Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interview with the author of She Was Once A Runner

I have mentioned the blog She Was Once A Runner to quite a few people. While there are many similarities between what I went through and what the author did, our stories are not identical, obviously. From the comments she receives on her blog, it becomes quite clear that these issues are some that many collegiate and high-school runners encounter. I feel that sharing this information can help others come forward, ask for help, perhaps do things differently, and maybe even avoid getting in too deep.

I would like to thank the author of SWOAR for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope that people find this interview helpful.

1. How old were you when you started running? 

I decided to start running in 5th grade .  I would leave the house and run around the block until my legs felt like rubber.  I eventually joined Spring Track in the 7th grade.  Races were mixed gender then and I thoroughly enjoyed beating most of the boys, and all the girls, in my age group. I don't remember what my times were, but they were good enough for me to move up to High School Varsity in 8th grade, and things took off from there. 

2. What made you decide to write a blog, and is the story true?
 I started She Was Once a Runner as a way to encourage me to sit down and write every day.   The blog caught on really fast, despite zero advertisement on my part.  I really appreciate those that put up links on forums, because people have been leaving genuinely sincere comments on the blog, including former teammates of mine.   The experience helped me realize that not only does this story need to be told, it needs to be told in a different format.   I feel that posting entries on the blog breaks up the fluidity of the plot, which doesn't do the story justice. I am currently trying to figure out where I should go next with She Was Once a Runner . (Feel free to email me ideas, readers!)   
I am not sure why people doubt the validity of this story.  To make up something like this would be exploitation, in my opinion, which is why I have changed names, and made certain characters a composite of more than one teammate.

(Note: I also get this question in regard to my manuscript. I think because there have been published memoirs such as "A Million Little Pieces" that turned out to not be entirely true, people tend to question anyone writing about themselves. In my case, with over training and the eating disorder, truth really can be stranger than fiction.)


3. In your blog, you mention the atmosphere of competitive collegiate running. How do you think this atmosphere contributes to eating disorders?

When the best runner(s) on your team is allowed to compete with a serious eating disorder, it will no doubt create a toxic team environment.  She Was Once a Runner exemplifies that level of toxicity pretty well, in my opinion.  I have no doubt that there are positive, encouraging college teams that treat each other like sisters/brothers, but I'm willing to bet those teams also detect issues like anorexia and bulimia early on, and nip them in the bud.

4. Do you think there are more injuries in college runners than in professional runners? In other words, is the sport one in which injuries are common in general, or is there something about the way people train in college that contributes to more injuries?
I'm no expert on training, but personally, I never experienced a running injury until college, even though I had trained really hard in high school. I upped my mileage quite a bit in college, and never took days off, but in addition to that,  I had to race really hard every time I toed the starting line.  In high school, I didn't have to race hard until November rolled around.  I'm sure that the combination of high level training and racing hard every two weeks caused me to get injured, but I also didn't know how to rest, plus I had amenorrhea. I'm willing to bet that pro runners are more inclined to listen to their body, and avoid chronic injuries.  I would suggest subscribing to Lauren Fleshman's blog for more insight.

5. Do you plan on trying to compile your blog entries into a book?

I would love to compile my entries into a book, but I have no idea how to go about it.  I'm not opposed to self-publishing, but it would require a lot of time and effort on my part to do something like that, plus, if people didn't buy the book, I'd be stuck with a whole lot of paperbacks in my closet!

6. Where are you now in terms of moving forward from any issues that occurred in college?

 I don't think I suffer from any of the issues I faced in college, anymore, which is probably why I can now write about them.

7. Do you feel there is a way to prevent eating disorders in college and high school runners?

Preventing eating disorders is difficult, but I think that writing honest accounts of one's own experiences can help, especially since it's an issue that, I feel, gets swept under the rug in the running community.   I also think it needs to be communicated to younger athletes that they need to think long-term if they want to have a career in this sport.  Sacrificing your health at a young age will only debilitate your body's future.  Also, the athlete needs to surround his/herself with a positive support network of people.
  Avoid enablers! 

8. Do you still run? Do you compete anymore?

I cycle a lot more than I run.  Having said that, I would like to eventually train consistently enough so that I can experience a marathon.

9. What would be the one big piece of advice you would offer to young athletes going into a college program?
My advice to someone that is looking to earn a college scholarship is the following:  1) Review the team's performance history.   Avoid schools where you notice a pattern of athletes who did well for a season, and then disappeared.   2)  Do not get overwhelmed on your recruiting trip.  Remember that the coaches and staff are trying to "sell" their school to you, and are only going to focus on the positives.  Also, don't do anything stupid on your recruiting trip (get drunk, stay up real late, have a one night stand ), because the team will snitch on you ( I never experienced this first hand, but I definitely saw recruits lose a scholarship opportunity because they did one, or more, of the three things I just listed). 3) Don't be afraid to ask the coach training questions.  You want to work with someone who has an individualized program for each athlete.  Avoid coaches that have a 'what works for one, works for all' mentality. 

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