February 21 2018
Karen Lyons started running to escape hardship–and couldn’t stop.
Team USA cleaned up at this year’s world championships, racking up 30 total medals across all events. There were many performances that left people shocked in great ways—and topping that list was the unbelievable women’s steeplechase final, where 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Emma Coburn captured the gold against a deep field that “had run much faster than me all year.” And Courtney Frerichs, who ran a massive 16-second personal best, captured silver, holding off the Olympic bronze medalist by less than one second.
The stack of historic marks made in that single 1–2 performance was staggering. Coburn’s world win was the first ever for American women in the steeplechase, as well as the first for any American, man or woman, since 1952. She set a championship meet record and broke her own American record by five seconds. And getting gold and silver together hadn’t been done by Team USA in a distance event—at the Olympics or here—since 1912. The duo fell to the ground in a heap of sweat and emotional tears at the finish, hugging on the track for long enough to make America cheer and cry right along with them. Coburn said, “[Courtney] was so tired, she kind of started to fall down, and I wasn’t strong enough to hold her up, so we both went down to the ground. But I wasn’t finished hugging so I ended up kind of tackling her and we ended up lying there for a few moments and just both feeling really grateful.” That image of pure elation quickly became the image of the meet, reminiscent of Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg at the line of the Olympic Trials Marathon last year.
When elite runner Tina Muir announced she was quitting competitive running to start a family, there was more to the story. Muir hadn’t had her period in nine years, a condition known as amenorrhea. “[It] is far more widespread than I think anyone realized, and it is something that many female runners are concerned about but often feel embarrassed to say anything,” Muir says. At the time, she had no idea how impactful her announcement, which she shared via video on her blog, would be on the female running community. Her story was shared around thousands of times, with other runners coming forward with their questions about missing periods and applauding her for making the hard choice to quit the sport.
Following the only medical solution she was given—stop running—Muir shared that she will be working on building a “five-star baby hotel” with her husband. Anticipating that her period could take months to return, then getting pregnant months after that, Muir was pleasantly surprised when she found out she was pregnant just two months after she stopped running, giving those following her story reassurance that a loss of a period does not mean losing the ability to conceive. And Muir hopes her story, which she will continue to share, inspires women and their doctors to explore other amenorrhea treatment options more thoroughly so others do not have to give up the sport.
“I would love to help this message get to the point where saying you have amenorrhea is the same as saying you have an ear infection; your body is in repair, but you are working on it, and life will be back to normal soon,” Muir says. “It will take a lot more women speaking out about it, and hopefully more research will come out of this too, meaning we can have the science to explain why this is happening.”