Allie Ostrander: Dear Body, I Love You

MileSplit is publishing a film centered around issues of performance anxiety, body image and eating disorders in track and field. Earlier this year, we met with three figures in the sport at both the professional and high school levels, in order to better understand and profile the truths of the individuals who endure these diagnosis' and combat issues surrounding them. Over the next three days, we will also publish personal essays by them. Today, we hear from Allie Ostrander. She is based out of Seattle, Washington and is a professional athlete who recently disclosed that she would be taking a break from competition. A U.S. Olympic Trials finalist in the 3,000m Steeplechase and a 3-time NCAA champion in the steeple, she is one of the sport's most important voices. We thank her for being a part of this project. 

"Because you give me a chance every day to listen and build trust, even though I don't deserve it. Because you were made to be lived in not to be looked at, and you let me live."

By Allie Ostrander - Boise State '19, Kenai Central '15

Dear Body,

First, I want to start by saying that I love you. 

I know my actions haven't always sent that message, so I want to make my words a little louder. The tumultuous relationship that I have with you started with words, but not my words. The words of people around me: Newspaper reporters, race spectators, friends' parents, teachers, and random strangers. 

They told me that I was a great runner, incredible for my age, and I loved to hear that. I wanted to believe it because running made me feel invincible, special, and unique. But their words didn't stop at, "You're a great runner." They added, "Because you're small," and, "Until you hit puberty," and other qualifying phrases attributing my success to my size. 

I listened to those words because they were repeated again and again. They changed and grew from comments and whispers as I walked by to shouts and screams inside my mind, telling me that I was special but only because I was small. Words gain power the more they are used, so even though my words to you haven't always been kind, I want to say it again and again that I love you. 

I don't love you in a superficial sense, for the way that you look, or the remarks that you receive. I love you for the life that you enable me to live, for the strength that you display day after day, and for the way that you have supported me even when I stopped supporting you.

Second, I want to tell you that I am sorry for the way I treated you. 

I let the words of others convince me that you couldn't be trusted; that I needed to manipulate you to look a certain way and stay a certain size in order to find success in running. You begged me to listen to you. You sent me every signal that you could, from the rumbling of my stomach to the loss of my bone density. I ignored every single one because I arrogantly thought that I knew better. 

I spent a decade of my life trying to deprive you of the nourishment you needed to grow, build strength, and adapt to training. While you bent under this mistreatment, you never fully broke. When I failed to give you what you needed, you found it, pulling minerals from my bones and energy from non-essential functions. 

You kept me alive. 

I resented you for the injuries that I faced along the way, but I see now that you were just desperate. You had sent me every other signal possible, begging for nourishment, and I refused to listen. 

Third, I want to tell you that I am thankful. 

If I were you, I would have given up on me, but you stuck with me through it all. Even when I ignored you and deprived you for over 10 years, you continued to do everything that you could to support me and help me achieve my goals. 

Last year, when I finally truly realized what I had done to you, I was scared that you would never trust me again. I feared that you would never let me run because you were too scared of the way I might treat you. But you aren't scared. You are brave, resourceful, and strong. And even though I've given you no reason to, you trust me. 

It took time, but I can go out on a 16-mile run and actually focus on the people and scenery around me instead of a different ache or pain every day of the week. I finish each run with an immense amount of gratitude that you didn't give up on me and that you allow me to do what I love.

Lastly, I want to tell you again that I love you. 

Because words repeated again and again eventually turn into shouts and screams inside my mind, and I want my mind to scream that it loves you. Because you allow me to spend time with people I love. Because you enable me to run, bike, lift, hike, climb, coach, and (very badly) play disc golf. Because you give me a chance every day to listen and build trust, even though I don't deserve it. Because you were made to be lived in not to be looked at, and you let me live. 

I love you.

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Brynn Brown on successes, challenges and the future

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