26/11/17- the date I first read Bobby Clay’s story in Athletics Weekly (https://athleticsweekly.com/performance/bobby-clay-my-osteoporosis-nightmare-70422/.)
Prior to then, I had never heard of the ‘Female Athlete Triad’ or as it is now known, REDS (relative energy deficiency in sport.)
On the 26th of November 2017, this all changed.
I finally felt understood, seen, less alone.
Who knew a piece in a magazine could have such a profound impact on me?
The likeness in Bobby Clay’s Athletics Weekly article to my own situation was, to put it simply, unbelievable. The words I were reading could quite easily have been written by me. I could relate to everything Clay was describing, from her desire to live like a professional athlete when she was just a school child, to her obsession with running resulting in her body suffering lasting damage.
In the same way that Bobby described how she neglected her body- failing to listen to what it was telling her- I did exactly the same. I spent many months of my life, months I should’ve been enjoying my teenage years, undereating and overtraining. I was, to match the words of Bobby, ‘greatly ambitious, yet desperately malnourished.’
My ambition, or rather, addiction, led me to push my body to its limits- training longer and harder than everyone else because I refused to believe that the training being set for me was enough. I always had to be doing more- more volume, more intensity. Every run had to be rounded up, adding an extra mile or so. No amount of training would have ever been enough to satisfy my hunger to do more. Target times became quicker. Sunday runs became longer.
The consequence of my over-trained yet under-fueled body? At the age of just 17, I was diagnosed with Osteopenia, the early onset of Osteoporosis. This, combined with my lack of periods, later to be diagnosed as primary amenorrhea, were the warning signs I needed to see that something clearly wasn’t right, but, like Clay, I ignored these signs, believing that they were just part and parcel of being a ‘serious athlete’/a ‘real runner.’ By ignoring the warning signs, I was damaging my body more and more every single day.
In the same way that Bobby Clay ended up being unable to run due to what she had put her body through, I too was unable to run, because I ended up in hospital, where I remained for 7 months to receive treatment for what had dramatically escalated into a full-blown eating disorder.
Looking back, I can see just how much of an influence that Athletics Weekly Magazine had on me back in November 2017. 16-year-old Lisa finally felt understood. I finally felt able to explain how I was feeling for the first time in my life, and that was all thanks to Bobby being brave enough to share her story.
Because I know how much reading someone else’s story helped me, I am determined to give something back and share my own story. If I can help even just one person, I will be so happy. I just want people to feel less alone.
So, lets all be more open about our struggles, reminding each other that it’s okay not to be okay.