Running and Winning Race Against Anorexia

A forum for coaches to discuss coaching technique and advice with each other. Only registered coaches can post in this forum.

Moderator: AVC Coach

User avatar
I'm in Charge
Posts: 30435
Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2002 1:59 pm
Expertise: Former College Vaulter, I coach and officiate as life allows
Lifetime Best: 11'6"
Gender: Female
World Record Holder?: Renaud Lavillenie
Favorite Vaulter: Casey Carrigan
Location: A Temperate Island

Running and Winning Race Against Anorexia

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Wed Sep 27, 2006 12:30 pm ... A960958260

TRACK AND FIELD;Running and Winning Race Against Anorexia

Published: April 5, 1996
With every stride, Kate Landau, a sophomore runner at Georgetown University, feels a rebirth. With every race, she feels closer to the athlete whose potential seemed unlimited at age 15 when she was rated the No. 1 high school distance runner in the nation.

In recent weeks, Landau, 19, has finally made a breakthrough in her five-year fight with anorexia, a complex eating disorder that has been increasingly known to affect young female athletes. She has begun to rid her mind of the demons that caused her weight to plummet to 79 pounds and her 5-foot-3-inch frame to become so brittle she encountered one serious injury after another.

"I'm not completely better yet," Landau said in a recent interview in which she spoke publicly about her disorder for the first time. "But I'm a lot happier. I'm relaxed about my running. For the first time in my life, I'm learning to have fun."

Landau, who began running as a precocious seventh-grader on the varsity at Tri-Valley High School in upstate Sullivan County, is now training comfortably at 50 miles a week and weighing a healthy 105. She attributed her illness to a fear of growing up, a lack of self-esteem and a sibling rivalry with her older sister, all classic symptoms of anorexia.

"Anorexic girls tend to be more fearful than other girls of growing up," said Dr. Susan Wooley, co-director of the Eating Disorders Clinic at the University of Cincinnati Medical School. "They tend to be model children but fear adolescence, which requires spontaneity and greater interpersonal demands."

Landau's progress is a bright light in a dark arena: In sports that prize thinness like running, gymnastics and figure skating, anorexic female athletes have rarely returned to competitive excellence. In a celebrated case in 1994, the world-class gymnast Christy Henrich, 22, died of anorexia and bulimia. In another noted case involving a ranked distance runner, in 1982, Mary Wazeter jumped off a bridge in an attempted suicide because of an eating disorder and suffered injuries that left her paralyzed.

Landau has encountered her share of bumps on the road back. It was only this winter that she completed her first full season of running at Georgetown with five indoor races. Because of the illness and recurrent injury, Landau had been redshirted as a freshman. As in high school, she was depressed and withdrawn, eating erratically and resisting help. "I felt like I was worthless unless I was running," Landau said. "Running was the one thing that had given me some pride in my life."

In January, she earned a victory in a 3,000-meter race only three weeks after coming back from a 10-week layoff caused by a stress fracture. But confronting the implications of the latest injury was pivotal to Landau's emotional healing, according to Ron Helmer, women's track and cross-country coach at Georgetown.

"I think Kate felt if she didn't come to terms with her problem, she might never run again," said Helmer.

Helmer had grown frustrated in his attempts to lift Landau's spirits. "Smile," he told her. "Learn to deal with life outside of running." Landau said she was still in denial at the time and wanted to be left alone.

Landau said she had always wanted to be "Daddy's little girl" and had been afraid of change. She had felt that if she stayed small she could delay puberty for as long as possible. She had also felt "ugly" and had to follow the trail blazed by her sister, Caryn, three years older and also a top runner.

"The sister thing affected both of us," said Kate. "I always wanted to be better than her." Caryn, who also had an eating disorder, preceded Kate at Georgetown. She was National Collegiate Athletic Association runner-up in the 10,000 meters in 1993 and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in her final season of athletic eligibility.

When Kate showed running talent, she used it obsessively to acquire the self-esteem she lacked. As a Tri-Valley sophomore, she was ranked No. 1 in the country in the 3,000 meters. She also pushed herself in schoolwork, driving herself relentlessly to be ranked No. 1 in her high school class academically.

But she was never satisfied. "I always wanted to do better, run faster," she said. "And I was afraid that my running would suffer if I gained any weight." In her desperation, Landau cut virtually all fat from her diet. She had fruit for breakfast, a plain bagel and sports nutrition supplement for lunch and a skimpy portion of "whatever my mom made" for dinner. Meanwhile, she trained 40 miles a week with an intense, hard-driving running style. "I was always calculating, 'If I run eight miles, it's O.K. to eat a certain number of calories and no more,' " she said.

Landau dropped from 90 pounds to 79 in the weeks before her senior year of high school. "I started to get symptoms of malnutrition. It scared me. I lacked the strength to work out," she said.

Landau was so weak she could barely complete a one-mile run, said Missy Iatauro, Landau's coach at Tri-Valley, a small school 80 miles from Manhattan. "Kate should have run around 5:15," Iatauro said. "She barely broke 6 minutes. It looked like she might collapse."

Landau's parents took Kate to a psychiatrist at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, where she was counseled for a year and a half. She was also treated by a psychologist at Georgetown.

Landau minimized the benefits of the counseling. She connected her recent renewal to Coach Helmer's faith in her and finally being able "to feel valuable outside of running."

After running a time of 34 minutes 2.89 seconds for 10,000 meters last Friday in Raleigh, N.C., in her first outdoor track meet as a collegian, Landau has already earned a spot in the N.C.A.A. Championship in June. She has an outside chance of also making the Olympic Trials.

But more important than performance, she said, "is to stay healthy for a year straight." Landau appears to be on her way. She no longer strips the cheese from her pizza. She willingly eats meat. She doesn't get nervous before workouts.

"It's such a different feeling," she said, "to actually be happy and look forward to each day."

User avatar
PV Lover
Posts: 1475
Joined: Sat Oct 12, 2002 12:23 am
Location: New Braunfels, TX

Unread postby lonestar » Thu Sep 28, 2006 12:51 pm

I grew up from Kindergarten through High School graduation with Kate, and run on several cross country and track teams with her from 7th grade up. She was an intense competitor, so focused and driven. Class Valedictorian too. She was definitely way too thin though. I don't know if I remember her ever looking like she weighed more than 90lbs. I think everyone knew she was anorexic, but I don't know if anyone approached her about it since she was winning state championships in distance running and top of her class. I'm glad to hear she got past it but sad to hear she can no longer run.
Any scientist who can't explain to an eight-year-old what he is doing is a charlatan. K Vonnegut

Return to “Pole Vault - Coaches Forum”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests