Abigayle Allen, Opinion Editor

“Look at you, you’re too pretty to be running that hard.”

 It was the tone of his voice and the way that he looked at me as he said it. Although I was completely clothed, I felt naked against his intense stare. 

 This is just one account of the numerous comments I receive during my daily runs. As an avid runner, I am always very conscious of my surroundings but with each lewd remark, I feel helpless against the leering eyes of those around me. 

 After most of my runs, I find myself in tears or breathless to my own fear of the “what if’s” that plagues me while I am out alone. I cannot help but think this is what Eliza Fletcher felt on the early morning of Sept. 2. 

Eliza Fletcher was a 34-year-old Kindergarten teacher and mother of two that left home at 4:20 a.m. on Sept. 2 for her ritual 8.2-mile run. She was seen wearing a pink tank top and purple shorts for this run that she would never finish. 

Fletcher should have returned  home to her children and husband to get ready for work. Instead, police say she was kidnapped and killed by a 38-year-old Memphis man. According to the Washington Post, her  body was discovered roughly 5 miles from the University of Memphis with her purple shorts found in a trash bag just a quarter mile away. 

When I’m running, I feel powerful. It’s a time for myself where I can feel invincible. It’s my therapy. And for somebody to threaten that, for all of us, it is just so unfair.” (katie Robinson, Colorado, resident organizing a run in honor of Eliza Fletcher)

Eliza Fletcher, marathon runner, kindergarten teacher, mother of 2, and wife to Richard Fletcher, should have been able to finish her run.

Laura Smither should have finished her run in Texas in 1997. And Chaundra Levy, who disappeared in Washington D.C. in 2001. And Ally Brueger, who was found shot and killed in the Detroit area in 2017. And Karina Vetrano, whose family found her half naked body after she did not return home from a run in Queens, New York in 2016. And Mollie Tibbetts, who was found stabbed to death after a failed rape attempt in Iowa in 2018. 

Women, like myself, use running as an outlet to escape, to feel strong and healthy, to feel like ourselves.Because of these deaths plaguing this sacred time for us, the death of Eliza Fletcher has hit home hard. 

We have all come to the realization that any one of us could have been Eliza Fletcher. 

On the morning of Sept. 9, thousands of women from all over the country gathered to “Finish Liza’s run” because she was not able to. This was a way to honor her life and raise awareness that women should be allotted the right to safely run alone in their communities. 

This event started in Memphis on Eliza’s 8.2-mile path at 4:20 a.m., the last time she was seen alive. However, Fletcher’s run was not just held in Memphis, it spread across the country with over 20 groups gathered to celebrate the life and run that ended too soon. 

In a way, a lot of women that were there relate to her story, looking back, that is the most emotional part for me, as a woman. We do have to watch our backs, and my head is on a swivel. It is just a terrible feeling.” said  Catie Grusin, attendee for Eliza’s cause in Memphis Sept. 9

The Colorado State University lacrosse team tweeted: ‘Enough is enough! Tired of the “why is she running alone?” “Why is she running so early.” Men do not have have to worry. We run for Eliza Fletcher.’

Like many women who gathered on this day, and continue gathering to celebrate Eliza’s life, running has made me feel strong, empowered, more myself than ever. This feeling can be stripped away all too soon with one leer comment, a threatening bystander, and news of women being targeted during their runs.

No woman should ever have to be fearful of what makes them feel more alive. No person should be catcalled, attacked, kidnapped, or murdered during a run. No one should forget Eliza Fletcher and the run she was never able to finish.