The silver lining of coming back from injuries

Reflecting on Shalane Flanagan’s monumental NYC marathon victory

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There’s a lot that sucks about running.

Especially for women, injuries, eating disorders and negative body image are sadly an inescapable part of the sport. So when something big comes along, there is a sort of communal celebration that radiates throughout the female running community.

The most recent ‘something big’ was the New York City Marathon win by Shalane Flanagan. Not projected to finish first, she took onlookers – and herself – by surprise. Being the first American woman to win the marathon since Miki Gormon in 1977, articles of her success have been flooding the media since Sunday. What is so spectacular about this win however, is not just the impact that it has had on Shalane’s life, but the immense effect she had on female athletes, and the stellar example she has set.

Beginning her journey with a back fracture that took her out for 10 weeks, there was question of whether or not she would even be competing this year. When she was finally able to begin training again, Flanagan was forced to take a much different approach than she ever had before.

What she learned, however, was that her previous health had allowed her to overtrain, and by training smarter, not harder, she was feeling fresher and more ready to race than in the past. Obviously, it worked out, garnering Flanagan a monumental victory against the top competition in the sport.

Not only has Flanagan proved her abilities as a runner, but she along with co-author Elyse Kopecky wrote “Run Fast. Eat Slow.” which focuses on the effect that proper nutrition has on performance. She was quoted in a FloTrack article saying, “We hope to convince female readers that by getting in the kitchen and cooking for themselves, they will help prevent bone loss, infertility, weight issues, eating disorders and a lifetime of issues related to poor nutrition.”

This recognition of proper nutrition and the mistruths concerning overtraining by such a prevalent athlete causes a serious and much needed stir. She is a living, breathing, succeeding example of what every female athlete hopes to be, and has achieved success while remaining conscious and respectful of her body; something that specifically many female collegiate athletes neglect to do.

Injury and recovering from injury is an incredibly relatable subject. Not only has Flanagan set the example of the benefits of taking the proper time to recover and coming back slowly, but she also proves that injury is not a death sentence. Flanagan is a testament that more is not always better and that at the end of the day, you first and foremost need to take care of your health. You will recover and potentially even come out a better athlete from it.

So yes, running sucks sometimes. But because we all hurt together, when someone has a fantastic win, it makes it all the more sweet. Congrats Shalane, and thanks for sharing your victory.

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