Women around the country are lacing up to honor Mollie Tibbetts, the 20-year-old student who was killed on a run in Iowa.
Photo: Shutterstock / Dan Race

When the tragic news of Mollie Tibbetts' murder broke earlier last week, the running community felt the loss of one of their own. Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student, was out on a typical evening run in her hometown when she was abducted and killed.

What happened to Tibbetts was a chilling reminder of the risk female runners face every time they lace up and head outside to log miles away from home, alone. It also led many women to wonder whether it's safe to run outside in the dark in the early morning or in the evening after work-or whether they should discontinue running outside altogether. (Related: The Harsh Truth About Running Safety for Women)

These are valid concerns-yet, women across the country have decided that they're not going to let fear stop them from doing what they love most. Instead, hundreds of women are using the hashtag #MilesforMollie to dedicate their runs to Tibbetts on social media. Together, they're making a powerful statement about a woman's right to run safely outside. (Related: I Was Groped While Running-and Yes, It's a Big Deal)

"It was foggy & still dark when I went for my run this morning," one woman wrote on Twitter. "I looked over my shoulder more than usual but running outside is something I love too much to let fear stop me. Thinking of you out there today, Mollie."

Other women shared their own stories about being harassed while out on the road-something that nearly 60 percent of women experience while running.

"Mollie Tibbetts died while running & saying 'no' to a man who was harassing her," one woman shared. "I get harassed weekly while running - yelled at, lewd gestures, demeaning comments. It's not flattering. It's not a compliment. It's not welcome. It needs to stop." (Read next: I'm a Woman and a Runner: That Doesn't Give You Permission to Harass Me)

Some tweets emphasized why it's so important to build a world where women can run wherever they want, safely, and without fearing for their lives.

"On this beautiful Philadelphia summer morning, I ran 10 miles," one woman wrote. "I got to do it without fearing for my life. I got to enjoy the city, people-watch, and dog-watch, without looking over my shoulders. That should be the norm, not a privilege, for everyone."

Unfortunately, that world isn't yet a reality. And while there's no magic, snap-of-the-finger solution, taking a stand and having a conversation about these issues is a giant step in the right direction.