Molly Seidel ran one of the most inspiring races of 2020. The Notre Dame grad ran her marathon debut at the U.S. Olympic Trials and secured her spot on the 202(1) team in late February. Seidel was undeniably an underdog that day, but years of hard work paid off big time. This week Seidel is once again making sports headlines due to a very candid interview with ESPN about her struggle with an eating disorder. She told Charlotte Gibson that just because she was successful at the 2020 trials doesn’t mean her battle with an eating disorder is over – in fact, far from it.
Seidel was a stand-out collegiate runner, taking multiple NCAA titles and specializing in the 10,000m. The soon-to-be Olympian was a high school star as well, and a Nike Foot Locker National Cross-Country champion. She attended the University of Notre Dame, where she earned her NCAA success. She ran a 1:09:35 half-marathon in Houston in January 2020 to qualify for the trials (instead of running her marathon debut in Houston, as she’d initially planned). She would ultimately decide to try her hand at the marathon distance for the first time at the U.S. Trials, and in February, she became the first American woman to qualify for the Olympics in her debut.
But this success wasn’t linear. Seidel told ESPN, “Instead of competing in the Olympic trials in the summer of 2016 [when she finished college] and signing a pro contract, I entered into a treatment program for my eating disorder. That’s how horrible things had become.”
Since 2016, Seidel says, things have improved, but she also stresses that it’s a work in progress. “Eating disorders are a shockingly common part of collegiate distance running, and it is all too familiar in this sport to watch a young woman succeed for a short time, crash from low body weight and energy availability, and never be heard from again. The comeback of learning to run – or simply live – with a new body and a new approach to eating is the hardest part.” This is the part that Seidel says she continues to battle.
Seidel’s piece in ESPN came just a few days after Elise Cranny, one of America’s fastest 5,000m runners and BTC runner, posted on Instagram about her own experience with under-fuelling.
Amelia Boone, an OCR-world-champion-turned-trail-racer, has also been extremely open about her struggle with an eating disorder and the difficulty that comes from the juxtaposition of a successful running career and an internal struggle.
The importance of a support system
While none of these women have the definitive answer for success, each references the importance of a true support system. This invaluable resource can mean the difference between health/success and a running career that doesn’t reach its full potential. Speaking up about RED-S and eating disorders is undeniably uncomfortable, but it’s incredibly important.
If you or someone you know is dealing with an eating disorder, there are multiple resources online, but you’re better off speaking with a medical professional to get the best help possible.