Below is an interesting article on Burnout and injury with Elite female runners: I have to post in 2 parts as the file is too large. Charlie
AMONG RUNNERS, ELITE GIRLS FACE BURNOUT AND INJURY (Part1)
By Marc Bloom
Julia Stamps, 24, a former child prodigy in running, ran her first marathon, New York City, in November 2002. It was probably the easiest 26.2 miles of her life.
Stamps, who grew up in California and moved to Manhattan in June 2002 to work in the financial services field, was a running star from her first strides in seventh-grade. At Santa Rosa High School, she made headlines as a 14-year-old freshman, winning
state championships and setting records in track and cross-country. For her speed and lithe physique, Stamps was heralded as the next Mary Slaney, an American Olympic runner.
Training 45 to 50 miles a week, Stamps lived up to her billing for a time. As a freshman in 1994, she won the first of three consecutive national junior (age 19 and
under) 3,000-meter titles, defeating college women. As a sophomore, she won the national high school 5,000-meter cross-country title. But in her junior and senior years, Stamps lost her dominance, collapsing twice like a ragdoll in national meets. She was frustrated and confused and often got sick. She won a track scholarship to Stanford but did not realize her extraordinary potential as a runner. She was injured, lost her passion for competing, took up other sports and at one point nearly gave up running for good.
Stamps became a symbol for a generation of high-achieving, young female runners who wither in adolescence before having a chance to fulfill their promise. At a time of tender growth, many of these girls train at a high level, which often leads to injury, impaired health and physical and emotional scars that can last for years. “At age 13 or 14 when girls experience rapid growth-what we call ‘peak height velocity’-their bones
grow long but have not yet solidly mineralized into good, strong structures,” said Dr. Angela Smith, orthopedic surgeon specializing in pediatric sports medicine at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. “During this period, girls in running also don’t have the muscle for shock absorption,” Smith said. “Girls are at maximum risk for injury and should back off hard training.” Smith and other doctors said running moderately is healthy for young girls. However, training intensively at a young age also carries psychological as well as
physical risks. Stamps, who graduated from Stanford last spring without winning any major titles, said she felt “tremendous pressure” as a young runner in high school.
“I tried to compete against myself,” Stamps said in a recent interview. “But you can’t do that every day. I needed a break. I had other interests outside of running that I wanted to pursue but was not able to. I was cursed.” “I wore myself thin,” she said. “I had no time to rest.” Dr. Smith said that she had recently cared for a patient who, as a high school freshman, was so fast she made the varsity cross-country team. She became
the team’s best runner and the coach gave her extra workouts. But she also grew very quickly, Smith said, and sustained three stress fractures in her legs. The girl was unable to finish the season. Girls who excel in running at a young age often experience a temporary slowing of performance once their menstrual cycle starts. “They gain fat and in some cases there is a decrease in iron stores and hemoglobin level of the blood,” said Dr. Oded Bar-Or, director of the Children’s Exercise and Nutrition
Center at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and a leading researcher in the field. “Less hemoglobin reduces the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen. Fitness level in girls, their maximal oxygen uptake, decreases after age 12 or 13.” Many girls who confront these natural changes after early success, like Erin Davis, a former star at
Saratoga Springs High School in upstate New York, ultimately drop out of competitive running. In 1993, Davis became the first and only freshman to capture
the national high school cross-country title. That freshman season was her best in high school and in an interview at the time Davis said, “If you do a hard workout, it might hurt, but if you hit all your times, it’s a great feeling.” Davis received a track scholarship to Penn State and was graduated in 2002 without living up to her high school records. “Erin had significant injuries that prevented her from training at a high level,” said
Beth Alford-Sullivan, women’s track and cross-country coach at Penn State who coached Davis in her last two years. “Her motivation was down. By the time I inherited her, she did not have the drive or passion to compete or train.” In resurrecting herself, Stamps may exemplify a new development in which female runners rise from a
turbulent adolescence to regain their zest for running. Stamps, who is now injury-free, ran the 2002 New York City Marathon in 2 hours 54 minutes 47 seconds, outstanding for a first-timer. She placed 30th among the women. “It felt easy,” said Stamps, who trained 40 to 50 miles a week on a busy work schedule. “I ran even pace
all the way, about 6:30 per mile, and it took me only a week to recover.” Stamps, running daily in Central Park, has since increased her training to 65 miles a week. She had other marathons in her plans and hoped to achieve the 2004 women’s Olympic trials qualifying standard of 2:48 and perhaps contend for a berth on the American
team for Athens. Two U.S. Olympic marathon hopefuls, Deena Drossin,
30, and Milena Glusac, 27, both of California, also were teenage prodigies who had faltering college careers and were assumed to be lost for good. Both made patient comebacks and in 2001, Drossin and Glusac placed first and second among American women in the New York City Marathon. The only American women to win Olympic track and field medals in distance racing–Joan Samuelson in the marathon in 1984 (gold) and Lynn Jennings in the 10,000 meters in 1992 (bronze)–both chose to
de-emphasize their college running careers. Samuelson attended Bowdoin, an NCAA Division III school in her native Maine. Jennings went to Princeton where she
competed intermittently. Of course, not every top American woman runner has
endured a downward spiral in performance after showing early promise. Suzy Favor-Hamilton, who starred as a schoolgirl, has been a consistent performer as an
older runner, winning nine N.C.A.A. titles at Wisconsin; now 34, she has been a world-class miler for a decade. High school and college meets in cross-country and
track can add up to as many as 300 to 400 races for a distance runner by the time he or she is 21. Some experts find this amount of racing too much for boys as well as girls. But boys have more muscle mass and a greater ability than girls of the same age to
transport oxygen to the muscles during strenuous running. Boys also do not have to confront the complex adolescent growth issues of girls. In many cases, doctors say, girls’ risk of injury is exacerbated by delayed menstruation, which has been