On Tuesday, a New York, woman failed to return from her jog on a trail through a marshy area near her home. Hours later, she was found dead, beaten, raped and strangled. On Sunday, a woman jogging through the woods near her parents' Massachusetts home met the same tragic fate.
Massachusetts authorities havent ruled that the deaths of Karina Vetrano, 30, of Howard Beach in Queens, and Vanessa Marcotte, 27, who was visitting her family in Princeton, Massachusetts, are related, but New York investigators told the New York Times that they do not believe they are.
Still, both tragedies have affected running communities in those areas and beyond.
In Massachusetts, Stephen Laska, president of the Central Mass Striders running organization, has been fielding concerns around runners safety in the recent days.
“All runners are always concerned about safety, whether getting lost, getting hit, or having some sort of health emergency,” Laska said. “Obviously, the dynamic has changed now that this horrible thing has happened, and happened so close to home."
The Central Mass Striders have about 700 runners in total, and Laska said that women make up half of that number. Online, runners talk about the need to be aware of their surroundings, to carry a phone, and to keep their music at a low volume or to listen with only one earbud in.
“The other part of the discussion that’s become more heated and controversial is ‘Should women be carrying defensive equipment when out on their runs?’” Laska said. Runners have brought up the idea of carrying everything from mace to devices intended to scratch attackers and collect DNA.”
Within the Alley Pond Striders, a running group in Queens, people are emphasizing safety along with running in memory of the victims. Two women organized a “Run for Karina” through Forest Park on Saturday.
“I am glad someone is doing this,” Maria Torres commented on the event. “I was going to run in her honor as well as the new victim.”
“Thank you for organizing this run,” Edina Leiher commented. “I wanted to show my support and did not know what would be the best way to do it. This is it.”
Though Philadelphia hasn’t been as recently affected, running safety is still a concern there. The Philly Runners group advises their athletes to take a self defense class and hosts a message board where residents can find running buddies.
Zach Fishoff, an employee at Philadelphia Running, a running equipment store, said that his girlfriend has changed her exercise habits in light of the recent attacks.
“She started running inside now, just this week, because she heard what happened,” he said.
At the store, Fishoff said he often sells runners pepper spray and, as the fall comes and it gets darker sooner, running lights.
“There’s only so much you can do,” Fishoff said. “You have to stay safe and smart.”