The top American woman finisher at the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon is getting a mix of kudos and flak on social media for running last Monday’s Boston Marathon knowing she had a stress reaction in her femur. Her femur fractured during the race, and Sarah Crouch of Blowing Rock, N.C. finished in 60th position, with a disappointing time of 2:48:05.

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Crouch was hoping a strong finish in Boston would earn her a spot at the Olympic trials in Atlanta, Georgia in February 2020, and some speculate she took a calculated risk in order to bag the spot now rather than wait until the fall, when the pressure would be greater. However, having now sustained a fracture, it’s very unlikely she’ll be able to recover and resume training in time for a fast fall marathon.

Fellow American runner Stephanie Bruce, who most recently raced the World Cross Country Championships in Denmark, responded to a tweet extolling Crouch’s toughness with a comment about both the wisdom of her decision health-wise and the example it sets for young athletes.

A young woman posting as HappyRunningCo said, “This looks bad for her and her coaching team,” a comment that itself elicited some support and some criticism. In response to the criticism that such comments constituted “backseat driving,” the poster responded, “Coming off a big training cycle would help the recovery process of a stress reaction vs now a fracture. Her goal was to get an OQT [Olympic Trials Qualifier] (2:29:30), you’re not getting that unless you’re healthy. It would have been best to recover and go for it in the fall.”

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Six days ago my MRI result came back and I decided to race anyway knowing that I was risking a stress fracture. Today I finished the Boston Marathon on a femur that fractured about halfway into the race. Today was the slowest marathon of my professional career and I have never in my life been so proud to finish. Sometimes big risks are worth it and other times they completely blow up in your face, but I will look back on today with the knowledge that I am a tough son of a gun. * Obviously guys, do as I say, not as I do! The hope today was that the leg would hold up and I could contend for a top 10 spot that would secure an Olympic A Standard heading into 2020, and if not, I’d be responsible for the rest it will take to fully heal. In my case, the risk felt equal to the reward, but of course this is not always the case. Consult with your coach before you try running on an iffy leg!

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Judging by her original post, Crouch seems to feel it was worth it to push through in the hope that her leg would hold up, and says “Obviously guys, do as I say, not as I do” (an expression that is usually cited as emblematic of parental hypocrisy).

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30 things running has taught me before 30. Link in bio.

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Crouch later posted in response to criticism of her decision that “some of the same folks who were praising my gutsy move to race Chicago less than two weeks after quad surgery are criticizing my rationality now because this one didn’t pan out. ” (Crouch finished Chicago in sixth place as top American, with a time of 2:32:37.)

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Guys I have to say, when a flu-plagued Michael Jordan played in the NBA championships, he was in no way advocating that sick people go play three hours of aggressive ball. He was simply making a career choice based on the risk and reward of the situation. Now of course, (despite our similar taste in men’s underwear and identical body shape) I am not Michael Jordan, but running IS my career. And this was the basket that all of my 2020 hopes were in due to the recent change in the Olympic Standard. My leg held up during the build up and my choice to race was built around that. These moves happen across professional sports and again, when gymnast Kerri Strug vaulted and landed on a broken ankle, she was not encouraging viewers to shed their casts and perform flips in their living room. Fact is, it’s some of the same folks who were praising my gutsy move to race Chicago less than 2 weeks after quad surgery who are criticizing my rationality now because this one didn’t pan out. Anyway, thanks so much for the support from all those who reached out 💛💙

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Crouch’s coach, Steve Magness (co-author of The Passion Paradox), responded to a poster on LetsRun.com (who contacted him by direct message): “I’m proud of Sarah going for it. We had a discussion beforehand and weighed the risks and benefits. In the end, it’s her career and I’m here to support her. I stand by her decision 100 per cent, and will take whatever blame anyone wants to assign to me for not holding her back. She’s one of the toughest runners I know and I couldn’t be more thrilled to work with her.” 

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