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“My weight has nothing to do with how good a runner I am,” says 2:29 marathoner

"I'm done feeling like being thinner will make me better," says Allie Kieffer, who finished fifth at one of the world's most prestigious marathons

American elite distance runner Allie Kieffer was one of the major surprises of the 2017 New York City Marathon, breaking 2:30 for the first time and finishing fifth overall. Her 2:29:39 clocking was staggering improvement on her previous outdoor best of 2:55:30. (She has run a 2:44 marathon indoors.)

On Jan. 2, the 30-year-old published an online piece entitled “My Weight Has Nothing to Do With How Good a Runner I Am” in Self Magazine addressing an issue which she says has been ongoing for as many years as she’s been a competitive runner.

The Buffalo, N.Y. resident says receiving comments on her body from others, including competitors, began when she was in high school. It then continued in college. “People often said they were surprised I could run so well for being ‘bigger,'” she says.

She describes feeling added pressure to perform well in order to avoid discussions about her weight. “I didn’t look like most of the women I lined up against, and, even worse, I increasingly felt like I had to in order to run well,” she writes. “Anytime I delivered a lackluster performance I was met with rhetoric that I needed to lose weight to perform better.”

As she describes it, the unhealthy practices of tracking calories and fat and eliminating food groups, for example, led to getting a tibial stress fracture ahead of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, a qualifying race for the 2012 London Olympics. Kieffer goes on to write that it took years to realize that “dropping too much weight for whatever reason will always be an unhealthy shortcut to an end-goal.”

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Last year, Kieffer says that she started a new habit: “fitting as many nutrients as possible onto my plate.”

Kieffer was the second American women to cross the finish line at the November’s New York City Marathon in what was one of the most competitive fields in history with Kieffer placing just back of Olympic and IAAF World Championships medallists, World Marathon Major champions and a world record holder. The race is the largest marathon in the world.

The full article in Self Magazine can be found here.