I have talked about this a few times now, on my Find Your Strong post, and my Weight Fluctuations post. I also had a guest post from Becca about her struggles with overcoming her eating disorder.
I said it before, and I am gonna say it again; I think things are changing. I think the dawn of the strong runner is just about to begin.
It could not be more overdue.
A few years ago, Dani Stack, a front runner in collegiate running, wrote a very brave post about struggling with an eating disorder, and it compelled me to write about it again. Dani’s detailed description of the past five years of her life showed how much torture she had been through, and it broke my heart.
Although I have never been through anorexia or bulimia myself, I have close family members and friends who have been through it. Some made it out the other side, but still continue to struggle to this day……others will be battling their minds for life.
I am so thankful that I have never allowed myself to go down that path, but I would be lying if I said the temptation was not there. When I see the pounds creep on during my time off (which is a GOOD thing!), and particularly now that I am working from home, the temptation to eat all the time could easily drive me crazy.
I do get frustrated, I do snap at my loved ones sometimes when I feel my belly hanging over my tights, but I know just how important fuel is to running well, and for that reason, I push those thoughts out of my mind, and refocus.
It just makes me wonder how many of the people I race against are going through this, but are not quite brave enough to say it. I hope that through the awareness and courage of some people, others will learn to talk about it, and share their stories too.
Admitting that you have a problem is one of the most difficult parts, but wanting to change is probably the most difficult part; you have to be prepared to let go of wanting to be skinny in order to be healthy. That does not mean doubling your body weight, but accepting that eating a little too much is better for you than eating too little.
That is the part that I think this changing image of female runners will help with. By seeing other strong, powerful runners out there succeeding, the association of being lighter= being faster will slowly begin to slip away.
I watched the Great Edinburgh Cross Country race on Saturday (where my bridesmaid Frances finished 8th, 3rd USA!), and I loved seeing the strong runners at the front, especially at the end.
All but one of that front pack looked healthy, strong, and powerful, and it was awesome to see Emelia Gorecka come away with the win. She would never have battled those tough conditions without the power in her legs.
I am also learning myself that having powerful muscles is nothing to be ashamed of; as I continue to work on my form to become a better runner, I am building muscles in my glutes and arms that I did not have before, but I know it is the reason I was able to run so well this season. I am very excited for my future running!
If you have been reading my blog for any amount of time, you will know that I have a wicked sweet tooth, and one that demands more than one square of chocolate to be satiated. I indulge in my sugar, especially during off season.
You know what though?
I earn that. I work really damn hard to be able to enjoy foods like that without feeling guilty.
Does guilt cross my mind after I eat it? Of course it does, but I think about how I do not want to travel down that path of obsessing over every morsel that passes my lips. Once you do that, you are traveling down a dark path, one that easily spirals out of control, just like Dani mentioned.
So, what does this all come down to? I would rather weigh 120 lbs. on my 5ft. 5in. frame as an elite, have a slightly soft belly, with legs double the size of some people I race against, but know that I have a healthy mindset, and be happy with my life, be happy with who I am as a person.
Stocky legs and all, I am Tina Muir, and I am going to continue to power my way through my running career. In the same way that your energy runs out and you bonk when you do not eat enough before a run, well, I know that in ten years, I will still be going, I will still be strong and healthy, I will still have the energy to power my way around wherever my future of running takes me.
I encourage you to be brave about your inner worries and share about your struggles, be it through your own blog, by talking to a family member, or even by emailing me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Awareness is the only way we are going to keep our culture moving in the right direction, and I intend on doing everything I can to help every person I can. You never know who will end up reading it.
Dani’s post has thousands of shares now, and I am sure she will inspire many to overcome their struggles, to see that they are not alone. Alexa also wrote a post on her story, which was another inspiring read.
Be brave, and love who you are. YOU are special, and have so much to offer this world, you just need to let the world see it 🙂
PS. My good friend, Sarah Crouch (another elite runner) came on the Runners Connect podcast recently to talk about this and other female related issues. The body image section will be very helpful for anyone who has any kind of doubt about how they “should” look to be a “real” runner. Spoiler alert- THERE ISNT ONE 🙂 If you are a female, this is a must listen!