In the first week of December, runner Rachele Schulist publicly spoke about her struggle with weight and the sport of cross country. As a two-time All-American at Michigan State University, Schulist has won several titles, even leading her team as a sophomore to an undefeated season and their first women’s national title.
However – the battle was not always easy.
When Schulist began running at the Division I level, she noticed patterns in the elite runners – thin with speed. This led to manipulation in her head, she thought in order to succeed she needed to be thin. Gradually restricting her diet, Schulist quickly lost weight as well as nutrition. This lack of nutrition led to an uncommon injury in her knee, forcing her to be out for a season. The battle to return was even more difficult. Still conscious of her weight, her team and coaching staff rallied behind her.
Today – Schulist has gained 20 pounds and is stronger than ever. Mentally she was defeated going into the 2016 season, but came out finishing 12th at nationals.
Rachele Schulist is a role model to runners everywhere. In a sport where skinny is glorified, weight loss is encouraged, and speed requires you to be thin – mental manipulation is insanely easy.
You see the girls winning medals and standing on podiums and they are beautifully thin. It almost seems as if they have no weight to carry when running. You begin to imagine how fast you could be if you were that thin.
Caught between wanting to be strong and wanting to be thin, your mind begins hesitating. Your teammates might even comment on your weight. College is the time where everyone is gaining weight, but as a runner, you are expected to lose it. As a female, this is more difficult than anyone can imagine.
Rachele Schulist is proof that skinny is not equivalent with speed. Strength is so important, as well as a positive self image. She stated “thinner does not mean faster” and that is something all female runners need to be aware of. Gaining weight does not make you slower, and the idea that female runners need to be a certain image or size is horrifying.
As a female runner – I have often cut myself off from certain foods or going out just because I wanted to be skinny. I looked at myself endlessly in a mirror wondering what else I could do. When I was told I looked stronger, I stared at the scale even harder, hoping the numbers would go down.
The image of the ideal female runners needs to be abolished. You can be fast and strong, just as you can be skinny and fast. There is no ideal image. Love your body and compete aggressively – regardless of your body type, because that is what running is about.