Long distance runner Salina Scott is dedicating her run in this year’s TT International Marathon (TTIM) to awareness about the fight against violence against women and girls. Using social media, she has invited those interested in her cause to join her virtually as she runs on January 24.
Scott decided to champion the move to stop violence because of her experiences while training for long distance running in the early morning and at night, since she works an eight to four job.
“I’ve had a couple of experiences where men came out of nowhere. I’ve not been physically attacked but there have been sexual harassments made, and it’s happened to me more than once. I spoke to a couple of my other running colleagues as well and it has also happened to them. There’s a trend in TT where men take any opportunity to harass a woman instead of letting them pass, and I find that’s totally wrong.”
The reports of domestic violence cases in 2020, as well as the murder of 18-year-old Ashanti Riley, also motivated her to highlight the problem.
“In September, I was running around the (Queen’s Park) Savannah and there was a guy there who was playing with himself while I was stretching. He came out of nowhere at 5 am and I was shaken. I made a police report and the police know about him but he’s never been caught, and I’m not sure why. A woman contacted me to say he’d slapped her daughter’s bottom, and I’m wondering if we’re waiting for him to escalate further and attack someone before something is done.
“I made a Facebook post to highlight the incident because there were other women there, and while a lot of people were grateful for the information, I was criticised for being out at that hour, surprisingly by both women and men, which further pushes me to say we need to change our mindset in TT, because it does not matter the hour I decide to go out and have a run, I should be able to have my run without being harassed. I want us to change our way of thinking, so this is my opportunity to get my voice heard, to push the cause.”
She has invited people to walk or run on January 24, film themselves and post it on social media with the hashtag #respectandprotectwomen.
“I don’t have a personal benefit to get from what I’m saying, but we do need as a society to change our mindset and I want people to participate. The running community has been very supportive, had a lot of people saying they’re going out that morning to do it, so I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of it on the 24th and even going forward, how we can continue to push that.”
Scott began running when she was 28 to lose weight and discovered she loved it. She has been running competitively since 2014.
“I am a weekend warrior and started running quite late in my life. I used to swim but as I got older, I could no longer do the swimming and I found it boring, so I looked for a new challenge and found running. I started with a trainer in a group and then I said, ‘Let’s run a couple races’. I work at Central Bank as the records management officer and we have a competition called CariFin, which we call the Olympics of the financial sector. I decided to take part in a series of running events including a lap of the Savannah, and I placed third, so I wondered if I really trained what I was really capable of and I think that was the start right there for my competitiveness for running.”
The 37-year-old said she went on to do national races and developed as a competitive runner before returning to CariFin, which she has dominated for the last three years. Her favourite event is the half marathon – a distance of 13.1 miles – and she associates it with one of the highlights of her racing career.
“The iconic event for the half marathon is the UWI SPEC International Half Marathon. In 2019, I came in as the first local woman out of the top four women. I was then chosen, along with the second-placed local woman Sjaelan Evans, to represent TT at the 10K classic in Guyana two weeks later. We placed sixth and seventh, just outside the top five, but to be fair to both of us, we weren’t prepared for a 10K race, it’s a different type of training.”
Next Sunday is the second time she will run a full marathon, after her first in 2018 which did not go well for her.
“I didn’t really train for it, as I figured I’d be able to do it just from ability since I run the half marathon, which was not the case. After that experience I dedicated myself to training for the marathon. I gave myself a couple of years to forget that experience and not have any negativity follow me into the time when I actually decided to train for it, which is this time. I’ve been prepping since October, building distance. Because there are no in-person races taking place during covid19, a lot of runners have decided to do these virtual events to give themselves a focus and a target for their training.”
She said there were sacrifices involved in training for long distance running, including family life.
“If you wanted to you could do it casually but the top women don’t stay in this level without a lot of sacrifice. My day starts at four most mornings. I run six days a week, but I also do gym five of those days. So I’ll do strength training in the evening, sometimes I’ll run before the strength training, or sometimes run in the evening and do strength training in the morning depending on how my body recovers. It’s a very hectic, heavy schedule, so imagine having that schedule and you still have a household to run.
“I’m divorced and live on my own, so I have to pay bills, prepare meals, ensure my chores around the house are done. I help out with my elderly father, I have a niece, a family, and you still have to live a full life, it’s a lot of time management. My family has got accustomed to me saying I have to run in the morning so see y’all. I’m always one of the first to leave the family lime.”
Scott, who grew up in an athletic family, said competitiveness is part of her personality. She credits her father, former national swim coach Edmund Pouchet, with assisting and encouraging her in her running.
“My brothers and sisters all swam at a national level, they more so than me. My dad has been in swimming all my life and before. He’s 72, still does coaching and was actually technical adviser for the Amateur Swimming Association up to a year ago. He helps me with the mental part of my training.
“My dad has been the person who has been a rock for me. I remember going to him before some of my bigger races recently, and asking him how to deal with the mental aspect and he would reiterate that you’ve trained, you know your body, you know what you’re capable of, you know how it’s going to feel for you, so prep your mind for it before, get into your zone and you just get it done. We have amazing conversations based on that and it’s a way to still connect with him.”
“Mentally, when you’re running anything past six miles to seven miles, which takes an hour, there’s a mental training you must have. It hurts but you’re not going to die, and you have to know that you’re not going to die, and you are capable of doing it. It’s just a matter of living with the pain in the moment, and knowing your why – why you’re pushing through that pain, because if you don’t have a strong enough why, you’re not going to last those 35 miles you’re doing. You’re like, I don’t feel great, I don’t like how I feel, I’m just going to walk because this feels uncomfortable, but you can’t do that. There’s a lot of mental training.
“Physically, running is hard, it has its highs and low. I’ve been injured several times over the years. As any runner will tell you, no one has a running career without downtime and epic injuries, and in those times you really see a lot of runners struggle because they’re not able to do what they love doing.
“They do it because they love it, there’s no runner that doesn’t like to run. That’s the one thing in the running community that you’ll get from everybody, we love it. We love challenging ourselves, we love pushing our limit to see what we could get our bodies to do. I’ve managed from 2015 to now to stay consistently in the top five women in the country over the last five years and that is something that I’ve very proud of.
“Most races when I turn up I’m a threat, and I like being a threat. For now, I don’t know how much longer my body will allow me to do it but as long as I can I’m going to keep pushing it and seeing where I stand.”