Safety. (Washington, D.C.)

Full disclosure: I didn’t know Wendy Martinez, and while social media posts and members of the press have reported that she was an NPDC member, I can’t say I ever met her at a workout. I sincerely hope Wendy participated in, and enjoyed November Project at one point. Nonetheless, she was a member of the vibrant running community in DC, and this is a tremendous loss for our city. If you’re having trouble processing this, or want to talk more about feeling safe at workouts, please reach out to Jake, Steve, and myself.

***

Don’t cross the street without looking both ways. Never get in a car with strangers. Don’t eat weird gum you found on the ground.

These are all basic rules and guidelines laid out before us as kids to ensure that we are safe, even when we’re out from the watchful eye of our parents or guardians. (What? Did no one else’s parents have to tell them about the weird gum one?)

***

Tuesday night, I was biking home from happy hour and reconnecting with two friends who were recently engaged. It was around 8pm, and I was taking my usual route straight-up-the-gut on 11th street from downtown to CoHi. This is much later than I’m typically out on a Tuesday (the Wednesday 4:50AM alarm always beckons). As I was coming up toward Rhode Island Avenue I noticed a bunch of police cars, not cruising around, but parked lining the street. As I rolled up the street, having to move onto the sidewalk, two officers began quarantining off the entire block with caution tape, and an unmarked car pulled up in front of me, and three detectives walked out. I wondered what happened, but simply rerouted my trip home and checked Popville once I was there.

Wendy Martinez died Tuesday night. She was stabbed to death on the corner of 11th and P Street NW while she was out running.

I don’t mean to be blunt, but I do absolutely and unapologetically mean to be forceful: A woman was murdered while she was out on a run.

As I dug into police updates, various news pieces, and a few Twitter threads throughout Wednesday, I cannot shake the overwhelming feelings of devastation, sadness, and ultimately anger that this happened in our city.

How dare anyone take away the feeling of comfort to exercise, TO EXERCISE, in our own neighborhood. Running should make us feel strong, and empowered, and for me running around DC has provided a real sense of being one with the city. Sunrise training runs have consistently made me feel like I was experiencing DC in a way that so few people were; that I had a secret, and it was just between the city and me. I regret that naive sense of safety and comfort I had, which I’ll never get back. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop. We have to be aware — and be vigilant — but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anything or anyone stop me, or the people I love, from doing something so fundamental to their health, their well-being and their overall humanity.

Girls are told to run with a group, don’t run in low light, to carry your keys in between your knuckles — remember the precautions we mentioned up top? This is what they morph into when we become adults: how to be safe.

Aside from being angry, reading about Wendy Martinez has made me feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. Guilty that I have a place where I can go and feel safe, November Project, and I don’t know that I’ve shared that sense of safety enough. Steve, Jake, and I would do anything to give people that sense of safety and comfort at workouts, and we need you to communicate with us if that’s not the case.

If you ever feel even remotely unsafe at a workout, I want you to come talk to us. If you’re worried about getting to and from workouts, let’s work together on planning a run or bike pool route. When people feel fundamentally unsafe being outside, that’s an issue, and it’s one I believe November Project can play a role in solving.

To the men reading this: thanks. You are all allies in this work and we need a common understanding of what is going to make women feel safe or unsafe out on a run. Maybe it’s crossing to the other side of the street when you see a woman running towards you. Maybe it’s giving a smile and a “good morning” as you pass by. I don’t have all the answers but I do know this, the DC running community as a whole needs to have each other’s backs. In any way you can, let people know you’re watching out for them. Be a good neighbor.

For the women reading this: it’s ok to be furious, and scared, and maybe even not want to run outside for a bit. But I would encourage you, when you’re ready, to lace up and throw down some miles. We all know that hard-earned feeling of finishing a really strong run or workout. Don’t let anybody stop you from doing that, it’s yours, you own it.

Be safe. Be strong. Keep going.

Much love, DC.

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4 Replies to “Safety. (Washington, D.C.)”

  1. Thank you for this post. It terrifies me that these things happen to such innocent and amazing people. I don’t have much to say but I do appreciate the last paragraph.. Sending love and comfort to DC and her family.

    Lizzie, NP_bal

  2. Initial police reports are suggesting that this stabbing was a “random act” of cruelty as nothing was stolen from Wendy’s body, which is terrible enough, but IT’S NOT FAIR THAT WOMEN CANNOT STEP OUTSIDE CONFIDENT THEY ARE NOT THE DISPROPORTIONATE TARGETS OF RAPE & OTHER HARM. Guys, parents, & future parents, WE HAVE TO DO BETTER: we have to raise our boys to be more thoughtful neighbors, co-workers, teammates, lovers, & (gentle)men & we have to call out our guy-friends for perpetuating or overlooking gender-based violence & misogyny. After all, when we say ‘Just Show Up’, we mean everyone should feel safe enough to be there alongside us.

    – Francisco Javier, NPDC At-Large

  3. Just read this for the first time today, September 17, 2019. I feel sorry for Wendy and her family and her mom. Losing your kid must be the most painful thing ever. I know Maria from NP. Awesome piece written by an awesome human. As a runner in the DC streets for years, I try to be that man that helps the safety of all, including women, since being a dad to a daughter — that actually loves to run like her dad — makes me even more aware. Thanks for writing, Maria. Wendy’s mom, we all cried — and still cry — with you, sister.
    With love to all,
    Tom, November Project DC.

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