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Gollish and Wodak share their thoughts on #strongnotskinny

Two Canadian distance runners weigh in on what #strongnotskinny means to them

Natasha Wodak

Marathoner Allie Kieffer has spent a lot of her running career enveloped by a discussion about her weight. Kieffer broke onto the scene when she finished fifth overall and was the second American woman across the line at the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon. If you were paying close attention to American track running, you’d have known she was a strong collegiate runner who’d attempted a post-collegiate career but had taken some time off after injury and setbacks. But for most, 2017 was the first time they’d heard of Kieffer. 


RELATED: Allie Kieffer criticized for using hashtag #strongnotskinny

Spectators of Kieffer’s career have commented the runner is not as lean as some elite marathoners. On Jan. 2, 2018 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. “People often said they were surprised I could run so well for being ‘bigger,’” she says. And recently she’s received some criticism for the hashtag #strongnotskinny which she started using in May. Some runners feel as though Kieffer’s hashtag casts a negative light on runners who are naturally lean, implying that they can’t be strong as well. 

Stephanie Bruce wrote on Instagram, “Spreading positive body image messages is great but be careful of what that message is. I’m lean, skinny AND strong, I gave birth to 9 and 8 lb babies.” She followed up in an interview with Sports Illustrated saying, “I was trying to say that you can say ‘it doesn’t matter what size you are as a runner,’ but you have to include all sizes. That does include skinny people.”


Sasha Gollish and Natasha Wodak have both had very long and successful running careers, and they’ve had such long careers because they’ve maintained their strength. Both women are very supportive of Kieffer’s message and hashtag.

Gollish says that for her, #strongnotskinny is a very positive thing. “I think strong not skinny is positive depending on how you frame it.” Gollish sees strong as a state of mind as opposed to about appearance. “Don’t look at another runner as what you should become.”

Gollish emphasizes that for her, it’s all about feeling your best. “Examine what makes you feel like the best possible runner. This often comes down to things way outside of physical appearance.” And this seems to echo Kieffer’s sentiment. Kieffer posted on Instagram on Sunday saying, “It’s not strong versus skinny, it’s about feeling comfortable in your body.”


Wodak added, “I see lots of young, talented junior girls not improve because they’ve gotten too thin. I’ve never been in that mentality. I’ve taken care of myself, I’ve worked hard.” She sees Kieffer’s message as a crucial aspect of a runner’s training. “If you eat well, and you train hard, your body will be what it should be. If you have to restrict calories and over-exercise, you’re never going to get the results you want.”