We love this app. We’re paying subscribers for this app, but is it time to part ways?
It’s been a slow crawl back from the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Boise running community is starting to get some of its favorite personal races back. Last year, the Treasure Valley YMCA held a fall edition of the famous Idaho Potato Marathon before conducting the Christmas run virtually due to a new wave of COVID. Nampa’s Harvest Classic, the Boise Marathon and the Turkey Day 5K were also held in person.
This fall, St. Luke’s FitOne, SueB 5K/10K, City of Trees Marathon, Zeitgeist Half Marathon, and YMCA Christmas Run are returning in person for the first time since 2019. With so many fun races to look forward to, it’s no surprise more and more people are taking to the roads, trails and the Greenbelt!
Again, I don’t usually write in the first person due to incredibly nasty internet trolls, but as a seven-time marathoner, I can speak about this with some authority. Those training runs should be something to look forward to and a reason to break away from the typical stresses of everyday life. But for many runners in Treasure Valley? Right now we feel uncomfortable or even scared to go out and run the distances we have run dozens of times.
Much of this has to do with the death of Eliza Fletcher, a Tennessee mother and teacher who was kidnapped and killed earlier this month while on her morning run. So many of us can relate to Eliza’s story. Training for a race requires not only toughness, but also balance. When you have a job and kids, sometimes all you have to do is exercise in the early hours, like Eliza did. It’s doable with a headlamp, reflective clothing, a lighted vest, and a cell phone in case you need it. In a perfect world, this is the only gear women should need to stay safe on a pre-dawn run.
But more and more women wear pepper spray, self-defense rings or tasers when running. My husband has expressed a desire for me to carry pepper spray and the truth is the more stuff I have to carry while running, the less fun it is. Women shouldn’t lose the joy of running when they have to think through so many safety precautions, but that’s our reality. A 2019 Runner’s World Magazine opinion poll showed that 84% of women were so annoyed while running that they felt unsafe. Their findings included “physical acts such as groping or being followed or flashing, as well as more subtle forms such as whistles, honks and lewd comments.”
While I’ve experienced a few shouts and honks, I’ve never experienced anything in Boise that made me unsafe to run, but meeting another Idaho runner did. Last week, Samantha Macintyre’s daily vlog on TikTok quickly became known after it revealed she was being followed by a man who was acting suspiciously in a vehicle she didn’t recognize. Macintyre has been sharing workout updates on the social media network as she prepares for the Uintah The Better Half Marathon.
The fact that she was followed after being so open and public with her training got some of my fellow runners reconsidering whether we should use Strava. The fitness app has some features that we love. If you run a route more than once, a list of your times is kept to show you how your effort is improving. Your followers can give you praise and leave you positive comments for a job well done. These are great tools for staying motivated.
What’s not great? The fact that if you’re not familiar with Strava’s privacy settings, they show everyone in the app a map of where you ran. If you run close to home or have a track that you run regularly, it wouldn’t be hard for someone to see exactly where that is and get a sense of your daily schedule/when you’re likely to be there.
Strava’s privacy settings allow you to customize who can see the maps (everyone, your followers, or just you) and hide visibility around specific addresses like your home or office. However, these are not the default settings. When you sign up for an account, your profile and activities are automatically set to Everyone. While you’re set to Everyone, anyone can follow you without you having to consent. That means if you change your settings to follow, people you may not know can still follow your account. You would have to remove these people one by one.
While the privacy settings are a bit dodgy, Strava tries to protect its users. It has a feature called “Beacon” that generates and sends a URL via SMS that can display three security contacts that you choose in real time.
So should you delete Strava? Now that you have all the information, you can make your own decision. At the very least, it might be time to check out the privacy settings if you haven’t looked at them for a while.
While I personally find the places where I run in Boise relatively safe, stories like Fletcher and Macintyre bother me enough to seriously consider taking a break. My fitness watch has a similar security feature to Beacon, plus event detection that texts my emergency contacts if the sensors in the watch detect that something like a fall has occurred. That’s good enough for me.
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