We love this app. We’re paying subscribers for this app, but is it time to go our separate ways?
It’s been a slow crawl back from the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Boise running community is starting to get back some of their favorite in-person races. Last year, the Treasure Valley YMCA did a fall edition of the Famous Idaho Potato Marathon before taking the Christmas Run virtual because of a new wave of COVID. Nampa’s Harvest Classic, the Boise Marathon and the Turkey Day 5K took place in person too.
This fall, St. Luke’s FitOne, SueB 5K/10K, City of Trees Marathon, Zeitgeist Half Marathon and YMCA Christmas Run are back in person for the first time since 2019. With so many fun races to look forward to, it’s no surprise that more and more people are hitting the roads, trails and Greenbelt!
Again, I typically don’t write in the first person because of incredibly nasty internet trolls, but as a seven-time marathoner, this is something I can speak on with some authority. Those training runs should be something to look forward to and a reason to unplug from the typical stresses of your day-to-day routine. But for many female runners in the Treasure Valley? Right now, we’re feeling uneasy or even scared to go out and run the routes we’ve run dozens of times.
A lot of that has to do with the death of Eliza Fletcher, a Tennessee mom and teacher, who was kidnapped and killed during her morning run earlier this month. So many of us can identify with Eliza’s story. Training for a race doesn’t just take toughness, it takes balance. When you’ve got a job and kids, sometimes the only time you have to train is in those early morning hours, like Eliza did. With a headlamp, reflective clothing, an illuminated vest and a cell phone just in case you need it, it’s doable. In a perfect world, that’s the only gear women SHOULD need to stay safe on a pre-dawn run.
But more and more women are starting to carry pepper spray, self-defense rings or tasers while they run. My husband has expressed his desire for me to carry pepper spray and the truth is, the more things I have to carry while I’m running, the less fun it becomes. Women shouldn’t have the joy sucked out of a run by having to think through so many safety precautions, but it’s our reality. A 2019 Runner’s World Magazine survey showed that 84% of women have been harassed to the point of feeling unsafe during a run. Their findings included “physical actions like groping, or being followed or flashed, as well as subtler forms like catcalls, honks, and lewd comments.”
While I’ve experienced my fair share of catcalls and horn honks, I’ve never experienced something in Boise that made me feel unsafe while running but another Idaho runner’s encounter has. Last week, Samantha Macintyre’s daily run vlog on TikTok went viral after it showed her being followed by a man acting suspiciously in a vehicle that she didn’t know. Macintyre has been sharing training updates on the social media network during her build-up for the Uintah “The Better Half Marathon.”
The fact that she was being followed after being so open and public with her training has some of my fellow female runner friends reconsidering if we should be using Strava. The fitness app has some features we love. If you run a route more than once, it will keep a list of your times to show you how your efforts are improving. Your followers can give you “kudos” and leave you positive comments for a job well done. Those are great tools for staying motivated.
What’s not great? The fact that if you’re unfamiliar with Strava’s privacy settings, they’re showing anyone on the app a map of where you ran. If you run close to your home or have a route you run on a regular basis, it wouldn’t be hard for someone to see exactly where that is and get a feel for your daily routine/when you’re likely to be there.
Strava’s privacy settings do allow you to adjust who can see the maps (everyone, your followers or just you) and hide visibility around specific addresses, like your home or office. However, those aren’t the default settings. When you sign up for an account, your profile and activities are automatically set to “everyone.” While set to "everyone," anyone can start to follow you without your having to approve them. That means if you change your settings to “followers” people you may not know could still be following your account. You’d have to remove those people one by one.
While the privacy settings are a little shady, Strava does try to protect its users. It has a feature called “Beacon” that will generate and text a URL that can show three safety contacts that you choose your real-time location.
So, should you delete Strava? Now that you have all the information, you can make your own decision. At the very least, it could be time for a privacy settings check-up if you haven't looked at them in a while.
Personally, even though I find the places I run in Boise to be relatively safe, stories like Fletcher’s and Macintyre’s make me uneasy enough that I’m seriously considering a break. My fitness watch has a similar safety feature to “Beacon” as well as incident detection, which will text my emergency contacts if the sensors in the watch determine that something like a fall has occurred. That's good enough for me.