In this series of articles, I speak with current and past female athletes to learn about their experience in their body. The goal is to promote diverse body types in sport and raise awareness of the female athlete experience.
Krista is as cool as they come. Not only is she a mom and a teacher; Krista is also a talented distance runner who is using her platform to serve girls in Africa. It was great to chat from her and learn more about her experience.
H: Krista! Oh my goodness, it’s so good to see you. Thanks so much for being willing to talk with me. [hears Krista’s dog] Penny!
K: (speaking to Penny, the dog) Welcome, sit. (speaking to me, again) My dog’s gonna bark in a second. Does your dog bark? Do you have a dog?
H: No. I need one.
K: You do need one.
(I’m sparing you all from a solid five minutes of conversation about dogs and Krista’s wonder-cat, Crash, who I was happy to learn, is still alive and well.)
H: Anyway… I told you a little bit about this but basically, I am creating a series of articles after talking with women about their experience and their body as an athlete. And I’ve talked with people and a variety of sports
K: Yay. I hope I have good answers.
H: Just be yourself!
K: Okay, I’ll try
H: Why don’t you share a little bit about who you are and your experience as an athlete.
K: Well, my name is Krista and my experience of sport is mainly running. I mean, I love all sports, but God gifted me with the ability to run really far, not short and fast, but really far so I enjoyed the marathon. The longer the better in my world.
H: Cool. And when did you first get into running?
K: Well, I actually tried out for the school softball team when I was a freshman and I didn’t make it. So I was really bummed. And my friend kept saying, “You should run cross country.” I didn’t even know what that was. [Back then], they didn’t have middle school cross country–that didn’t even exist and so I was like, “What is it?” I thought cross country was part of track so I was like, “Okay, sure. Whatever.” My friend told me that summer training began a few weeks before school and that I should come to practice. I was like, “What the heck is this?” But I figured, “All right. I’ll go because she’s my best friend.”
Everywhere she went, I went. So I went to [cross country practice]. And I hated it. I actually hated it! I quit.
H: Did you really?
K: Well, yeah, I had never run before and, all of a sudden, I remember we had to do farleks [A Fartlek is type of workout that popularized by Swedish runners. It literally means “speedplay” in Swedish]. I was like, “Oh my goodness, this is hard.” And I quit. So, back then, there were only like 14 girls on the team–it was a smaller town. So my coach came to my house after I stopped coming to practice.
H: You’re kidding! That must have been effective.
K: He said, “We already ordered you a T-shirt for the team so you have to come.” I–you know me– I felt like I had upset someone and that I better go to practice. So I went.
I missed all the summer training and I ran the first meet and I did okay. And that’s how I started.
K: And the fun thing is that I have a T-shirt quilt and that T-shirt is in the middle of it. It’s all falling apart, but it’s there,from 1987.
H: That is so cute.
K: Yeah, So cute. I don’t know where the quilt is, but it exists somewhere.
H: Now, to clarify for those who will read this: You are incredibly humble, Krista. You’re not just “someone who runs.” You are really, really talented.
K: No, it’s all relative.
H: You are.
K: It’s all relative. You know, like, there’s always someone better, there’s a lot of people better.
H: For sure. And yet, that doesn’t mean you aren’t talented. To give people a little bit of an idea of your ability, though, is there a race that you’re most proud of? Or a race that was the most memorable for you?
K: Well, I think I race that I am probably most proud of isn’t one of my fastest ones, but I don’t think I don’t know. No one’s ever asked me that. But I am most proud of the hard races–the ones where you’re like dying and you are really struggling and you run terribly, but you finish. Those are the ones I am most proud of.
H: I hate those races, but you are right: they are a test of character and can show us how resilient we are–mentally and physically.
K: Yeah. And, of course, I remember my 2:47 [marathon]/
H: Oh yeah! Will you share a little bit about that?
K: You used to have to run a 2:52 to qualify for USA Olympic Marathon Trials, and I ran 2:53. Then they dropped it down to 2:50 and I ran a 2:51. Then they dropped it down to 2:48 and I ran 2:49. Then they dropped it down to 2:47 and I ran to 2:47:09.
H: That’s just so frustrating. I can’t believe that.
K: I was literally the first American to not make it.
H: Yeah, that makes me so mad for you. I remember you sharing that story on a run once and it’s always stuck with me. That’s some serious tenacity.
K: And in the last mile, II was with a group of girls–we were obviously all trying for the same goal and we’d been together the whole time–and it had spread out a little bit. There was still a core group that was right on the edge and they were like, “We’re doing it. We’re doing it.” And they all just surged. They had another gear and I didn’t. I saw the clock and tried to [calculate] how many seconds it would take me to get there. And I just knew: like nine seconds.
K: But because of that, everybody ran in the Olympic Trials on Sunday in Boston, and the Boston Marathon was Monday. So, that made me the top American at the Boston Marathon, because all the other American runners–all 98 Americans–were running [that same course a day earlier in the Olympic Trials]. They all made it and I was number 99. So, I was the top American female in the Boston Marathon.
H: Heck, yes.
K: It was kind of neat. But it was also different. People made fun of it because the usual top American female runs a 2:20, you know? And there I was with a 2:40. So, in the newspaper, it said I was “25 minutes slower than the winning time last year.”
H: No way. They did not say that!
K: They totally did it. They totally said “this year’s Americans are subpar” or something like that.
K: Okay, but it’s true. I mean, it’s a big difference. But you know what? I wish I would have appreciated all that I did. I realize now that I was more focused on what I didn’t do instead of what I did do.
H: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.In the moment, though, I cannot imagine that frustration.
K: You sit there and when you don’t reach your goals, you feel like you’re failing. But now, I look back and I’m like, “I should have said, ‘wow, I ran a 2:37.’” But I didn’t. I was like, “Oh, I only ran 2:47.”
K: So, it is what it is, right?
H: Yeah. Now, I also know that we skipped a lot in the middle. Looking back a bit, was there a time when you first remember having a thought about your body–whether it was positive or negative?
K: Hmm…that’s a great question. I don’t think until high school. I did in high school.
K: I know. I know, that’s odd. I’m trying to think…I was always the cute short girl, I mean, everyone thought I was that cute girl. Oh, you that cute girl, you know? And I didn’t mind being that cute girl, so I didn’t have a bad body image. I was just lucky to be blessed with people around me who were healthy.
H: Yeah? That is really wonderful. I love that.
K: It’s funny you ask that because I never thought about this, but when I went to college I didn’t run my freshman year.
H: Where’d you go to college?
K: Ohio University. We were division one and we were winning the MAC (conference meet) then, so the team was pretty good. You had to be running a 5k in 17-18 min range to be on varsity–we had a few really good girls who ran high 16s. Anyway…
So, I didn’t run my freshman year and I put on a lot of weight. I didn’t even notice it, like, I don’t know, Hannah, how I didn’t notice. I look back now and I’m like, “Whoa!” I remember having to get new clothes and it didn’t even phase me. But a kid visited our dorm one time and I remember him looking at my picture from high school [I had on the wall] and he was like, “Who’s that? And I said it was me. He goes, “No, there’s no way that’s you. That girl is skinny. When that boy, said that, I thought, “Oh, I’m not skinny anymore.”
H: Wow, so it hadn’t been a focus beforehand.
K: It just hit me right then. Looking back, he was right [that I looked different]… So then, I thought I should start exercising again and I did. Then I joined the [cross country] team and I continued my running. Before that, I wasn’t focused on it. I had enough going on in life that my focus wasn’t on body image.
K: So, honestly, that’s probably the first memory I have of judging or noticing my body.
H: Which, I feel like, is unique because a lot of people have those thoughts early on.
K: Yeah, I don’t know why.
H: That is really quite awesome.
K: [It’s odd because] my mom was very much, “don’t eat that hamburger. Throw that away.” So maybe that’s why I didn’t focus on food or my body–I didn’t want to be like her. She was very sad and I think she still struggles with “healthy” eating and body image.
H: Yeah. That is a common occurrence with moms and daughters. I know that all too well.
K: Yeah, and I saw her not eat for all my life. and I didn’t want to be like that.
H: Now as you as you started running more once you joined the team, was that something you did in a healthy way? And how was that experience?
K: It wasn’t disordered. It was just healthy. And when you’re younger, you’re naturally leaner and fitter; it’s easier to get back into shape. Like, if I try to do that. Now, I’d be so hard being fifty. But at the time, I was just I was enjoying running again. Running bring so much to you besides just a mental health [benefit], and man, that really just paved a healthy path for me.
H: I’m so glad to hear it was a positive experience and furthered your love of running, especially as it came right after that negative experience regarding your body.
K: I don’t think I stressed about body image. I’m trying to think. Well, the next time I remember [struggling with body image] was actually that story I was telling you [previously], when I was at the Boston Marathon. I lined up and they actually, in that race, put you in order of your number and your time. That was weird–they don’t usually do that. But so you line up based on who’s the fastest and I was I was F-16. I was in the front row of the elite crew–the elites of elite from China, Kenya, Ethiopia…and then there’s me.
I’m not saying that I was heavy or overweight, but when I looked at a picture of that [starting line], it was crazy. Wow, did I look giant compared to those women! I mean, [the width of] one of my legs was their whole body. I remember thinking how much faster I would be if I looked like them, thinking, “I’m just a white girl from Ohio that is huge compared to these women.”
H: What a bizarre sort of comparison that must have been. Now, was that before or after you had kids?
K: Oh, good question.
K: I think that was after all three of them.
K: Yeah, but you know what, that’s a good point: during pregnancy, it was a hot mess.
H: Well, that’s got to be a challenge to experience such change in your entire body.
K: Oh yeah, for sure.
H: Did you run throughout your pregnancies?
K: I did and those were each their own kind of stories. But during my first pregnancy, I still could run because I didn’t have another child to take care of. So I ran a lot, and I coached. Actually, now that you’re bringing this up, I remember when I finally told people after my first trimester. I said, “I’m pregnant.” And a high school kid said, “We were all wondering why you were gaining so much weight.” I didn’t realize; to me, I was still fit and kind of feeling, okay.
H: Which is awesome.
K: Yeah, but then when he said that, I realized I gained a lot right off the bat. I think I probably gained 20 pounds in that first semester, but it was because I was coming from an underweight place, really. I was coming from training hard–training for marathons. All of a sudden, if you back off [training intensity] and start eating more, that was key.
I was just logging miles, so I did put on weight pretty quickly. The doctor I was going to wasn’t listening. It’s not that I was…like, I wouldn’t say an elite runner. But I was a serious runner. I think he thought I just jogged around the block because he kept getting on me for my weight. He kept saying, “You’re gaining too much weight right off the bat.”
H: No he didn’t!
K: Yes! I told him he was wrong. Like, “I think I started at ___ pounds, so it’s okay that I’m like almost ____ because I shouldn’t have been at [that low of a weight, beforehand],” you know? But he kept getting on me and I didn’t like that because it messed me up. Like, “my body is changing so much. Don’t screw with my head that I am gaining too much weight. I need to be healthy. So I changed doctors.
H: That is incredible.
K: Yep. I left him.
H: Good for you!
K: Yeah. You don’t want that to be on your brain when you’re pregnant, you know?
H: That was a really brave of you, and a wise choice.
K: So I changed actors and he didn’t understand why. He didn’t understand why. At that time, my husband was in med school and I know that [switching doctors] caused a little bit of discord between that doctor and my then-husband. But I still said, “I don’t want to go to him.”
H: Good for you!
K: He seriously gave me a workout to do–arm circles. He’s like, “You need to do these exercises every day because you’re putting on too much weight.” I was thinking, “Dude, I’m running 50 miles a week!”
H: Oh my. I don’t even know what to say to that.
K: Still, I know I was mad. Now, this was 23 years ago.
H: I would hope that the climate around women and weight has changed since then.
K: I don’t think a doctor would do that now. Maybe, though. But yeah, he gave me the workout. [All the while], I was running 50 miles a week or so.
H: Far too often, I see this in media and within the wellness industry. This fake health “news” is out there. But you advocated for yourself, and that is admirable. Far too often, data is trusted more than listening to one’s own body. Especially throughout my recovery experience, that has been one of the most helpful things: learning how to listen to my body–not what any number says. So kudos to you for choosing that as well.
K: Mmm….I mean, it wasn’t easy. I was upset and stressed, and I hated it…I mean, it just made me feel terrible!
H: Yeah, I get that.
K: You know.
H: In a different way, I do. Yeah.
Now, how has your view of your body changed throughout your journey as a runner? You talked about life as a young athlete, and obviously pregnancy. But you didn’t stop there. You’re still a runner, and you’re also a mom to a daughter. How is that shifted?
K: Yeah. That’s a good question. Well, age, sure. That has been a big shift. [The changes that come with age] make things harder. So, the daughter one first, though.
K: So you know Ella (Krista’s daughter) has Crohn’s Disease. When she was first struggling with it, we didn’t know what it was and they really thought she had an eating disorder. I kept saying, “no, no.” But at first I’m thinking, “Am I just naive?” So we did talk a lot about that. The issues [weren’t stemming from] an eating disorder, but we spent three or four months analyzing. I was watching. I was trying to think: “What in the heck am I doing wrong?” I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t me being naive, but it wasn’t. So I think she’s struggled with foods with her Crohn’s disease, and that’s a little different. I think she struggles because she can’t be very active because she doesn’t have a lot of energy. A lot of her body’s energy is used to heal her intestines, as opposed to like a typical kid, who can run around and be crazy.
H: Ah, yeah, that would be very hard.
K: So food is food is a sensitive subject but very bland in our world. Bagels, right? Lots of carbs. The whole experience has influenced me as a mom.
K: I think getting older has been such a challenge. The hardest thing is–first of all, your body; you talk about listening to your body and how we are trained not not. As athletes, we’re trained to work hard. We’re told to push it and not hear our bodies.
K: Even if you’ve got little aches, the sentiment is that “it’s okay” and “you should just keep going.” That is what we’ve been taught and that’s what’s brought us success: torture. I mean yeah, you enjoy it a little bit, but it’s hard. During intense training, I would go to bed aching and and that’s what you’re supposed to feel like. You’re “supposed’ to feel exhausted.
H: Yeah. Dang, that’s bringing up memories… (laughs)
K: What I’ve learned is that you can’t do that forever. The body breaks down, and I think that’s been the hardest thing for me: accepting that my body can’t keep doing that. Does that make sense?
H: Yeah, it does.
K: Have you experienced that? You probably haven’t, have you? I didn’t know if you’ve had that with injuries, you know, they just make you have to step back.
H: Oh yeah. I am dealing with injury stuff now, so I get that.
K: Ouch, I’m sorry.
H: It’s been growing, for sure. But you know what? One of the hardest things I’ve learned in the last few years is that I have not appreciated my body at all.
K: Okay. Mmm…
H: I only have looked at it for the terrible things–it hasn’t looked perfect or it hasn’t performed perfectly or it has broken down on me.
H: And now I’m like, “Holy crap, this body has put up with a lot. It was malnourished for 10 years.”
K: We don’t appreciate it. You’re right.
H: That realization has given me a greater appreciation for my body. So, as far as getting older, I’m like, “Bring it on. I feel better than I ever have.”
K: Good for you and good because you have so much left. It’s funny though because that makes me think of a story… I went to Africa this summer again, and so, I had met people already.
K: So, I went again this year and apparently, I’m heavier. I wasn’t aware of that, but apparently I weigh more than I did the last time I visited Africa. I say that because I walked into this school and the principal goes, “Oh my gosh, Miss Krista, you’re fat.”
K: Now, she said it [with such excitement and joy], because I was heavier and, in that environment, bigger is healthier. Bigger is seen as good, because it is such a lucky blessing to have fat
H: Wow. What a shift in perspective!
K: At first, I was like, “I’m not fat!” But as I thought about it, I thought, “I’m lucky they were so happy to see me “fat.” I’ve never seen someone or heard someone say, “It’s Krista! You’re so fat now!” They thought I would be so happy to hear them say that.
K: That right there taught me that weight didn’t have a negative connotation to them. But in America, it’s considered terrible to be fat and I thought, you know what? And it’s healthier for us to have meat on our bones. Here, we try to starve ourself so that we look like an African but the Africans want to look and be healthy. They want to have an opportunity to eat. Imagine how they would feel if they walked into our kitchens that have all that food. I mean, here we are trying not to eat it I knew it was different, but it wasn’t until someone was celebrating that I had gained some weight since last time they saw me that I was like, “Oh, you know what? I am lucky.”
H: That is kinda crazy.
K: It is a blessing that I’m healthy, and I just let it sink in. My daughter was with me and she was cracking up. I was trying not to die [of laughter] when they said that because I’m like, “How do you react that?” So anyway, it’s the age thing. Naturally, you put on weight. So, of course, they saw me, you know, like five years ago and I was lighter. But anyway, I really am thankful. Even though it hurt my feelings at first, it just kind of put my body in a different perspective.
K: I am fortunate to have my body, you know? And I have more than they have, so I ought to be grateful for it.
H: Yeah. I love that perspective shift.
K: I know, right?
H: That’s not to say it isn’t hard though. I can imagine it is. As you have gotten older, what does what does training look like for you now?
K: Nothing hard. I can’t go hard. My body is done. It doesn’t react to [speed work] anymore. That just hurts it. If I try to run hard, I’m done for a week Like you said, if I listen to my body, it tells me I shouldn’t be doing that. I shouldn’t hurt for a week.
H: Oh definitely not..
K: So I’ve made a pact with myself.
K: It used to be what I did each day, you know. Anytime I had time, I would go [run]. Anytime I had like an hour in my schedule, I’d go run. Oh, I’d have clothes and shoes in the car, so I would go run really quickly. My brain is still like that today.
H: It’s a hard pattern to re-frame.
K: When it’s sunny out I’m like, “Oh, I need to go run.”
H: Oh yes. Those are the days runners live for!
K: But we don’t have to and so it was even hard for me today. I told myself, “Krista, you don’t need to go run. You were just sick yesterday. Your body is worn out. You need to, just go home and relax.”
H: Oh definitely.
K: It is hard to slow down–to not train hard. I still coach, as well, and it’s hard to go watch people run hard or to encourage people to run hard and then not do it yourself. And then people also want to know what I’m training for. Now, I just tell them, “Nothing. I’m training for life.”
H: Mmmm, I can imagine that would be hard. I love the idea of training for life though! That brings such joy to the process.
K: Yeah, but it’s hard. I hate it. Right now, training looks like just a couple easy miles before work in the morning to feel healthy and happy and get my brain going and that is it unfortunately.
H: Does that cause you to regret the intensity with which you trained when you were younger?
K: That’s funny that someone recently asked me: would you have rather not ran so intensely and then been able to run until you’re 70. And I don’t know, because you don’t know.
H: You can’t predict…
K: Say I didn’t run hard. Would I still be where I am? You don’t know that and I don’t think my mind–and you’re the same way, Hannah–I don’t think our minds know how to not train to our best ability. So how would I have done that? I would have gone to like a workout and only done half of it? I don’t think my brain could have done that, so I’m glad I did it intensely. You know what? I feel good that I did that. I do.
Now, I wish I would have stretched, eaten healthy, and done weight training. I realize those things now, and I knew how to do them, but I didn’t. I could run another mile instead of stretch. So why would I want to sit and stretch when I could get in an extra mile?
H: Yeah. Wow, I feel that.
K: And it’s so stupid, you know?
H: Now it’s a common phrase, but you know I’m gonna circle back on that: What do you mean by healthy?
K: Well, I drink pop. I like candy and I didn’t watch what I ate. There was a time of my life when I was running 100 mile weeks and what I didn’t realize is what I was eating wasn’t good fuel. It wasn’t necessarily that it made me gain or lose weight, but I didn’t eat vegetables or fruit. I ate whatever was easy and convenient. I had to, having kids. During most of my training, I was raising three kids. So I would eat quickly and not plan. I didn’t eat what my body needed. Now, I am listening to my body more and it’s amazing how much better I feel now. I stretch and I weight train, too, and I feel so much better.
H: Oh I bet! That balance is crucial.
K: I think, “Gosh, what would have happened if I had done this when I was training hard, dummy?” But I didn’t have enough time in the day when I was you raising three kids. I couldn’t fit at all in.
H: That’s tricky. At the same time, I appreciate what you’re saying. It’s so important to ask ourselves: what makes my body feel good? That’s something I’ve wrestled with. I personally don’t think any foods are “good” or “bad,” but that’s head knowledge. It’s still trickling down into how I choose foods. Still, I’m moving toward the idea that different foods make us feel good and are helpful in different situations. It’s about considering the value of the taste and experience, rather than solely nutrition facts. It’s one thing to say chocolate is “bad.” It’s another to have eaten a pound of chocolate five minutes before a race…that might play a role in a bad race result and cause you to think, “Hmm, I didn’t feel that great so I probably will try to fuel with a different food next time.”
H: There are lots of schools of thought on that. I do think there’s room for all foods in training, including things like Pop-Tarts and Whoopie Pies that some distance runners swear by.
K: Because they have all these vitamins. At the end of the day, Pop Tarts are full of vitamins. I’m like, “Oh my goodness, it doesn’t matter that there are differences because it’s all food.”
H: It’s food and it’s fuel.
K: You’re right.
H: Hmm, so now that I’ve stepped off that soapbox, I’d love to know more about how you see your body currently. What are your thoughts about your body now and how do you–
K: How do I handle it?
H: Yes. How do you learn to appreciate it or keep appreciating it?
K: Well, you know what? I think I was just thinking about this the other day. You know, I’ve gotten married.
K: And I have a wonderful husband who makes me feel a hundred percent beautiful. Like the most I’ve ever felt, honestly. And I said that to myself the other day–because I do weigh myself because as I get older, I don’t want to not be aware of it. I don’t want to let it slip. But I don’t need to weigh myself as much as I do, if that makes sense. And then I’m like, “Why do I even care?” I mean, I’m not training, so there are no races coming up. I don’t need to be monitoring my weight. I used to want to be under a certain weight to race because that belief that racing lighter, it makes you faster. So, recently, I was thinking, “Why do I care now? I don’t have those things to, you know, think about.”
H: Aah, that’s so good.
K: I have this husband who makes me feel like I’m perfect–even though I’m not. So why do I care? So, I’m trying to adapt that thought, because I look at people–I’m a teacher– who unfortunately can barely walk down the hallway for various reasons. And I’m the one who gets to chase the kids. Other teachers can’t play with them and chase them, but I can like. So I gotta think, “You know what? I am darn healthy. I will look back in 10 years and wish I were where I am now.” So I’m choosing to enjoy where I am now. I’m only gonna get older and slower, and I’m sure I’m gonna gain more weight. That is okay. I’ve got this amazing husband who thinks, I’m great. So, why am I worried about it?
H: I love that you speak positively to yourself in those moments. When it comes to our bodies, I’d rather have body functionality–breathing, living, etc.–over my body being merely a pretty ornament.
K: I think I was unhealthy with my mileage for a long time, so that’s where I have to adjust my brain. My brain says, ”you have to at least run 40 miles a week, Krista.” And recently, when I was sick, my mileage was cut in half and my I’m like, “Oh crap, my watch only says, I’ve only run this many miles this week.” That’s whenI have to really back myself down.
H: Yes! The body needs to heal.
K: Exactly. And I’ve also found I enjoy lifting, so I’ve been lifting a bit and have a handstand goal for myself. I honestly feel so much better running less and lifting more. I know that, but my brain still wants mileage, mileage, mileage. So when my brain says one thing and common sense says another, I’m learning to listen to my body.
H: I’ve dealt with that a lot, too. The concept has always seemed to be that more is better. That’s just not true, though.
H: But it’s not, because rest is also doing something–it’s letting the body recover.
K: Right. Rest is a kind of training.
H: So, knowing that, though, what purpose does your scale have for you? Like, would you ever smash it or throw it away?
K: Yeah, no I would never throw it away.
H: I’m just…
K: I think the purpose is for me to just keep myself accountable because I love just to come home and have a bag of tortilla chips and cheese. And I mean, I don’t need that. I’m not hungry. It’s just a habit. It gives me an idea of where I am [weight wise]. Honestly, I’m good if I just stay in a 10 pound range, I’m alright. It doesn’t matter if I am on the high end or the low end. I just want to stay in this healthy range because… because I love to eat.
H: Food is good!
K: It makes me think of when I was trying to qualify for that trials, though. I thought I had to be under a certain weight. But the race where I actually ran my fastest, I was like five pounds heavier. I ran fast my my fastest race that way and that was a big lesson on how a number on a scale doesn’t matter. So that was an eye opening.
H: I love that because it shows the unique design that God has for our bodies. They’re not robotic in the sense that they have to be/look a specific way.
H: He created them to be works of art that are ever-changing–which honestly, I do have a hard time accepting. But it’s true and I’m trying to remember that it’s good.
K: Mm-hmm. For sure.
H: [laughing] Well, I’m still gonna try to talk you into getting rid of your scale, but that’s for another day.
K: Yeah, and I probably could. I really don’t know why I don’t.
H: It doesn’t measure anything important. Krista, it’s just a number.
K: You’re right. You’re right. You’re totally right. And especially since I’ve been lifting, I’m sure I am heavier. But I know that and I feel good. My body is adapting to this different kind of training.
K: This morning, even though I felt like crap, I ran just to clear my sinuses.
H: Yes, I get that. Sometimes, it’s such a good release.
K: It is, and some people don’t get it. So anyway, two miles, I was like, “I just want to get my nose cleared up.” My hamstrings have hurt for years and they didn’t hurt this morning. I’m sure, strengthening all these muscles [is only going to] help me. So if I get on the scale [which I do occasionally], and I notice my weight is higher, I’m happier because I can feel the positive difference. Does that make sense?
H: Yeah..the importance of prioritizing function [over aesthetic].
K: Easier said than done, all of this is.
H: Yes. Absolutely. So, I have one last question for you.
H: My goal with this is to spread awareness of different bodies in sport and different mindsets. [I also want] to encourage younger generations. So, with that in mind, what message would you share with your little self, if you could give her a message today?
K: I think you already nailed it…That our bodies are temples, and we don’t take care of them the way we’re supposed to. Americans, especially are brought up in such lies about what the body should look like. We think we need to do specific things in order to achieve a good body. That this so backwards.
H: Mmm. Yeah.
K: I mean, I can’t change America, but if I could–
H: (smiling) You can Krista, you can do a lot of things!
K: –well, If I could, I would tell my middle school self, not to assume the [cultural norms are correct]. When you’re young, you don’t understand these viewpoints, you don’t understand how unhealthy our culture is and how unhealthy our expectations are of ourselves. It’s [seen] across all sports–running, gymnastics, and so many others.
K: It’s not okay.
H: That’s really good insight.
K: I’m guilty of going to the doctor over and over (to try to get healed) when in reality, I needed to take care of myself in a different way. I was expecting a doctor to fix me rather than listening to my body saying, “No Krista. You need to slow yourself down and take care of your body. And then it’ll react for you.” Instead, I was expecting someone to jack something into my muscles to make them “okay” or numb for a day.
H: Oh yeah, yep.
K: My middle school self didn’t understand that. I’m not giving excuses, but I also [acknowledge that] I didn’t know any different. Maybe I would need to talk to not my middle school self, but to my 20-year-old self. I mean, I look at pictures of myself at twenty and I’m like, “Wow, Krista, you were really beautiful.” But did I ever think that or feel that or acknowledge it? Never. I was always trying to be “good enough.”
H: So many of us fall into that.
K: This body is awesome, and it does amazing things and it’s gonna continue to do amazing things. But for [many years] that [relationship with my body] was very confusing. There was a period in which specific comments from [someone] were challenging. They didn’t make me want to lose weight or not eat, but they made me feel really yucky and that’s the previous version of myself I would love to talk to. I would love to remind my younger self of my worth.
H: I love that, Krista. Yes!
K: Thankfully, God gave me the ability to not let that ruin me. I had enough wonderful friends in my life at that time, but it took a long time to heal from that [negative perception] of myself.
H: It is incredible that you’ve gotten to that point, and… I hope you know that in terms of the length of the journey: It’s never like too late. That’s what I’m telling myself, at least.
K: No, yeah, you’re right.
H: I just am so encouraged by you and your willingness to share a lot of this. It’s very sweet.
K: Yeah. I’m experienced. I’m old and experienced. I’m–
H: You are not old and you have your best days ahead of you!
K: Oh, no, not my best physical days, but my best emotional and spiritual days
H: And isn’t that when we have the most fun in our bodies?
K: I do look back and wish I had appreciated everything–my body and how it performed. I mean, a body isn’t naturally ready to run 26 miles as hard as it can. It’s not really “supposed to.”
H: It’s definitely weird…the way we push, it’s not natural. It’s not like “normal normal.”
K: I remember going to my doctor–this was probably eight years ago–and he said, “Krista, you first came to me about the same issue ten years ago, like come on.”
K: My body needed a break and I didn’t hear it. So I hear it now.
H: Mmm, I love that.
K: I hear it. I hear it and my brain reminds me, “Okay, it’s not about me anymore. It’s about how I can serve others.” The reason I go to Africa, is because my running friends, like, it’s all running connected. But in a sport that can be so self-absorbed, visiting Africa has helped me see that running can aso be used to benefit so many others.
K: I’ve shifted my running from what I can do–how fast I can run or what my workouts are–to how can I use this to serve?
H: It is so incredible that you continue to give back to the running community through what you’re doing in Africa. And now that I say that, I’m thinking… do you want to share about that for context?
K: Sure. My passion in Africa involves educating girls who are 13 and 14-year-olds (mostly, some are 12). If not for education, those girls just stay in their village and get sold for a dowry at that young age. Then, they have children at a very young and they don’t really pick their husbands. They’re not in love; they just live this life that is hard. They’re not miserable, they’re not starving or dying but they don’t get educated. So, depending on how much money we have each year, we pick a certain number of girls to go to school and get an education. It’s encouraging for them and they get to have a program in which they run after school and it’s also biblically based. The hope is that they can have a future–break the cycle.
H: So powerful.
K: I go the tribe of one of my friends–a friend I met running. We go to where he grew up. That really helps because we have that connection. even then, it took several visits to [establish trust]. Finally, some people said, “You know, you scared me when you came the first time. We’d never seen a white person.”
K: For a woman to run and even challenge a man, was unheard of to them. But the girls would see me running with my guy friend that I met who grew up there, and that was just something that they’d never seen. Like, “A woman is running with a guy!” So, they were scared of me and they didn’t trust me at first. Now, they know that I’m coming back–that I care about them, I love them, and I want to help them.
H: Trust is so crucial.
K: –because at first, they thought I was trying to steal the kids and even sell them instead of helping them get an education. Eventually, a few trusted me enough to go and then they saw that the girls actually graduated. But it took five years to develop that trust.
K: But anyway, it’s all about running. It’s all brought about by running because the people involved are my running friends. The concept of running brings such neutrality, too. It’s one thing we have in common–our cultures have very little in common otherwise.
H: So, it’s an easy way to get in the door, essentially.
K: Right. They understand it and I understand it, and we can do it together
H: Very cool and is there a way for people to give if they want to?
K: Yeah. People can give through https://www.ilauganda.org.
H: Krista, thank you so much for your time and for sharing a bit of your insanely cool story with others.
K: I know, it’s crazy. Crazy fun.