Billed as compelling reading , it sure is and should be a book which is read by all budding and experienced athletes, as to just what can, and will, and does happen when you push a thing to far and it becomes an obsession; an obsession that everyone around you can see but you consider is OK.
When Vanessa Alford ran her first marathon it was for the thrill of the run, the distance and the possibility she may do a good time. It was never something she ever envisaged would take over her life, almost destroying her physically and mentally in the process.
Her obsession came about gradually, as she went from a healthy, happy person who enjoyed running to someone who became obsessed with becoming an elite athlete, gaining a sponsorship from Nike and slowly, ever so slowly laying the pathway of her own downfall.
She managed a personal best time of 3:30 minutes in the Bangkok marathon. Her next run at the Townsville marathon saw her crossing the line in 3:07 minutes and so began what was to become her obsession with running.
The obsession is known as ‘Anorexia Athletica’ which manifests itself as a desire to run further, harder and faster all the while fuelling the body with less and less, driving the system into eventual failure and break down.
It does take time to get to this level of abuse, but in Vanessa’s case, she was also in an extreme state of denial.
As a student of Physiotherapy and then as a practicing Physiotherapist and Nutritionist she understood full well the ramifications of her lifestyle but, along with the all demanding ‘voices in her head’ continued on her destructive pathway.
This is her story of the challenges that moving away from this lifestyle imposed. Her body started to show the stress of her lifestyle resulting in stress fractures beginning to occur in her feet, a condition which plagued her for several years and cost her more than $10,000 in an attempt to fix the problem, all the while refusing to accept that it was her lifestyle, her obsession with running, which was the problem.
It was not until she married her long-time partner Brent and the subject of having a family was raised she had to face the fact that along with her stress fractures and delicate mental state, there was also the issue that she has not had a natural period for several years.
This reality check and her genuine desire to become a mother was the beginning of her healing and her realisation of the person she had become – a person of whom she was she was terribly ashamed.
Compelling reading indeed, and as a first book, one that is enjoyable, and has been written in a way which will resonate with athletes of all persuasions; it is also a look at life and the challenges which can so easily occur with devastating effect.