Author: Caleb Daniloff
Title: Running on Empty
Main Topic: This article talks about personal stories that took their obsession with running too far and let it develop into an eating or exercise disorder, and analyses different takes on the situation with the goal of raising awareness on the issues and finding more ways to get out of them.
This is quite a lengthy article, but I believe that it is well worth people’s time to read it – especially for runners who can learn much from the advice and anecdotes contained within. Several runners tell their stories, which are collected and relayed by writer Caleb Daniloff. These stories usually start out with the narrator being a dedicated, fairly healthy runner, who then hears that being lighter can improve running speed. Each runner-narrator then responds by gradually starving him/herself in order to beat his/her running records. Strangely enough, this tactic works, and the runners do in fact improve – quite noticeably, even. However, even after they revert back to healthier eating and gain back the often redundant weight they lost, their running continues to improve! I am glad that Daniloff mentions this, because it raises a suspicion in the readers that maybe being anorexic and running better are not so much a cause-and-effect as a coincidence. It is certainly not a good thing for more people (especially active athletes!) to get positive ideas about conscious starvation. I’m a little frightened that other runners will read this article and only take from it the notion that losing weight improves running. It’s easy to ignore things such as long-term health issues when you can do something that gives you quick, short-term results.
I would have preferred if this article gave more information with regards to the health of runners and how they should be taking care of themselves. It talks a lot and gives a lot of opinions, but barely any scientific and nutritional information. All the people with eating disorders that tell their story end up becoming healthy eaters – but do they really? Caleb Daniloff mentions them eating burgers and fries, and endorsing the notion that it’s a diet that is completely fine. (Maybe that was the reason for their weight gain in the first place.) I’m not saying that even if you really love fries, indulging in a small serving once in a while is unheard of. I just don’t think such foods should be eaten regularly, because they’re not much of a good fuel for running, or much of a good fuel at all, if we get down to it.
I like the way this article gives advice and stories from accomplished runners to people who look up to them, but I think the direction strays from where it should go. I had really hoped it would be the sort of encouraging, “moral is: eat healthy and don’t be afraid to have a cookie here and then, and DON’T starve yourself!” kind of article, but it kind of left me hanging at the end. I’m not sure if the author intended for the audience to scratch up their own selection of advice from the article, or if there is in fact not supposed to be a moral. With something as severe as eating disorders among heavy athletes, I would expect there to be one.
I was also surprised how people who exercise so much can find themselves with considerable extra weight in the first place. If they are running through 600-1000+ calories with each training session and they train several times a week, then they must eat absolute junk to have 20+ extra pounds! There is an easy solution that everyone seems to ignore: the balance. I think there should be a middle ground for these runners, somewhere between their obsession with eating little and super healthy, and their later (or original) “burgers and fries” slack attitude. Runners need good fuel; all of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fibre, but not in the form of ice cream and cookies for lunch! It is possible to stay in good shape with a well-balanced diet even without running marathons, so I’m sure these runners will be able to accomplish their fitness goals as long as they make smart decisions. I just hope they know what smart decisions are.