I’ve been running distance since I was 12. I started cross country in a middle school because I needed to make up for a gym credit. Hated it.
Then it got easier, and I had friends, and it was actually fun.
It’s always been because it’s fun.
I have been incredibly fortunate to have been surrounded by people who made it fun and who supported my health and well being, without any emphasis on or critique of my appearance or weight or food.
It’s a pernicious myth that how much you weigh determines how fast you are. It is baked into distance running. And it’s a myth that hurts people of all genders who run.
I don’t remember when I learned that disordered eating was a problem in many sports, but I do remember thinking about it when considering college programs. When I visited teams, I remember making mental notes to check that people were happy and ate without judgement and looked for clues that there was a supportive culture.
I have friends who struggled with disordered eating. We tried to support people maintaining healthy eating habit—workshops, cultivating an open, supportive culture, checking in with friends. Some people struggled with food issues, and some of those same people took active steps to address it head on.
And when someone betrays that, and encourages bad health, it hurts all of us.
It’s not going to be fixed by acting like it only affects women or that women’s leadership is the solution. Just because you don’t have a period to miss doesn’t mean starving yourself is okay, and women can be, shockingly, just as fallible and abusive as men.
It’s going to be fixed by changing the entire culture. Correcting the idea that you have to hurt yourself to be the best. By calling it out when people are hurting others.
It’s a struggle for all of us.
If you are at all into running or fitness: remember that your weight is not your value. Never assume you know someone’s fitness by looking at them. And always correct someone if they reduce health to weight or appearance.
So thank you, all of my friends I have ever ran with or talked to about running, for being a supportive person. Keep it up