I came across the book She Was Once A Runner about half a year ago and recently read it a second time. This memoir, written by an anonymous author, details a collegiate woman’s experience during her sophomore year on a Division I cross country team where she was encourage by both her coach and parents to lose weight. Additionally, she was influenced by her teammates who also dealt with eating disorders. It was interesting reading about an experience with eating disorders in a different light from mine–in an environment were it seems eating disorders were enforced on the collegiate cross country and track team. Meanwhile, my eating disorder was mostly influenced by the pressure I had on myself.
I thought the memoir was well-written. The dialogue flowed and the plot moved along at a strong pace to keep me engaged. The author remains anonymous so as not to point fingers at anyone specifically, which I think is admirable. In this way she isn’t writing the story to blame anyone in particular, but to show how this is not happening at just one college, but college across America. Reading a lot of online running forums left me to conclude that many people, especially other collegiate women, could easily relate to the story.
It’s an unfortunate situation, but I’m proud of this author for stepping up to the plate and exposing the ugly truth behind some collegiate distance running programs. As Camille Herron states in her recent blog entry about leaving a mark in the world with running, I feel that that NAIA (the association/division my school runs for), in exemplifying Champions of Character and striving to develop the runners for the real world, there seems to be many runners who leave the program continuing to run rather than being burnt out and injured. I do not mean to say that most Division I or II schools result in a dire outcome, but the pressure put on many of the athletes, especially to lose weight, can result in permanent damage physically and mentally. The Silence of Great Distance was also a insightful read showing the impact of pressure on women athletes and weight, especially at the Division I level.
As I continue to work on my own writing project, I thought it would be helpful to read all the different eating disorder and running books out there. This one was definitely a favorite, and I hope to spread the word about it because not only was this book a good read, but the topic needs to be open for discussion and awareness.
Meanwhile, I work on my experience–in the form of 421 pages at this point! There is still a lot more revision to go, but here it is all printed out:
Photo credit to my wonderful mom for allowing me to use a whole carton of ink (plus some?) and 400+ pages of paper. And my dad, for working so hard at his job to help pay for this. :)