Wise Advice For All Aspiring Young Female Runners
“I have so many things I want to tell you, but I’m going to start with the most urgent. Because of all the ways I’ve seen athletic stories unfold over the years, this is the No. 1 destroyer of dreams.
You’re a young woman, but the sound of the word ‘woman’ makes you cringe. Well-meaning coaches and parents and aunties and grannies and inappropriate uncles comment on the changing bodies of girls – not yours yet but those around you. It’s coming. You know it’s coming.
You notice what happens sometimes to female athletes. She hits puberty; her times get slower or plateau. She is confused; she is working harder than ever. Clueless adults who are overly invested in her ‘performance’ will grieve, as if her worth is based solely on PRs. This makes you scared of growing up.
Seeing girls go through this is confusing because there is a story once told to you about running: ‘You get out what you put in.’ You’ve heard there is a direct line between effort and improvement, between wanting it more and winning. This is a ‘truth’ written by men, based on the experience of boys and men. Your male teammates are bathing in testosterone, a dramatic performance enhancer. You will not. You are about to bathe in different hormones, hormones that, more often than not, temporarily interrupt that promised straight line of improvement. What you need are knowledgeable coaches and parents who know how to support you during this time, to let you know it is normal, to celebrate you through development, who can zoom out on the big picture, because it is at this time that many girls give up.
You’ll see girls react to a changing body in three ways: give up, ride it out, or fight against it. With 100 percent confidence, I can tell you the best choice is to ride it out. The best is yet to come.”
– Opening lines of a letter Lauren Fleshman has written to her high school self entitled “Dear Younger Me: Lauren Fleshman” that was published on milesplit.
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