A run for the money?

Today, the UK eating disorder charity BEAT updated their Twitter feed with an announcement about those women who had run the London Marathon to raise money for BEAT. A quick visit to the BEAT homepage shows that they are asking people to run in other races to help raise money for the organization.

Which is all well and good, but it strikes me as a little counterproductive for an eating disorder organization. It's one thing for a person to independently decide to run a marathon as a fund-raiser for an ED charity. I'd want them to be sure about their motives if they had an ED history, but, well, okay. However, I have a little bit more of an issue with BEAT actually asking people to run in marathons or other long distances when these activities are so frequently abused in people with eating disorders.

It almost strikes me as having an AA event with an open bar or a tanning salon hosting a fundraiser for melanoma research.

I blogged about a women several months ago who said she was recovered from AN but now runs "super-marathons" and was attempting to run the length of Scotland and England also as a fund-raiser for BEAT, and I raised some of these concerns there.

I have no doubt that BEAT's efforts are well-intentioned and the money is greatly needed, especially in the crappy economy. BEAT is a fantastic organization that does so much for so many people with such limited resources. I have no doubt that most of the people who participate will have the best of intentions. I don't expect anything to be "risk-free," but it seems awfully dangerous. There has to be a better way, one that would more likely promote health in the clientele BEAT serves.

I mean, isn't that the point?

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Kristina said...

I have to admit that a friend and I used to joke about the idea of a Race to Raise ED awareness or some such bizarre idea. As I said, it was a JOKE among us. It does seem problematic, in my view, to promote health and eating disorder awareness through a run.

Libby said...

I totally agree... seems awfully counterproductive... sending the wrong message.

Fugu Sushi said...

... I use marathon training as my excuse for my eating habits, binging, and it's also my way to purge. I can totally see where you're coming from. The funny thing is no one suspects I'm running ONLY because I want to lose weight, and if one day I don't want to lose weight or maintain a small size anymore, I would have no reason to ever run again.

Laura said...

I've had similar concerns about BEAT before, I saw the supermarathon piece too.. It's good they're raising money but it is giving out a confusing message

Dex said...

Carrie...I get your point entirely and think it is well taken.

But I also have a different perspective.

I am a life long athlete (played college level football - currently a ranked "senior" tennis player competing regularly) and believe that sports and sensible exercise (including aerobic, stretching, and strength training) are essential for overall good health.

True, any of us can abuse exercise just as we can abuse anything good and healthy carrying it to extremes or engaging for purposes other than to promote good, healthy competition, fun, and good health.

But the fact that some may abuse, is not a reason to condem the whole concept.

I could not and would not even attempt to run a marathon. For any reason. Why? Because I'm not in nearly good enough physical condition to do it.

So maybe the message we can take from BEAT sponsoring or encouraging people to run in order to raise money is, "You need to be HEALTHY to compete and run these races. And we promote HEALTH."

There is nothing healthy about an open bar but there is something healthy about being fit and healthy enough to run a race.

So I can see their point alongside yours.

By the way, when I won a bet with my Anorexic daughter (actually it was a game of Gin Rummy), I chose for my winner's prize that she play at least 15 minutes to 1/2 hour of tennis with me by her next birthday - coming up in July.

My hope and prayer is that she will be HEALTHY enough by then to do it without risk. I was hoping to motivate her to get to a healthy weight and otherwise medically OK to do so.

To me, it's sort of the same thing that BEAT is doing.

Hope that makes some sense.

I appreciate all you're doing.



Rachel said...

You raise some valid points, Carrie, but I agree with Dex. We must also remember that BEAT is an organization that addresses ALL eating disorders, and not just anorexia or those that involve overexercising. There are far more people with binge eating disorder than they are with anorexia and bulimia combined. Since most people with BED also tend to be overweight or obese, their size can cause mobility issues and make training for marathon more difficult. For these people, replacing bingeing obsessions with a constructive and healthy goal of training for a marathon isn't such a bad thing.

Kim said...

I agree with you, Carrie. This idea doesn't sit well with me. Perhaps that just highlights my own insecurities with my recovery, but I am very skeptical of running being done in a healthy manner for people recovering from EDs. I know it's totally possible (though maybe never for me), but it's too touchy to actually have an organization link them, with the implication that it's promoting health.

Carrie Arnold said...

Both of you raise valid points. However, EDs are rampant amongst elite varsity athletes. While they might be at the top of their sport, they're not healthy. And yes, you can run a marathon while completely eating disordered. Health helps, but it's not a requirement.

I understand very well that not everyone with an ED has problems with exercise--but a large portion do. Not everyone with cocaine or heroin addictions also abuses alcohol, but there's quite a bit of cross-over. Enough that I still wouldn't recommend a fundraiser for addictions to be held at a bar.

The idea of a marathon as a fundraiser for an ED organization, to me, strikes the same chord as a pie-eating contest (people with AN have to gain weight, right?) or a 30-hour fast.

People fundamentally underestimate the addictive qualities of exercise, and I guess with my recent struggles in that area, I'm extra sensitive.

Clare said...

I certianly understand where you're coming from. I took time off of running while I was recovering. I associated it with ED so I needed to find other ways to stay fit. Now that I have a lot of the problems under control, I enjoy running more and love running in races.

marcella said...

As you know, this is something I've thought of and worried about for some time- I can't run, but I do like to walk. As I don't have an eating disorder it is ok for me to do it, but does that mean that it isn't ok for those who do???????
When the current fund-raiser for BEAT started at the job, he suggested a "brunch for BEAT" - coffee mornings with raffles etc. As far as I know it went down like a lead balloon. No one did it. I don't think that it was necessarily the link with food that put the dampers on it, more that it just didn't catch the imagination. Like it or not, at least here in the UK, the major fund raiser for many many charities is the London Marathon. You certainly won't see me running in it, and I wouldn't be keen on letting my daughter even watch it (although over exercise has only ever been the smallest and most fleeting of symptoms of her ED and was CERTAINLY never a trigger) but I do see that Dex and Rachel have good points. I also think that BEAT, especially now that they have successfully raised their profile and are really getting respect and influence nationally, are going to need the money. At least as long as they do some other fundraisers as well and continue with excellent educational work such as the video of Dr David Samuels which is featured under the marathon runners on the BEAT front page then they are probably treading the right side of the fine line.

Dex said...

Seems like we have a good HEALTHY discussion going on about this now. I like it. Everyone has valid points.

The more we all think about these issues and raise our voices, the better.

Thanks, Carrie, for stimulating this.


Anonymous said...

What's next - a thirty-hour fast for ED awareness?

Lissy said...

are marathons even good for our bodies? AND they burn so many calories.

(dex: you're asking your daughter to play some tennis NOT run a zillion miles. would you ask her to do that?)

this really does sound like a joke - and a bad one. what were the organizers thinking?

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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