Mar 28, 2024

Running Towards Change: The adidas Runners x With Women We Run Journey

adidas Runners and With Women We Run forge a path towards safe and inclusive running
by Stephanie Kotterer STaff

While I don’t consider myself a very regular runner, yet – as my running teammates like to joke – many of my friends are very dedicated to the sport. In fact, a group of my closest female friends are currently training for another half marathon, and their determination and grit to lace up always inspires me. 

It’s then all the more upsetting to hear about the unsettling experiences women all over the world, my friends and myself included, have and continue to face when running. They feel like they’re being followed, receive unwanted comments and sometimes, people even take photos of them unwillingly. These are just a few of the realities many women face when running. We adjust our routes to avoid poorly lit areas, we send our tracking details to friends, and we’ve been known to keep our keys in our hands in case we have to defend ourselves.  

From harsh realities to the caring adidas Runners community 

In response to the concerns raised by our adidas Runners communities around the world on these issues, my predecessor, Rebecca Gough, initiated the With Women We Run movement in March 2022. It was our heartfelt response to the gender-based violence, discrimination, and safety concerns that too many women face in the sporting world and beyond; it’s become a global movement focused on driving allyship and action, centered around the crucial question: How can we make running safe for all? 

In collaboration with the Canadian charity White Ribbon, we've taken strides to raise awareness and build a network of allies dedicated to making sport safe and equal for all. From educational workshops to self-defense classes, we've hosted over 900 activations worldwide across our 73 running communities. Yet, the personal stories, including those of the incredible women in my life, paint the most vivid picture of why this work is so crucial. 

A key element of our work at With Women We Run involves engaging men in the dialogue  

Conversations with male colleagues and runners, time and again, reveal a lack of awareness about the extent of the challenges faced by female runners. I recall an afternoon when my friends and I were sharing stories of our uncomfortable running experiences, and the only man among us was shocked to learn about the lengths we go to sometimes to stay safe. That’s why we need to involve men in these conversations – not only to gain their understanding but to secure their unwavering commitment and support to create lasting change.

Over the past years, we’ve experienced many incredible moments at With Women We Run through the lens of our campaigns. One such campaign was our partnership with the adidas Women’s Business Unit for the UltraBoost Light x With Women We Run campaign in March 2023, which stands out as a major milestone, achieving an almost perfect social sentiment score. And just last November, Anca Burcu, our adidas Runners captain in Bucharest, appeared on local TV to advocate for women’s safety in running, shedding light on the realities of her city and community. Moments like these inspire us and motivate us to continue this important work. 

After all, real societal change is a marathon, not a sprint. 

The journey goes beyond campaigns and activations. It's about our everyday actions, the pledges we make to stand against harassment and violence, and our commitment to creating a supportive and equitable running culture. Little things, like daily conversations, such as the one with our friend who hadn’t known the challenges we face, that inevitably change perspectives. 

With Women We Run is more than a movement; it reflects the world we aspire to create—one where everybody can run freely, embraced by a community that champions safety, equality, and respect. As I continue to run, both as an athlete and an advocate, I carry with me the stories, challenges, and hopes of women worldwide, driven by the belief that together, we can make sport equal for all.