This article asks if female long distance runners are prone to depression and even suicide. They may be too hard on themselves, as they try to be perfect at everything in an obsessive, unbalanced and unhealthy way. Is this what it takes to be a winning athlete? This is drive for victory I have great difficulty relating to. But then I think my tennis-playing is a game, and I am amazed by those who view it as a war that takes no prisoners.

Here is an excerpt:

The women who succumb to those impulses are consumed by the need to win a battle that simply cannot be won; a battle to be the best at everything, all at once.

Like the gymnast and the ballerina, the distance runner is often defined by drive and compulsion. She is an endurance athlete. As such, her days revolve around the demands of her sport: 50, 60, 70, 80-mile weeks, weights, cross-training—and, above all, a complete focus on her body, its abilities, and its inabilities. Hers is a sport without mercy. Every race has one, and only one, winner—often determined by a fraction of a second. In running, results are clearly defined and indelible. Unsurprisingly, the distance runner has a tendency towards obsessive-compulsive behavior. She is willing to spend every day fretting over the extra mile or half-mile, the quarter of a second, the extra hour of sleep, and the infinitesimal margin of victory. She is competitive, driven, and, sometimes, crazy. She is Captain Ahab, and victory is her white whale.

Perhaps even more than their male counterparts, female distance runners are perfectionists and control freaks. This is hardly unusual in a society where the woman is expected to do it all. But it is particularly apparent—and, often, destructive—among the already-driven and already high-achieving population of distance runners. Stories of eating disorders abound. In many cases, those are only the tip of the iceberg. For women like Holleran, Ormsby, and Wazeter [ed note: who all committed suicide], the obsession is not just about training. Nor is the compulsion solely about food. The drive for success—or, rather, victory—extends to the classroom, society, and every other aspect of life. In the same way that the woman on Wall Street is expected to be a perfect mother, the woman on the track is often expected to be a straight-A student, team leader, social role model, and everything in between. Kathy Ormsby was known for taking her class notes to workouts. Madison Holleran’s depression was apparently triggered by what she considered a sub-par 3.5 GPA.

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