CHICAGO (CBS)– Running for your life can take on an all-too-serious meaning, when your safety is at risk.  A group local women have joined forces to protect themselves.

“It’s just a sense of uncomfort,” said Katie Murray, Despite the Dark President. “There is a pit in your stomach, you’re not sure what to do. Everything from being catcalled to being harassed to worse, raped and killed.”

So five co-workers started a group called Despite the Dark to bring a safe running experience to women. Many are endurance athletes with busy lives and can only run before or after work when it is dark.

The group meets in different locations once a month to run and also participate in self-defense classes.

“You can’t guarantee safety so the best way to reduce anything from happening is to be in a big, big group,” said Rachel Colonna, Despite the Dark co-Founder.

They believe it’s important to bring men into the conversation as well.

“We found this stat that about 60% of women report being hesitant running after dark, while only 14% of men do,” said Colonna. Change can only happen if the community is willing to do something about it. Men are always welcome to our runs.”

Despite the Dark already has programs in San Francisco as well as at the University of Florida.

“We have seen so many people across the country reaching out and it’s all for the same reason,” said Murray. “People say I’m a runner. I have felt this way my entire life and I want to do something about it.”

They started the campaign less than a year ago.

“The goal is to only go up from here, as far as we can take it, as many cities as we can have our Despite the Dark runs,” said Colonna.

The runs are free an available to all levels of runners. More information about signing up for a run is available on the Despite the Dark website.