Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - One of the Alaska’s best distance runners, and most unselfish running camp volunteers, Allie Ostrander, recently revealed through personal media accounts in YouTube and Instagram that she has been struggling with an eating disorder.
“I am just going to have to start talking about the difficult things,” Ostrander begins in a roughly 16-minute video. “And being honest and yesterday marked five weeks for me of intensive eating disorder treatment. It has been really difficult. The hardest thing I have done in my life.”
Ostrander, age 24, is known as the invincible Kenai Central High School star that set state records in cross country, scaled the Mt. Marathon in winning times multiple years sometimes faster than the male competitors, and the fast-as-the-wind diminutive athlete who earned a scholarship at Boise State University and became a three-time NCAA Division One champion.
She is also known in Alaska as a selfless inspiration for young female runners and has volunteered numerous times at Juneau’s Lynn Canal Running Camp, even while a Brooks Running professional athlete.
“I was struggling to share this because I feel a lot of shame about being here,” Ostrander said. “I feel shame because I couldn’t do this on my own and that is upsetting to me because there are so many areas of my life that I feel really capable. And then there is this super basic human function, like literally everyone has to do it just to stay alive, and that is eating, and I can’t even do that properly. I am also ashamed because I feel like I have just been a terrible example for anyone in the running community.”
Ostrander’s video shows the humanity of the runner considered athletically in-human.
“I also want to take a little bit of time here and just apologize to anyone that I have interacted with on social media or in person, that I have triggered in any way or contributed to disordered thoughts or behaviors in any way,” she said. “Because that is the last thing I ever wanted to do. And if I am an example to you, just know that a lot of the things I did around food and exercise were not healthy and were not right.”
Ostrander broke down multiple times in her sharing video.
“And I am not an example at this point,” she said. “I am trying so hard to become one but I am not right now. So just know that and know that I am truly sorry and I really, really want to make up for any damage that I have done by sharing my story with mental illness and recovery.”
Ostrander said she was about five weeks into a program that requires her to spend 10 hours a day at a treatment facility.
Ostrander said one of the major motivations for sharing her eating disorder, despite her fear, shame and anxiety, is wanting to help normalize conversations about mental illness and especially eating disorders.
“As well as pursuing recovery as the number one priority,” she said. “Because eating disorders are incredibly prevalent, especially in the running community. And I just don’t feel there is enough being done about them.”
Brooks Running, Ostrander’s professional sponsor, forced her to seek treatment.
“I think it should be normal for athletes to be screened for eating disorders,” she said. “And encouraged, or honestly, even forced to pursue treatment to be able to compete on the team. Because long term health and living a full life is more important than a season. I’m not going to lie. When Brooks told me that I needed to go to treatment or get dropped I was not happy. I was really apprehensive about sacrificing this season and that I wasn’t prioritizing my training enough. But I am honestly thankful that I am here because if they hadn’t forced me to come I never would have.”
Ostrander said she’s now putting her recovery ahead of training, including for the upcoming track and field Olympic trials that begin this weekend in Eugene, Oregon and in which she has one of the top Olympic qualifying times in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
“Maybe this season isn’t going to be ideal for me and I am definitely prioritizing treatment right now,” Ostrander said. “But I am hoping that is going to pay off in the long run and it is going to give me a lot more seasons than I would have had without that.”
Ostrander said she wishes someone would have addressed this issue with her when she was 12 or 13 years old, as it has been a demon in her life.
“I think that targeting this problem earlier, like when people are in high school or college, is really important and should be more normal,” she said. “The reality and the prevalence of eating disorders right now in the running community is not okay. It’s sad and it shouldn’t be okay. I just want to say that prioritizing recovery over your training does not mean that you are not dedicated to running. I still love running as much as I ever have. Maybe more. But I know that my recovery is important and that the right now has to be the priority or it is just not going to happen.”
Ostrander emphasized that if publicizing her ordeal can help just one person then it is worth putting herself in the spotlight for something other than athletic accomplishment.
“Because if I had been that one person, my life would be so different,” she said. “No matter where you are at or how uncertain you feel about recovery and whether it is worth it or whether you can do it, I am with you. I’m not sure about it either. But I think it is important. There is always going to be a reason to not do it. But you are not fully living your life until you recover from your eating disorder, because your eating disorder is living your life. If you have doubts about your relationship with food talk to a medical professional and see if treatment is a good idea for you. Tackle it as soon as you can, because the longer it goes on the harder it gets.”