes, "As a woman who has been a runner for the better part of 20 years, I can say without hesitation that I think about safety way more than any of my cis male runner friends. It's "startling" that there are people who don't know that this is commonplace for women runners"

Adidas' 'The Ridiculous Run' campaign is one step of many toward advocating for education about the end to victim-blaming and consequently, violence against women. Through the' With Women We Run' initiative, the brand is also encouraging men to take the White Ribbon pledge, to "promise to never commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women." Supported by their allyship toolkit, the initiative encourages learning and self-reflection on how gender inequality has affected the running world.