Creating Community: Recovery is Better Together (Guest Post by Sarah DeGraff)

Sarah DeGraff is a Grand Rapids, Michigan native running the Afton 50K Trail Race this Saturday, June 2. She decided to run this race and raise funds for Running in Silence to support bringing eating disorder awareness to more athletes and coaches around the country. Every $1,000 donated helps us reach another group of athletes and/or coaches. You can donate here!

Sarah holds a BA in International Development. She is currently earning her Master’s in Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she is researching organic vegetable variety trials. Previously, she has worked as an Agricultural Extension Educator with UW-Madison Division of Extension. She enjoys running on the Ice Age Trail and Kettle Moraine trails nearby, as well as gardening, backpacking, hiking, traveling, and biking.

I ran my first marathon at age 27. “Limped through” is probably a more accurate description. Thanks to IT band issues I had throughout training, I wound up walking the final three miles into the finish chute. I immediately signed up for another race, despite my coworkers laughing at me as I hobbled around the office for the following week.

I had fallen in love with the training process of endurance sport.

I am not a traditional athlete. I didn’t join a track or cross-country team in high school or college. Training competitively started about five years ago, when I joined a marathon training team organized by a local running store. When my pace improved, I signed up for as many road races as I could.

Two years later, I moved away from friends and family to work on an organic farm in northern Wisconsin and began to train for my first ultramarathon trail race on my own, away from friends and family. I stayed busy working forty hours a week on the farm plus ten hours of training. The improvements I saw in my running performances added to the excitement. I felt a strong emotional connection to running, identified myself as a runner, and started to win age group awards and place in races.

Read more

What I Learned as a Collegiate Runner Majoring in Dietetics (Guest Post by Maggie Farrell) Part 3

Read Part 1 of Maggie’s Journey here.

Read Part 2 of Maggie’s Journey here.

Donate to her Running in Silence marathon journey fundraiser here! Maggie will be running the Austin Marathon THIS Sunday representing Running in Silence.

Since I wrote my initial blog post for Running in Silence, I have had several people ask me, “Why did you wait until now to share your struggles?” To be honest, I was scared–scared of what admitting I had a problem would mean for my running career. Scared that asking for help made me weak and people would question if I had actually had a problem.

It took stepping away from competitive running to realize that asking for help didn’t make me weak. My perspective mattered.

I shared in my first post that the first time I ever worried about my weight wasn’t until my junior year of high school. However, upon reflection, I realized that this isn’t entirely the truth. I remember stepping on the scale as a fourth grader. When I looked down at the scale, I remember feeling dissatisfied with the number and making myself get out the door for a walk. That night for dinner, I cut back on the number of bread and butter slices (a staple in my diet at that time) because I had been told that bread was “bad.”  Fourth grade.That is absurd.

I bring up this experience to illustrate how difficult it is to have a healthy relationship with food and our bodies today. We are told, explicitly or implicitly, at a very young age, that our weight is one of the most important things about us. I won’t go too much into how our diet culture is harming our relationship with food at the very first exposure because we could be here for a while. I do, however, want to point out that this exposure to diet culture, in combination with additional pressures to “stay fit” and look a certain way in competitive sports, can make someone’s susceptibility to developing an eating disorder incredibly high.

Read more

What I learned as a Collegiate Runner Majoring in Dietetics (Guest Post by Maggie Farrell) Part II

Read Part 1 of Maggie’s Journey here.

Donate to her Running in Silence marathon journey fundraiser here!

My eating disorder and running goals had me focusing on one common thing: how to be less. How I could spend less time on the cross-country course or track? Eat less throughout the day? Weigh less on the scale? And take up less space in this world? These thoughts of how to be less took up most of the space in my brain. It seemed the better I got at running, the more mental space was taken up by these goals.

This hyper-focused mindset, in addition to the irritability that came with under-fueling, made it difficult for me to form meaningful relationships and spend time with the ones I loved.

Looking back at the time I was struggling the most with my eating disorder, I can now identify several ways my social life and relationships were impacted:

  1. I went to bed early due to a fear of eating too much or “giving in” to my cravings. At this point in my life, it was a miracle to find me out of bed past 8 p.m. I was afraid the later I stayed up, the less willpower I had, and the more likely I would eat more food. Plus, thanks to the lack of energy I was consuming at the time, I just didn’t have the energy to stay up late.
  2. I turned down offers to go to social gatherings where food was involved. I would do just about anything to avoid my “fear foods.” These are foods that people avoid due to negative thoughts about the healthfulness of the food. I avoided foods that were commonly deemed by society as “bad” since I thought they would make me run slow or gain weight. I would do just about anything to avoid these foods.
  3. My thoughts were always dedicated to food. Like I said earlier, most of my thoughts at this point in my life were dedicated to food and my diet. How could I cut a couple of extra calories from my diet? What would I allow myself to eat the next day? Is the dressing that they served with my salad “healthy?” How many more calories should I eat today? This obsession with food was exhausting, but I couldn’t control my thoughts, so I just tried to ignore them. Little did I know that this was my body’s cry for help. I was starving.
  4. I didn’t have much energy for social events, and I was easily irritable. As I mentioned in my previous post, constant under-fueling translated into me feeling irritated a good proportion of the time. In addition, I was restricting my caloric intake, which meant I didn’t have the energy to do much else other than run.

Read more

What I Learned as a Collegiate Runner Majoring in Dietetics (Guest Post by Maggie Farrell) Part 1

Last year, Maggie Farrell reached out to me with a request to raise awareness for eating disorders in sports through Running in Silence in an upcoming marathon. As a Michigan high school cross country and track coach, I had the opportunity to witness some of Maggie’s running accomplishments in high school. But the greatest privilege has been watching her work on this three-part piece that reveals the gritty woman Maggie aspired to be from a young age, who now inspires others.

Maggie Farrell, 2016 high school state cross country and 2017 3200m high school state track champion for Michigan, graduated in 2021 from Michigan State University with her BS in Dietetics. In addition to her studies, Maggie competed on the MSU Cross Country and Track & Field team. Throughout her time competing at MSU, she was Big 10 Freshman Runner of the Year, first-team All-Big 10, and competed in the NCAA Cross Country Championship. Maggie also helped the MSU women’s team win the Big Ten’s conference championship in 2020. Maggie is currently a graduate student at Texas State University where she is completing her dietetic internship and MS in Human Nutrition to become a registered dietitian.

This past fall, I was inspired by my dad to run the Austin Marathon in February 2022. Throughout my time training for this marathon, I will be raising money for Running in Silence, an organization that encourages the athletic community to talk about the prevalence of eating disorders, help athletes seek out the help they need, and assist coaches with eating disorder awareness and prevention. I encourage you to consider donating to this amazing organization so we can help raise awareness about eating disorders in sports and help lessen the struggle for athletes.

Read more