Monday, September 13, 2021

Why Am I So Angry?

Because I already addressed the Shelby Houlihan case, and nothing has really changed after details of the CAS ruling came out, I'm mostly sidestepping the issue except to say that this write-up is one of the few that gets directly to the point. The way the loudest running "journalists" have handled the topic is atrocious, and I can't really add much to the conversation, at least not in any kind of scintillating way like Kevin Beck has. The whole thing makes me angry. 

Regarding all the sorting through the rubble that's occurring, though, what's shocking is the reaction of some Houlihan supporters who have harassed journalists like Alan Abrahamson for expressing what many of us feel about the situation, that someone needs to come clean. But even if that were to happen, which is unlikely, would that change anything? I doubt it. Look at cycling after the downfall of Lance Armstrong. People will always find ways to cheat, but fans don't like to see their idols knocked down or even called out. It's frightening how abusive people can be toward others who have a different opinion. Then there are those who just stick their fingers in their ears and look the other way, pretending nothing's wrong, which is fine, I suppose, if you're not a journalist. 

Erin Strout, who has boasted about muting people on Twitter, as if that's anything to be proud of, highlighted the fact that Houlihan had character witnesses testify over the fact that the athlete's burrito defense was more than a little unlikely before the writer set her tweets to private, which actually might be a good thing since fewer people will see the way she skews facts and is careless with triggering content. However, I'm not sure what the point of having a blue checkmark on Twitter and claiming the title of journalist is if you're too afraid to have a public voice. 

It's strange, but the fact that she took extra time to block me on a social media website is more bizarre than upsetting to me. I'm a female runner with a very long history in the sport, but she has a right to limit her audience to only those who fully back her. It's a bad look for anyone who's representing a publication like Women's Running, though. Blocked or not, nobody can see her tweets unless she approves it. I feel sad for anyone who continually boasts about her job as a journalist, usually by complaining about it publicly, the long hours, the work, the deadlines, the travel issues, yet feels it necessary to hide from anyone who doesn't agree 100 percent with her various takes. 

I guess I had more to say about that than I originally thought. 

Speaking of being angry, I experienced an unpleasant incident the other day while jogging on the trails. Two people were blocking a very wide and heavily used trail by walking side-by-side with their two dogs. I was coming up behind them and uttered two "ahems" in an effort to get their attention. Just when I was about to say, "excuse me," each one moved, she to the left and he to the right, so I assumed they had heard me. I went through the opening, ran a little longer, and then turned around to go back the way I had come. When I came upon the couple again, she started yelling at me, insisting I should have notified them that I was using the popular public path that they were hogging. In response, I pointed out that they must not have heard my efforts to do just that and later added something she probably didn't like but also may not have heard. 

It was a trivial occurrence, but it upset me. Initially, I brushed it off, but the more I thought about it, the more it pissed me off. Not that long ago, my mom fell, and I was rushing her to the hospital (she's OK now but broke her wrist) when some complete and total asshole ran a stop sign and then leaned out his window to make wild ape-like gestures and yell who knows what at me. Then he started in with the fucking games, driving 5 miles per hour and breaking hard on occasion specifically to impede my forward motion. I'm not a violent person, but I have never wanted to punch someone in the face so badly. Everyone is more on edge lately, though. It's not just me. 

Call it road rage or situational anger, I can see why there are so many horrific ends to minor incidents, though, as far as I know, it's not in me to actually go there. Still, the kind of anger I experienced in that moment made me realize how and why something that seems minor on the surface can get ugly fast. People's online behavior can be just as concerning, but I want to point out that there's a difference between someone calling out a person’s incompetence or lies and an individual being an actual bully who harasses others. Expressing opinions in a blog post about obvious bias and misinformation coming from journalists in the running community is not bullying. It's always odd to me how so many people who act pompous and arrogant are quick to play the victim when criticized.

While it's understandable to get angry at someone like the idiot who ran a stop sign who's very clearly in the wrong and intentionally being a piece of shit, sometimes determining what's right or what's not right isn't quite as clear-cut. It's also more difficult to call people out when their track record isn't 100-percent shitty and their unsavory behavior doesn't fall into the serial killer or road rage category. In fact, a few of the individuals I have scolded on my blog share similar views on many topics, but I can't bring myself to support or approve of anyone who intentionally misleads others, triggers individuals with sloppy content, or outright lies, even if we both like cheese.

In terms of how I look at information online, especially regarding running-related matters, things took a turn for me when I did a podcast on eating disorders with Lauren Fleshman and Ann Gaffigan that has mysteriously disappeared. For the life of me, I can't find a copy of it anywhere. Based on that interview alone, it's puzzling how Lauren is or ever was seen as any kind of expert in the field of recovery, but that seems to be how she's viewed. She has never fully addressed recovery in a compassionate or thorough way because she presents a flawed view of what others experience in the throes of severe illness. Her story seems to have changed since she participated in the podcast, but, despite the 180, it's difficult to understand her involvement with eating disorder recovery anyway. 

Whether or not she is aware of it, she has continually taken little swipes at those of us who struggle, subtly suggesting it takes the kind of mental toughness she possesses to avoid an eating disorder, thereby removing any emotional, genetic, or physiological component associated with these kinds of illnesses. I guess I'm just flummoxed by people's resounding support of her, no matter her behavior or what she says. On the one hand, she prefers recruiting athletes who haven't struggled with body image issues in the past, but on the other, she can be seen tweeting about Molly Seidel and her recovery during the Olympic marathon. It's a head-scratcher. I mean, Molly isn't exactly the kind of athlete Lauren suggests she would like to coach. I guess it's good that she can still cheer on someone who struggled, even if she prefers working with athletes who don't have any kind of history of eating disorders or body image issues, though, as I have stated before, I'm not sure how one determines this or why any coach would make this distinction. I'm just glad to see that Molly's coach didn't take that kind of approach with her. 

Regarding my own feelings during the podcast I now regret doing, it's not that I can't handle myself around opinionated people -- I grew up in a house full of them -- it's more that I wasn't expecting any kind of discord. I realize that not everyone is going to act in a way one might expect, but up until that point, every interview, podcast, and speaking event I had done that related to eating disorders was done so in an incredibly supportive, nurturing environment, a safe space, if you will, even if everyone involved had different ideas on recovery and different experiences. That was the first time I was caught completely off guard and couldn't quite figure out how to address someone skewing the facts. 

It left a really sour taste in my mouth, has bothered me since, and yet initially I tried to be supportive and search for some kind of greater good in the situation. It wasn't until recently that I couldn't bring myself to do that anymore, try to be accommodating and nice to people who don't deserve it. Misinformation never serves the public well. I won't condone it, especially if the content is potentially harmful to others and even if that makes me look like the bad guy in some people's eyes.

All this said, anger that grows doesn't serve the person who's holding it well. It clouds a person's perspective in other areas. I'm going to work on letting that shit go, but I'm not going to stop addressing liars, frauds, and cheats. 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

A Late Take on Recent Events

I do this often, fall into a funk and take extended breaks from blogging and writing in general. It's why I'll probably never finish the novel I started, even though I now have the entire story in my head and close to 60,000 words down, most of which combine in some boring way but could probably be rewritten into something more exciting if I could find some motivation. While I didn't disappear completely, I wasn't very active on social media, not that I am anyway, but I reduced the time I spent on certain websites.

It doesn't look like I missed much by slightly limiting my time on the Internet. I opted to watch some Olympic gymnastics, equestrian, and track and field events during this period. The latter was entertaining if you suspended disbelief and depressing if you think about why so many runners are breaking records. Psst, it's not just the shoes or the fancy track. During this time, Lindsay Crouse got paid to recycle the same article at least three times, Lauren Fleshman cheered on a runner despite Molly not being the type of athlete she prefers to recruit because of the athlete's past struggles, and Latoya somehow got chosen to run the Boston marathon, even though over 9,000 others who qualified by running a specific time were denied entry due to field size limitations. Men and women in their 80s are forced to run faster than she does if they want to run the race, over two hours faster, in fact. In other words regarding all of this, same shit, different day. 

Several years ago, someone I know mentioned he had hired an editor-in-chief for his newly formed local publication. After reading the first story she wrote in her position, I couldn't understand how someone who knew so little about writing and editing could land a job like that. She had no prior experience, was far from a gifted writer, and knew very little about correct grammar. When I pointed this out, my friend told me that she got the job because she showed up. She presented herself well and was committed to getting the job, qualifications and talent be damned. She sold herself as someone more capable than she was, and that's all it took, though flattering the founder probably didn't hurt. My sister got a freelance writing job in a similar way, by showing up, but the big difference is that my sister, a talented writer with a Master's in English, deserved the position and did well. 

It's not in me to sell myself. I'm fascinated by those who consider themselves important for merely having an online presence or those who claim to be experts in an area when they're not. Feeling morose lately has a lot to do with seeing the kinds of people who get attention and rewarded online, mostly liars, cheats, and self-promoters lacking any real talent. Fortunately, hard-working individuals occasionally do get praise and recognition, too, but many deserving individuals are ignored. I think it's because it's all too much. 

There's too much information, not all of it accurate, being thrown in our faces, and the media make the situation worse by too often presenting opinion as fact. We get bombarded with conflicting ideas about what's inspiring when people celebrate athletes pushing themselves too far while simultaneously condemning those who did in the past. For the record, it turns out Simone Biles is no stranger to competing while injured. I'm glad she did what was right for herself this time around by not competing in certain events, but nobody should be shamed for decisions made under very different circumstances at a different time. I mean, Jesus Christ, the way Crouse continually rips on Kerri Strug, you would think she has some kind of personal grudge against the poor woman. 

I didn't watch the Diamond League events last night, but I saw that some individuals posted results on Twitter. While the usual suspects continue to lobby for trans and DSD athletes to run in women's races and focus on "naturally elevated" testosterone levels of those running or hormone therapy for those who want to run, they leave out a few important bits of information. I highly suggest everyone read this entire thread or this post or this one before commenting on social media about whether or not it's right for inclusion to trump fairness in sports. Like many others, I don't think it is. A trans athlete competing in women's sports, even one in her late 40s, will have an advantage over a cis woman, even after she undergos hormone therapy. I appreciate so much anyone who is honest and doesn't want to run unfairly, and my heart goes out to anyone in a position of feeling left out or unsure of how to compete fairly. Hell, with all the dopers who cheat, desperate for a secret edge, it's refreshing to see some people who would like the playing field to be equal.  

I keep saying this, but focusing on hormones, like testosterone, that affect recovery, healing, bone health, and, if everyone is honest, performance (just ask Lance Armstrong) doesn't address physiological differences between individuals born with internal testes or tissue or those born biologically male who wish to transition and cis women. Regarding general differences between the sexes, in addition to hormone levels, one must consider heart and lung size, leg length, and hip-width. And, as someone else pointed out, if testosterone is no biggie and everyone thinks it's OK that DSD athletes race in women's events with "naturally" higher levels, what's wrong with women doping to boost theirs into the same range? The whole thing is ridiculous, this idea that women must be inclusive, even if it's not fair to them, or else they face a huge blowback and even death threats

But support for DSD athletes running in women's races is widespread, at least among the loudest voices in running media, even though not everyone agrees that it's fair. Fast Women's recent Tweet makes it seem like World Athletics goes around and randomly assigns DSD classifications to unsuspecting women, which is not the case. I wish more people would read about the biology behind the differences in sex development. There's a reason for the classification, even if few are willing to address it. I still think there's a way for both DSD athletes and trans athletes to compete and possibly even compete as they identify while still being fair to women, but nobody has come up with a realistic solution yet. The closest I have seen is a race director who created an entirely separate category for anyone who identifies as "other", but, unfortunately, in that case, it meant scrapping the masters division. 

I know I focus a lot on certain publications and writers, but it's not just the running world that suffers from journalists who want to impress their peers more than they want to report the facts. I just notice it more because I follow running now and then, and I wonder how and why certain individuals got into the positions they did. I'm not sure how I feel about a journalist at the New York Times suggesting that nepotism might not be so bad. Is there a reason anyone would bring this up unprompted? It really makes me wonder. 

My neighbors on one side all got jobs through connections. Our family got jobs on our own merit. The ones next door boast about what they do and where they work. Everyone in our family tends to keep quiet. I'm thinking that their boasts wouldn't be so bad since they work hard and have some knowledge of what they are doing, but at least one of them also put down my sister for working as a flight attendant while getting a Master's degree. When my sister finished her degree and landed that freelance job I mentioned earlier, one of the ladies next door told her, "Oh good. Now you can get a real job." We all took some pleasure in knowing that, years later, my niece got a job all on her own with the very firm that rejected my neighbor's son, despite the guy having parents with the best connections, and yet none of us ran over to put anyone down or boast. We're not a mean bunch, but sometimes a little rare poetic justice seems fitting. 

Recently, one of the neighbors from that same family came over and confronted a friend of mine and his dog, accusing him of not picking up dogshit, which was really weird because 1. it's our yard and 2. there was no poop, not a single croton. The animal hadn't even farted. It just gets really fatiguing seeing others act so fucking full of themselves. Fine if you want to be part of the neighborhood poop patrol and monitor the excrement that comes out of the rear ends of pets, but don't come on our property and start creating shit out of nothing. Same thing in the running community. Stop trying to take a dump on women's running under the guise of activism. If you truly believe that testosterone doesn't make any difference and running races should be a fucking free-for-all, then do away with all classifications entirely, no age group categories and no male or female categories. Then let everyone know how fair that would be in major competitions that award prize money to the top 10 overall, no matter the athletes' gender or age. That seems to be where some people want to go. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

NCAR Surprise

Sometimes I get myself so worked up over a run, I psych myself out of even attempting. All the years of internal and external pressure come flooding back, and I have a hard time getting out of my own way. I wasn't going to time myself up NCAR road this year since my foot is sore with a few trapped nerves. I run with a limp, but I'm managing as well as I can. I went ahead and ran my usual course from the little library to the top of the big hill, despite my deep fears. 

Since I crossed over to the other side of the road at one point but finished where I normally do, I don't know if I ended up shaving some time off or if I would have run a little faster than the last two years anyway, but since it couldn't be more than a few seconds either way, I'm going to go with what the watch said, which was 20:31. It's very clear that I do not have any turnover, none at all, but my foot hurts less going uphill and I guess I have a wee bit of stamina left in this old body. 

I'm hoping for some good news on the 29th and still hoping I can escape surgery number 13. If not, I'll be glad to get these angry nerves out of me so I can run in less pain again. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Here She Goes Again

****Warning, Potentially Triggering Content with Mention of Behaviors, Fad Diets, And Numbers****

Whenever Lindsay Crouse comes up with a new opinion piece for the New York Times, I hold my breath, hoping for the best but not expecting it. I suppose audience members watching a child they know is unprepared walk up to the piano for a recital feel the same way. They want the kid to do well but know it takes practice and commitment in order to hit the right notes. What's surprising is that, unlike an out-of-practice child taking the stage solo and attempting to tackle a challenging song in front of friends and family, Crouse has help from a team. In her case, even with the aid of fact-checkers, she still manages to fuck up details. Worse, with all the attention she puts on women and mental health, she can't seem to wrap her head around what constitutes triggering content, or maybe she just doesn't care. She's not the only one. Erin Strout, after retweeting this bit of sound advice: 

decided it would be great to attempt to get a few laughs a few weeks later by posting this:

I get that she's not promoting the product and is actually agreeing that it's dangerous. She's trying to be cute or funny or relevant. However, I've mentioned it before that it's important to know your audience. A tweet like the above with no warning or caution preceding it is fine for the average person or if you're one of the many in the media who likes to shock others, but both Crouse and Strout have made an effort to gain audience members consisting of feminists, anyone struggling with mental health issues and eating disorders, and athletes. As a reminder, athletes are more at risk for eating disorders than the general public, so I find it incredibly frustrating how careless these two are, especially considering they write for larger publications. Is receiving a few likes, clicks, or views more important than taking the time to think about what might be triggering to someone suffering with a potentially deadly disorder? 

The simple solution for anyone who would rather be acknowledged than think of the greater good or how actions can be detrimental to certain individuals would be to stop pretending to be an advocate for recovery and simply post like anyone else. When you write about the dangers of eating disorders and point your finger at others, expecting them to be more thoughtful about what they post, you assume some responsibility as well. It takes effort to avoid promoting diet culture and unhealthy behaviors, to stop and think, "Am I helping or potentially hurting or triggering those who follow me with this content?" Is it really necessary to risk upsetting someone or worse, giving someone who's ill ideas just to get a few laughs or likes? 

If you don't understand the mindset of someone who struggles, it's OK to stop pretending you do. You don't have to take any pledge to do better and can post links to all the dangerous weight-loss devices and fad diets you want. This is the type of shit that drives me absolutely nuts. Does it mean nothing to these types that eating disorders kill more people annually than all other mental illnesses combined? If you want to target a specific audience, you really should be more aware of the sensitivities of its members.  

I will come back to triggering content later, but more often than not, Crouse's writing comes off as rushed and not well researched, an attempt to quickly get out anything on a popular topic. Hell, some of my blog posts are more researched than the essays she gets published. 

In two of her most recent pieces, she misleads her audience yet again. Some might not notice or care about the little details, but facts matter. They should anyway. In her article addressing Sha'Carri Richardson's suspension, she brings up Suzy Favor Hamilton and a few others in an effort to demonstrate that athletes also suffer from mental health issues, a topic that has been addressed in scholarly articles, books, and in other publications long before the year 2021, though people are more open about it now. Richardson, unlike many of her fans, has handled the situation with as much grace and maturity as humanly possible, especially considering most people in this country don't think marijuana should even be on the banned list. She is definitely someone to be admired in that regard. What Crouse seems to be saying but fails to in any kind of clear way is that there's a difference between actual cheating in order to improve performance and using a banned substance in order to help cope with life events. 

Addressing mental illness in athletes, Crouse writes, "Suzy Favor Hamilton, a nine-time N.C.A.A. champion, suffered from depression after she retired from her athletic career; it led to scandal after the revelation that she was working as an escort." But this is inaccurate. Suzy has said over and over again that she is bipolar. What happened wasn't exactly the result of depression related to an incident or her career coming to an end. It's far more complex than that. She was on medication that exacerbated her manic episodes. This wasn't exactly a situation in which someone was self-medicating, and depression didn't lead to scandal. If you're interested in reading a more accurate account of what Suzy was going through at the time, you can read my interview with her here, but, more importantly, Crouse is giving the wrong impression about both depression and what was happening in Suzy’s life at the time.  

Crouse adds: 

We don’t just expect our Olympians to be incredible athletes. We expect them to be role models and to adhere to impossibly high levels of self-discipline, work ethics, and sportsmanship that have nothing to do with their actual job. Women, especially women of color, face even higher expectations.

But those traits, things like self-discipline and work ethic, generally have a lot to do with being a good athlete. It's ridiculous to think otherwise. What she probably means is that in addition to being good on the field or on the track, some people expect athletes to also be exceptional role models and overall good people. Charles Barkley and Tonya Harding shot that unrealistic idea down some time ago, but I suppose not everyone got the message. Expecting athletes to be perfect in all areas is about as wise as expecting all rich people to be smart. Athlete or not, people are people, and those engaging in athletic activities don't always behave in the same ways. Not all athletes feel pressured to set a good example, but others feel compelled, either by internal and/or external forces, to be or appear perfect. It's crazy how often we forget that people, even athletes, are unique individuals. 

Always one to sprinkle more names of athletes appearing in the news cycle into her work, Crouse throws in Gwen Berry by saying:

Gwen Berry, a track and field Olympian who is facing criticism from conservative lawmakers for turning away from the American flag on the medal podium during the national anthem at the Olympic Trials, told me Ms. Richardson was being held to an impossible standard.

Well, at the moment, Berry is facing criticism more because of her past racist tweets and her attempt to joke about rape victims, but, offensive tweets aside for just a second, Richardson wasn't being held to an impossible standard. She was being held to the same standard as any other athlete. Regarding Berry, despite her past tweets and turning away from the flag, she has plenty of support, even from those who strongly and relentlessly condemn anyone who's male and white and looks like he possibly maybe sort of could be a racist. In general, athletes of color probably do face an imbalance in the way they are treated, but the ban Richardson faces is not an example of racial injustice. Banning specific swim caps, on the other hand, is a gross injustice, and hopefully, that issue will be resolved in a new ruling.   

Regarding drug testing, Crouse adds:

It’s becoming increasingly challenging to avoid banned substances and still live in the real world. (I’ve wondered how many of us mortals would pass a doping test if we took one today.)

That might be true in this country where more states have moved to legalize recreational marijuana, but if she's talking about tainted burritos or meat or even if she's only looking at THC, she might want to take a closer look at the levels required to test positive. Additionally, why are so few suspected cheaters caught if everyone is filling up on banned substances? The anti-doping system is failing but not because it's outing those who have drugs in their system. What Crouse probably means is that a few American female athletes were caught this year for actual violations or for skipping out on tests, so it must be the agencies in place that are at fault, not the adored athletes. 

After just implying that Olympians are not like us mere mortals, Crouse goes on to say in a different article published shortly after that Olympians are just like us by using one of the most extraordinary athletes she could find as her case in point, Simone Biles. 

In her opinion piece on Biles, Crouse once again can't help but focus on looks and comparisons, which isn't surprising considering she believes nobody can get past caring what others think, but she completely leaves out the long history of gymnastics and how both it and its athletes have changed over the years. 

Her focus is entirely on American athletes, and she doesn't care to include anyone before the 80s, as if the sport sprang up out of nowhere along with big hair and shoulder pads. As Lorraine Moller suggested in the foreword of my book, the early 80s saw a return to the age of Twiggy. Everyone was striving to be thinner in a cultural shift. At the time, someone like Mary Lou Retton was considered an outlier because, despite being lean, she looked different, more powerful than some of the other teenagers she competed against. 

Additionally, if you look at a chart of medal-winning gymnasts in the all-around event over the years, you see that women and girls competing are actually a lot leaner now than they were in the mid-70s and before. On average, they were also older back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. It should be noted that in the mid-70s, an age limit was put in place that restricted anyone younger than 14 from competing. That changed to 15 in the 80s and lasted until 1997 when it changed to 16. Speaking of age, Oksana Chusovitina is in her 40s and still competing in international meets. How 'bout that? 

From Harvard Sports Analysis

Leaving out the history of the sport isn't the worst offense Crouse commits. As someone who has written about a young woman who struggled with an eating disorder and has admitted to having some issues herself, she should know better than to post the very dangerously low daily calorie content of a competitive athlete. Again, if she knows her audience, she should understand how detrimental it can be for someone struggling to see these kinds of specific numbers without warning. She could have just as easily said that the athlete restricted her calorie intake to the point where it became dangerous. There are countless ways to say something similar without using exact numbers. Or she could have put a warning at the top of the article. It's so fucking easy. 

Crouse also compares an adult Biles to young athletes still in their teens, as if they should also be posting images of themselves with drinks and boyfriends on Instagram. It's absurd to think what someone posts on Instagram accurately represents who she is in real life, but suggesting that posting a picture of pizza means she's completely happy and healthy is the most ridiculous thing I have read in a long time. Biles might be a great example of a well-rounded athlete and individual, but it's not because she posts images of food on social media. 

In addition to the somewhat bizarre takes she presents, Crouse also fails to get simple facts correct. She claims that Kerri Strug "tore her ankle" and makes it sound like a wild beast ripped the appendage from her body. No, it wasn't a "torn ankle," it was a sprained ankle with damage to the tendon. Why is fact checking so difficult for her and her team? 

In this article, as opposed to the previous one, Crouse seems to be pushing the idea that you can be a regular 'ole person and reach some kind of elite status. That's not typically the case, but that doesn't mean an athlete can't have balance. 

I remember talking to Suzy Favor about being an elite athlete. It would be nearly impossible to get to a top level without having the drive and desire to push yourself. It's often a balancing act trying to figure out how to not go too far, but being an athlete takes a lot of hard work and dedication. You almost have to be a little nutty and on the over-driven side to achieve success, and the most successful athletes tend to be those who are able to avoid going too far over the edge while still working hard. 

The one thing that Crouse left out that might have made someone as phenomenal as Biles more relatable is that she has ADHD and has had to take Ritalin since she was young. It's little details like that, not her posting pizza images, that let others know she's human and has the same kinds of struggles as others. 

Here. Now I'm all balanced and happy and shit. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Running Is A Different Sport Today

Or maybe I never knew how corrupt the sport was. 

I haven't been writing much lately. Opportunities to address current topics in the running world slip by, and I watch as others dive into blog posts or articles, some very well written and thoroughly researched and others simply words slapped together to convey an opinion. I missed offering my take on Shelby Houlihan and am glad in a way because I honestly think running is a lot like cycling these days and really hate that it has become that way. It's a depressing and frustrating topic. There are clean athletes, but probably more professional athletes than not are either stretching the rules of what's appropriate in similar ways to what Lauren Fleshman admitted to years ago or are outright using banned substances. To me, either you're the type who cheats or you're not. *There is no middle ground. When I was running at an elite level, I was hesitant to even take a regular multivitamin like Centrum for fear it might contain something that could possibly give me an edge, natural or not. It's silly, especially since testing wasn't what it is today, but some of us were so adamantly opposed to cheating, we didn't want to take any risks at all, none. Despite all my worrying, I was only tested once.

Back then, I assumed most runners had the same kind of integrity and was devastated when it came out that some of my idols like Mary Decker, now Mary Slaney, tested positive for abnormally high levels of testosterone. Now, you can find instances of documented violations in every event from the shot put to the marathon, and people cheat in mountain and ultra running, too. Larger amounts of prize money had something to do with the increased number of rule benders, but so many suspected dopers get away with it. Running has pretty much become what cycling is, a mess of cheaters and those who only cheat a little bit pretending to be clean. Worse, some of the dirty runners lecture others on clean sport. It's upsetting, but I'm more angry than sad, especially with the way the running media handles the topic. 

If you look at the more recent case of Shelby Houlihan, very obvious bias in the way her situation was presented is visible, especially in the United States. There's Burritogate, but there's also her shocking progression in running to consider. Perhaps improvement leaps like hers are unlikely but possible, but nothing about her tale of consuming tainted meat is plausible, from an authentic Mexican food cart serving not just offal but pork offal to ordering a carne asada and somehow being served and eating enough of the wrong ingredient to test positive, and not by just a little bit. The more she added to the story, the less believable she appeared. Her excuses were bad enough, but the way running outlets, other runners, and fans on social media jumped to defend her without any real evidence of her innocence was even more off-putting. These days, reporters' emotions are more important than facts. The Real Science of Sport is one of the few outlets that provided a rational take on the subject. 

I almost wish there were some kind of Black Mirror device that could out cheaters, maybe a probe that reads stored memories and gets placed on the head of anyone in a position to compete at the elite and sub-elite level or a pink dye pack hidden in boxes of banned substances that explodes, outing cheaters and their coaches or anyone who purchases the EPOs. 

Other than that particular distraction, the trials themselves were mostly a pleasure to watch. Kara Goucher did a fantastic job of announcing and made the races more interesting by peppering the commentary with thoughtful stories that showed her tremendous inside knowledge. Her genuine excitement was infectious, and it's obvious that she put a lot of hard work into researching the athletes and their events but is also a natural in her new role.  

In sharp contrast to the inspiring Olympic trials televised coverage and that of local papers covering the event was the biased reporting presented by several journalists who focused on their favorites, defended someone serving a four-year ban, and wrote about various elite runners competing who "failed" or "didn't succeed" or "missed the mark," as if qualifying for the trials is shit unless you advance to the games. A "winner take all" mentality in sports is one that I will never appreciate. It was nice to see at least some coverage that acknowledged the success of qualifying for the trials and, in some cases, making the final. Oddly, much of the negative-sounding coverage came from women's running magazines and their journalists. Somehow it doesn't surprise me that women who scream about how awful men are to women are actually unaware of their own transgressions against our gender. Even in pieces or posts on social media that were meant to shine a light on veteran runners who were passing the torch to the new younger crowd, the language came off as condescending and dismissive.

In other news, considering the frenzy that occurred when Mary Cain's story of abuse was publicized, I'm surprised that the response to her newly formed nonprofit organization that aims to assist girls in disadvantaged areas in New York has been lukewarm. I don't know if having a male coach has anything to do with it or if it's simply bad timing with so much going on in running lately, but I don't see why either would be a problem. The overall concept is a good one with athletes being paid a respectable salary, training in the mornings, and then working for the nonprofit in the afternoons and on weekends. I hope there will eventually be more enthusiasm. I'm also surprised that Addie Bracy's new book isn't getting more attention. I also hope this changes and she gets the recognition she deserves. 

*ETA: With resent events leading to more bans, I should probably add that most people are aware of the difference between someone who takes a substance or uses a given substance in the wrong way in order to improve performance (cheats) and someone who uses a substance in an effort to cope with a traumatic life situation or treat a health or mental health condition.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Women Are No Better

**Contains possibly triggering content related to fad diets, exercise, and weight.**

Underneath anger often lies sadness or fear. Other times, it's an appropriate response to that which is unjust.  -- Anonymous

I should do myself a favor by ignoring the hypocrisy and dishonesty, all the contradictions and inconsistencies that plague social media and the media in general, but what affects me more specifically is the deterioration of running publications. I'd probably spend less time in a state of anger if I could bring myself to look away, but I'm someone who was brought up to always try to do the right thing. Though I'm not perfect in many ways, having integrity is important to me, so when I see those who publicly stretch the truth or intentionally send the wrong message, it bothers me, even when it's something that looks minor on the surface. It would be easy to keep quiet or complain to friends and then move on, but ignoring wrongdoing doesn't feel right. Sometimes, it's better to take some kind of action, and writing is my way of addressing what I see as problematic.

General Dishonesty 

With the Olympics approaching, more people are commenting on the issues athletes face as they prepare to head to Japan where some hospitals are still struggling to treat COVID patients, and government officials are not exactly on the ball when it comes to rolling out the vaccine. Despite the uncertain state of affairs there, some women in the United States are complaining that mothers won't be allowed to bring babies to the Olympic track. If this were a general rule applied in the past and expected in the future, I would understand the upset, but we're in the middle of a fucking worldwide pandemic. That's it. The rule applies to the sons and daughters of all Olympic athletes, coaches, and officials, male and female. Nobody making this rule that isn't set in stone yet did so strictly to punish women, and according to the article people are linking to, "the IOC said requests to bring children will have to be resolved by individual countries’ Olympic committees." In other words, individual cases can be argued. 

The above posts point to a legitimate concern. Erin Strout and Lindsay Crouse are both journalists who remind others on social media that there's a pandemic going on, and rational people wonder if it's a good idea to travel to a place when the CDC is basically advising against it. But...

To note, Aliphine didn't become a mother before she became an Olympian. She qualified and then had her baby. The bigger issue is the contradiction between suggesting that's it's unsafe for the Olympic Games to be held at all, but then demanding the inclusion of babies and kids at the venue. Notice how Crouse leaves out the fact that this ruling is strictly in response to COVID. 

The above tweet is similar in its misleading take. It was in response to the tweet below regarding a volleyball tournament in Colorado. The restrictions were listed under the "2021 Crossroads Current COVID Procedures and Requirements." 

It's 100-percent dishonest to present these situations and omit the fact that the new rules are specifically in response to COVID. Safety precaution suggestions such as wearing a mask and avoiding gathering in close quarters or being in large crowds are fine when it comes to other people, I guess. Whether or not I agree, the rules were clearly visible on the website of the tournament. I can imagine how difficult it must be for new mothers in general and especially during a pandemic, but these guidelines are there for a reason, not to victimize women. Implying these are old rules specific to women is deceptive.

The Weight Game

Obviously, considering my history with an eating disorder, I'm probably going to notice potentially triggering content more than the average person, even if I'm no longer triggered by much, but I would hope that someone who wrote about an athlete who struggled with an eating disorder would be more sensitive. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Nor is it the case when it comes to women's running magazines, though one would hope some backlash might cause those in charge to be at least somewhat sensitive to the women with eating disorders whom they occasionally profile. The linked article is actually a very good one. I would definitely suggest reading it. 

Occasional good content aside, promoting weight loss is still more common than not in women's magazines. Back in the 80s, content in running magazines focused more on training and results. Today, a subscription to Women's Running Magazine offers you tips on diet, fitness, health & wellness, mental health, running, and nutrition, pretty much in that order. A subscription to Runner's world in 2021 offers you "exclusive access to the tools you need to become a better runner."  

From 2013- 2016, Women's Running Magazine was big on pushing diet plans for runners. If you subscribed back then, you would receive "even more weight loss tips!" You still get diet tips if you subscribe today, but they are often disguised as suggestions on how to "manage" your weight. 

In 2016, the magazine posted an article about weight loss that has since been deleted. They linked to it on their Facebook page with a comment about how great the "cough drop trick" is. This comment is referencing a suggestion to suck on a cough drop in order to curb your hunger. Think about that for a minute. In a world in which people like Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Tracy Tylka, Susie Orbach, and Geneen Roth encouraged or legitimized some form of intuitive eating long before the year 2000, a women's running magazine was publishing garbage fad diet tips in 2016, and they haven't stopped. Today, you can get advice about clean eating, diet and meal plans of all kinds, and lessons on how to eat a certain way or remove certain food groups. With all the information coming out about RED-S, does it make sense that an athlete should be trying to lower her appetite, especially after exercise? There can be serious health consequences from not eating adequately to fuel your activity level. 

In 2020, an article was published that taught readers how to manage their appetite, but if you look at the link, you can see it initially said "lower" appetite: 

Regarding tips to manage the out-of-control beast that is your hunger, the article states, "If you're feeling hungrier after increasing your training, it may be worth trying a few out to lower your appetite." Read that again. The idea is that if you increase your training and have the natural response of increased hunger, you should try to control that shit. I don't care that there are some additional sensible bits of information sprinkled throughout the rest of the article; I care that the bigger message to women is stated right there in the first paragraph: Don't trust your body. God forbid you end up giving in to your hunger. But body positivity! Just suck on a cough drop if you get hungry. Christ. 

Occasionally, a really good article will emerge among the typical reads that support diet culture. In 2021, they contradict their "control your appetite or all hell will break loose" stance with a much more sensible take about intuitive eatingManaging your weight is the new weight loss, though, and losing weight still seems to be the goal, even if you're cautioned to lose the weight sensibly. When the article is about mental health, there still have to be several mentions about the benefits of weight loss. In short, magazines, even those about running, always seem to showcase a mess of contradictory articles regarding weight, and tips about eating this or that way are constantly shoved in the faces of readers. It's almost funny that lists of articles about how and what women should eat are followed by one that suggests, "Can we just get back to how we innately learned to eat before there were any rules around our food and food choices?"

How does anyone sort through all of this contradictory bullshit? If you want diet advice of any kind, go see a registered dietitian. That's my advice.

It shouldn't be surprising that women's running magazines also present information on eating disorders, but it's odd that journalists who cover stories about those who struggle can't seem to understand what could be considered triggering content by the very individuals they profile. 

Strout, Erin

A constant focus on weight and size, jokes about binge eating, or suggestions about training that could easily be considered detrimental to anyone struggling with compulsive exercise are not helpful. In fact, it's insulting to that particular audience. I probably wouldn't address any of this if writers didn't aim to reach a specific audience. They want to be free to say whatever the fuck they want to get a few laughs or likes, any kind of attention, but also pretend to give a shit about those of us who struggle with eating disorders, compulsive overtraining, fear of not training, and body image. These types encourage fear around issues related to training, diet, and body, and they don't care to change or even acknowledge that what they are doing is harmful to some of their targeted audience members. 

Who Gets Support

I don't really like torturing other writers or being the critic's critic, but sometimes what I see makes me want to yell, "Don't make me be a bad guy!" I don't actually believe that calling out other people is bad, but it forces me to take a stance opposite that of the main running journalists and their followers. And these days, when you call out anyone, you automatically become the bad guy, even if you don't pop a guy's eye out of his fucking head. There's an old saying a friend shared with me, though, that if you don't want people to write criticisms about you, behave in a way that doesn't invite it. In other words, don't lie, don't cheat, and don't be an asshole.

I've already addressed transgender athletes, and Kevin Beck beat me to the punch when it comes to pointing out how journalists often skew the facts regarding intersex athletes. It's dishonest to address athletes who are intersex and fail to mention that the "genetic condition where she produces testosterone in higher levels than what is considered the normal range for women" is due to her XY chromosomes and the likely development of internal testes. Why would anyone leave that part out but to try to dupe her audience? Hell, the linked article doesn't even mention that Semenya is an intersex athlete. I'll repeat a quote from Amby Burfoot when he stated, "All clear-thinking individuals believe that transgender women and men should receive the same social, cultural, educational, financial, etc, rights as others. Not all agree about athletic rights." I would say the exact same about intersex athletes. I honestly don't have the answer when it comes to how to be 100 percent inclusive in sports without being unfair to either women or to intersex and transgender athletes, but intentionally misleading reporting is definitely not going to help. 

It's easy to want to support professional athletes no matter what their gender. Athletes work hard and most set a good example. Unfortunately, most professional runners don't make a living wage. Things have improved from the time I was running when we couldn't accept a dime or sponsorship, but if you're not among the very best of the best and even if you are, you might struggle financially. What's difficult to understand is the mad rush to support and sponsor influencers over athletes. Considering it's more about money, it's a little easier to grasp, but I don't get the overwhelming support around one influencer in particular who has lied, bullied others, and has suggested that she's in it for the money. When there are so many people in the world who actually want to help others and live an honest life, the crazy dash to fall all over someone who has no problem threatening others is bizarre. Seriously, how often does Latoya's name come up in articles, despite the fact that she is often the bully who plays the victim? 

Latoya Snell

Latoya Snell

Derek of Marathon Investigations is someone who has been criticized for simply calling out cheaters. He has also been praised by those who don't appreciate cheaters wrecking a sport. Unfortunately, he is also someone who has been harassed and bullied online, and he has been honest about how difficult it is to receive emails and comments relating to a situation in which someone took his own life. 

Below is a response from Latoya to Kevin Beck on Twitter. If you don't see how terrible this is, there's something really wrong with you. Who does more damage, someone pointing out that another person cheated, or someone really digging into a person's psyche by publicly throwing out false allegations in an attempt to shame him? Derek and Kevin aren't the ones who need to do better in this case, but despite this instance of clear bullying and another in which she told a person that she would "walk his dentures from his face", she's still sponsored by Hoka One One. Go fucking figure. 

Latoya Snell

In conclusion, it's really hard to stomach a lot of what goes on in the world today. Running used to be a way for me to escape or cope. As difficult and painful as my relationship to the sport has been, I still love it on some level. I just don't like seeing some of the more grotesque aspects of it like the dopers, the cheaters, the liars, and the bullies. I never thought running would be like this. I have to continually remind myself to look to those who are still inspiring and honest. They do exist. In fact, even though I have no real ties to New Hampshire, something that brought me great joy was watching the videos that put out. It's unfortunate they don't get more attention, but that's another story

Monday, May 31, 2021

We Didn't Actually Disappear

One of my biggest regrets in life, aside from taking a very short trip to the West Coast not long after recovering from viral meningitis for an awkward and anticlimactic encounter with someone I never should have been in communication with in the first place, is leaving Utah after my first year in college. I turned down so many opportunities including full scholarships from schools all over the country, and instead, I chose to leave a good thing and attend CU Boulder on a partial scholarship. I don't regret the friendships that developed or those that deepened on the cross country team, but I regret not staying in a place with a nurturing coach and environment. It's so strange how little decisions have the potential to dramatically change everything, good or bad, not to mention events beyond our control drastically affecting us, too. 

When I transferred, there were plenty of good runners on the team already, and CU was supposedly far superior to the school where I went, at least according to the people who worked there. Administrators made me repeat classes when there was no need, none whatsoever, and It was becoming more obvious to me that at CU, I was just not important. I thought running around fourth place on the cross country team at BYU had already taught me that I was no longer a "big fish in a little pond," especially in shorter races like the 5k, but at least in Utah, I still felt like an integral part of our team, an individual with scoring potential and the potential to go places in running. In Colorado, I was about to become as unimportant a varsity runner as could possibly be. The more I slipped into fatigue and eventually the role of generic runner, nothing special, the less I liked running and the more I struggled. My results reflected my unhappiness. 

Sometimes I look back and wonder what the hell I was thinking, but I convinced myself that I wanted to be training in my hometown. The reality was that everything in my life revolved around my sport, and I had really come back to run in the mountains. What was pulling me back was some unfinished business relating to a particular hill south of Boulder, a possible record attempt that I couldn't resist, and I had some training partners and my former high school coach willing to work with me, at least for a while. Realistically, I had a shot at taking down the women's record at the Pikes Peak Ascent by a substantial amount. My plans were to do it all: cross country, road racing, track, and mountain running, and for a little while I did. Where I was excelling in one area, running, I was failing in another, life. And then I got Giardia, and everything went to shit, literally and figuratively. 

Leading up to that crappy moment, though, I had a redshit year and ran pretty well unattached. The following summer, I spent most of my training going up big mountains: Grays Peak, Mt Elbert, some big bald 14er with an old mining road that climbs right to the top, Longs to the boulder field, and a few others that weren't quite as tall. Oh those summer days! My goal was to run as close to or, based on my training runs, possibly under 2:30 and, instead, I struggled in one of the worst races of my life. Somehow, I managed to squeeze out a 2:53 for a very disappointing 7th place, so incredibly far off my goal. I tried to avoid getting too down on myself, but it was impossible, and then my high school coach pulled away, leaving me even more depressed. 

Before that ill-fated race day, I won a bunch of races, set a course record or two, and was competing with the elite crowd. My confidence took a beating after missing the record at Pikes, but, in no time, I had to put my attention on cross country and track, which wasn't easy. Who knows how things would have played out had I not gotten sick and possibly won the race. 

Despite initially running well outside of school events my first two years at CU, I didn't run to my potential on the team and was growing very tired. I never felt fully recovered and was entering a phase of catching every illness around me. How I wish to whatever deity could change the past that I had stayed with a coach who was sensible, kind, and who could coax me into doing the right thing. Coach Shane at BYU was the equivalent of a horse whisper for overzealous runners, and I thrived under his guidance my first year in college. 

Coach Quiller at CU, on the other hand, was an exceptionally nice person, someone who was always kind, but a good coach only for those who could handle generic workouts, a lot of volume and speed work, and not a lot of feedback. In the end, I was on the team and friends with some of the women there but not part of the team. It's true that I carried excess baggage wherever I went and wasn't ready for that kind of environment. Coach Shane could always relieve some of the burdens I carried. Coach Quiller ignored them. That said, he was not a bad guy, just not the right coach for me. I imagine things would have been even more disastrous had I attended a school with a coach who was both unsympathetic and not a right fit, and there were plenty of those out there. Still, I was struggling. 

The typical narrative of standout high school athletes who don't go on to the Olympics or to win a bunch of national titles, according to those watching from afar, is that we disappear, but this isn't really true. This mentality stems from a very unhealthy "winner take all" perspective or possibly from the equally unhealthy situation in which those who want to feel superior put others down or erase them entirely. In fact, most former high school standout athletes go on to fill other roles, and some even find success in their sport out of the spotlight. It's such a destructive take, this idea that if you don't go on to constantly win more big races and achieve tremendous success, you fade away into nothingness. 

How realistic is it, percentage-wise, to find ongoing success in a demanding sport? How many great high school soccer players, football players, swimmers, or baseball players go on to find excellence in college and beyond? Are they supposed to? Do those who don't also disappear? Define success. Also, think about how long an average career of any top athlete really is. It's rare to see someone like Lorraine Moller who competed in multiple Olympic marathons throughout her time running. That doesn't mean those with a shorter period in the spotlight aren't notable. Look at Daniel Komen, for example.    

Years ago, an Olympic coach told me that distance runners can generally expect to compete at a high level for about eight years if they're lucky. With sneaky ways of doping, improved gear technology, and new methods of training and recovery, it's possible to stretch that, but, in addition to needing a working and mostly injury-free body, athletes must find ways to keep the fire and the desire to compete, a mental edge. People often look at the Olympics as what should be the pinnacle of every athlete's career when very few athletes make it that far. In fact, more college football players are drafted into the NFL than athletes who qualify for an Olympic team in a specific sport or event like swimming or running. For many, other races or an event such as the Olympic trials is the final goal. The point being, going to the Olympics is unlikely, even for some of the absolute best athletes. 

Like many other good athletes, I was probably never going to make it to the Olympics, even if I had chosen a different path and my career had gone better than it did. Also like so many other good runners, going to compete on a world stage was a dream, but a far-fetched one. Mountain running wasn't an Olympic sport, and I never had much leg speed. It's possible that under the right conditions, I could have developed into some kind of professional athlete if we were eventually allowed to accept payment or become an Olympic hopeful, and, had I stayed at BYU, my chances would have been much better. My body probably wasn't cut out for a flat marathon, and my 10K time would have had to drop from 35.04 to something much faster. Qualifying for anything shorter was a near impossibility. I just wasn't that fast in shorter distances. 

But when I think about the people who say I was washed up and disappeared, I can't say I fully agree. Despite all the injuries and terrible illnesses, and there were plenty, I still had some stand-out moments. And considering the severity of the illnesses I faced, I'm surprised I was able to run at all, let alone race. 

In my first year in college, I was 2nd at TAC junior nationals. In 1986, I was 3rd at the Vail Hill Climb and may have won it at some point after that, but for the life of me, I can't remember. I have a blue ribbon, but it doesn't specify what it's for. Not being someone who kept track of times and places combined with not having race results on the Internet back then is a problem when it comes to accuracy. 

The following results I found in an old scrapbook my dad had. I placed in the top 10 in the Diet Pepsi 10K. In 1988, I ran the Pikes Peak Marathon. Throughout college, I consistently ran 36-38 minutes for 10K road races at altitude. When I was invited to run in the elite field of the Bolder Boulder, I managed to run under 37 minutes on a scorching hot day after developing severe blisters on my feet about halfway through the race. I must have looked funny taking the turns extra wide, but I had to find a way to prevent pressure on my feet and possibly popping the blisters. When I was almost through with school, I ran a 36:36 10K in California knowing I didn't feel well but not knowing I was dealing with walking pneumonia. Against all odds, I ran a 36:31 at the Bolder Boulder in 1993. That part of my life was such a haze of illness and struggling that I don't even remember the details around that and many other races. 

At some point, I ran or really jogged a marathon in 3:49 or so. In my 30s, I ran under 21 minutes for a 5K. I also ran a 6:14 mile in 2003 and a 6:32 in 2004. Before that in 2001, I was 13th at the Mt. Evans Ascent. I won the Aspen Mountain Challenge hill climb in 2003 and came in 2nd a year later. This was during a period after almost dying due to complications related to anorexia but before getting sick with viral meningitis. Then there were all the foot surgeries. 

These aren't great achievements. I know that. Despite some wins in very small races and age group showings, my running resume looks even worse after 2005. But I'm grateful that I was able to run at all, all things considered. I write of these races and times not to brag -- I'm actually embarrassed about most of them -- but to point out that I didn't disappear, not entirely. I didn't even really disappear from my sport. I'm still here, even if I'm invisible to most. And despite all the troubles I faced, I never really blamed my coaches. Some environments are not good for some people. That's not to say that there are no bad coaches; it's more to point out that not every instance of an athlete struggling is due to an abusive coach. Then again, some coaches really do encourage unhealthy behaviors in their athletes. 

In a recent Outside Magazine article, the author profiled a young athlete who experienced hardships at the University of Arizona. I'm not here to deny or discount her experience. It was somewhat similar to mine and many other athletes, but, her story aside, the article itself fails in a few areas. As a result, it does a disservice to the athletes who were brave enough to share what happened to them in less than ideal athletic programs. For instance, to say, "Cain’s story was pivotal. It helped reframe what many young female athletes feel is a personal shortcoming—that they aren’t cut out to run competitively—as a systemic and cultural problem instead." is misleading. 

The issue was never athletes feeling like they weren't cut out to run competitively, at least that's not the message I got from reading what the athletes featured in the article said. The bigger issue is athletes knowing they are cut out to race or at least wanting to but facing outside and internal conflict. Additionally, alleged abuse by college and high school coaches is not a new story and wasn't back in 2019 when Mary Cain's story was brought to light. In 2018, for example, an article came out that addressed allegations of years of abuse by the track and cross country coach at the University of Washington. It wasn't just women who came forward in that case. Anytime there is a power imbalance, there is the potential for abuse, but not everyone defines abuse in the same way and misconduct can be perpetrated by both males and females. The article made none of this clear.   

Instead of addressing realistic solutions to toxic running environments that harm both men and women, the Outside article, like that in the New York Times regarding Cain, is framed in a way that's set up to blame men, specifically male coaches. I've addressed this issue before. What I find strange is the omission that in 2018, the Arizona team was guided by a male head coach and a female assistant coach, which suggests that merely having a woman present isn't going to solve every problem. 

At CU, we also had a female assistant coach, and yet the environment at BYU was far, far healthier despite the lack of ovaries guiding us. The article is one of many that suggests men are to blame for any athlete who overtrains or has an eating disorder, but in the case of the main athlete profiled, she came into a program already suffering from an eating disorder that developed in high school. Absolutely, the environment can contribute to individuals thriving or suffering, as I pointed out above, but it's not about male versus female coaching; it's about individuals, their makeup, and the overall environment. In a perfect world, every track and cross country program would have qualified male and female coaches, therapists for emotional support, registered dietitians, and physical therapists. 

It's unfortunate that Cain's voice is almost completely drown out by others who push the false idea that hiring women will solve any problem. She has a better suggestion that change begins with education. I've already rambled more than I intended here, but it's hard for me to understand the tremendous approval of a pro athlete previously saying we should look at numbers on a scale objectively followed by this article with the message that weighing an athlete is ineffective and harmful to athletes. People blindly support both takes without acknowledging the contradiction. It's hard to imagine productive progress considering these kinds of inconsistencies. Regarding numbers and certain comments, people will respond differently, and if you have an eating disorder, it's almost impossible to look at either with objectivity. That doesn't mean everyone should change for you or that numbers can't provide useful information. 

These days, you can't even call an athlete fit, which is such a bizarre take. Asking others to stop giving out compliments or offering neutral comments because these statements are taken in a negative way by the receiver doesn't actually help heal whatever causes a person to mistranslate what others say. "Fit" can be applied to anyone, really, from a bodybuilder to a person walking down the street. It doesn't secretly mean "thin" unless you apply that incorrect meaning to the word, and if you do, it's up to you to figure out why. On the rare occasion when someone might associate thin with fit, maybe show some compassion by realizing we are all products of our society. Perhaps when the pendulum has been held tight, it swings too far in the opposite direction before settling on some kind of more reasonable norm, but right now, it's a little concerning to see the kinds of unrealistic demands people are making while possibly thinking it's real activism. It's not. In some cases, it perpetuates an unhealthy way of viewing the world, that enemies are all around you, that men are bad, and that anything they say is a negative. 

Below is one of my favorite excerpts from "Out and Back" by Hillary Allen. I wish more people had this kind of drive for integrity. These days, it just seems lost in a world of journalistic lies, bias, and condemnation: