The Women's Running Coaches Collective exists to support, unite, inform, inspire, encourage and empower women coaches at all levels of our sport.
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The Women's Running Coaches Collective Committee
Marie Davis Markham
Charlotte Lettis Richardson
Kathy Mills Parker
Amy Yoder Begley
Alison Wade's "fast-women.org" chronicles these extraordinary times of women's distance running
Alison Wade's fast-women.org is a weekly newsletter covering women's competitive distance running. From track to roads to cross country, Alison scours the results, the podcasts, the races, remotely and on sight, to help us see the rapidly changing world of women's running. It is the most comprehensive and detailed look at the sport to date, and it brings the reader deep into the world of women's competitive racing. Through Wade's reporting, we experience the races as they unfold. The competition, the race strategies, the missteps, the brilliance, the joys and the disappointments. We feel as if we are there, in the midst of the race, and we understand what it is to be a competitive women runner in 2020. Her extraordinary breadth of information, informed by her personal knowledge and experience as an athlete and a coach, helps to illuminate the competitive sport of women's running. We see the sport as it is today, following the legends, and discovering the newcomers. Her reporting, observations, and opinions make fast-women.org the very best chronicle of women's competitive racing out today.
Alison Wade grew up in the small town of Amherst, Massachusetts. She ran at Amherst High, and later at Bowdoin College. From 2001 - 2013 she coached at both the high school and college levels. Her writing and web editing career include running two websites about men and women's competitive running for the New York Road Runners, and freelancing for Runners World. Her unique ability to report so skillfully what may be a Renaissance of women's distance running, leaves you almost breathless. If you haven't already, go to www.fast-women.org and sign up for her newsletter. She writes so deftly on this astounding period in the history of women's distance running. You don't want to miss it.
Read Alison Wade's interview below. She has so much to say about this exciting and changing times we are in. There are so many fast women and fast times, and Alison is keeping "track".
"I love that more high level athletes are telling their stories, which are often cautionary tales. If an athlete won’t listen to their coach, maybe they’ll listen to the athletes they’re trying to emulate."
- Alison, your background and experience in the world of women’s running is extensive and deep. Can you tell us why you decided to re-start fast-women.org? Do you feel there is a lack of comprehensive coverage in our sport of women’s mid and distance running? How does fast-women help fill this void?
When I originally started my website in 2000, I did feel like there was a lack of coverage, for sure. But coming back to it last year, I felt like there was a lack of coverage in certain areas. In others, I felt like there was a lot of information, but it was hard to keep track of it all. It can be hard to keep up with all of the articles, videos, social media posts, and podcasts. I thought I could contribute by consolidating some of it and making it easier to be a fan of women’s competitive distance running.
- The amount of detail in your weekly newsletter, fast-women.org, is breathtaking. How are you able to follow women’s running news so closely? Do you travel to events you write about?
I don’t have the budget to travel to events, but it’s amazing how much you can follow from home these days. I sometimes know more about what’s going on when I’m not at an event. And I’m only able to follow running news so closely because of the number of hours I put into it; it’s time-consuming work.
- At every level of coaching runners there is an imbalance of more men than women in the profession. As you navigate the world of pro women runners, what impact has this imbalance had on women’s professional running? (There are only about 4-6 women head coaches of professional teams.) How can we support and encourage more women to coach at this level, and every level of our sport? What needs to change?
It’s hard to say where women’s professional running would be with more women in coaching, but I think any time there’s more diversity, we’re better off. I always used to assume that if someone had reached the top level of the sport as a coach, that meant they were a good coach. But over time, I’ve learned that that’s not necessarily true. With a little more oversight, I think we could make that true.
In terms of getting more women coaching at the professional level, on one hand, it seems so simple. All it takes is a company giving a woman a chance, like Oiselle has done with Lauren Fleshman. But on a larger scale, I think it’s going to require giving more women well-paid opportunities at the NCAA level, and in order for that to happen, you’d need widespread buy-in from athletic directors.
I’d like to see coaching, especially collegiate coaching, become a more family-friendly position for all. Right now, it varies so much from one school to the next. I’d like to see athletic directors sit down and actually try to solve that problem. There are ways to make it all happen, it just hasn’t been a priority within many athletic departments, because so many of us are too busy trying to outwork the competition. We’re the only three-season collegiate sport, and schools need to have policies that account for that.
Once we have a greater number of women having success at the collegiate level, I believe that more companies will feel comfortable investing in women coaches at the professional level. And more pros will choose women as their coaches.
- The remarkable stories that you have brought us really helps “flesh” out the world of elite women runners. To the reader, it feels as if you are there, and know these women. How do you do your research?
I think just consuming all the content and watching races online is my research, some of which I would do for fun anyway. Most recently, I really think podcasts have made such a huge contribution to the information out there, because you can usually learn so much more about a person in an hour-long conversation than you would in an article or social media post.
- You ask so many intriguing questions about the sport. What moves you to write opinion pieces? And why are they important?
I originally started the newsletter thinking I would just summarize the news each week, and nothing more. But as time has gone on, I’ve begun to inject my opinion in there a lot more. When I feel strongly about a topic, sometimes I just can’t help it. I’ve been in the sport long enough that I’ve seen a lot of patterns and I have a fair amount of experience to draw on. For many years, I was in positions where I felt like there would be negative consequences if I expressed my opinion on a variety of topics. Now I feel like I don’t have much to lose. It helps that I mostly work for myself. And I think that until all of our sport’s (and our world’s) problems are solved, it’s important to keep speaking out.
- The WRCC (Women' s Running Coaches Collective) recently presented a session at the Nike Track and Field Clinic for HS Coaches called “Coaching the Young Female Runner”. It was very well attended and received with the audience of about 50/50 men and women coaches. We covered coaching, injury prevention, nutrition, and a presentation of “Girls Talks”. We feel this important topic needs to be talked about at every level of our sport. How can we get more information out to better support girls and women in our sport?
It sounds like you’re doing a great job. I’m trying to do my part too, just by helping spread information. I think more of that needs to be built into coaching education, in general. All too often, coaching education focuses too much on how to prescribe training, when that’s actually a pretty small part of coaching.
Earlier this year, I wrote a piece about what I learned by handling eating disorders and RED-S poorly as a coach. I wrote it because I saw other people making the same mistakes I had, but also as a promise to myself that if I ever coach again, I’ll do better. Even when one is well informed, it’s still easy to not get it right.
I love that more high level athletes are telling their stories, which are often cautionary tales. If an athlete won’t listen to their coach, maybe they’ll listen to the athletes they’re trying to emulate.
- There has always been a network of runners world wide. No matter where you go there is always someone you know or knows you through running--the 3 degrees of separation theory. Do you find this continues to be true among middle and distance women runners? Is there a sense of “sisterhood” and belonging to a pack? How has this helped our sport and why? Do you think social media has had an impact on this?
I’ve had times during my life when I’ve felt the three (or fewer) degrees of separation, and other times when I’ve felt a little more removed from it all. Running makes it easy to make new friends, and social media has only helped that. You might feel like you’re the only person waking up at 5:00 a.m. to chase a goal, but then you go on Instagram and find many others like you. At the same time, I still think there are quite a few runners out there who don’t feel like they’re a part of the pack, and I always like to find more of them and bring them in, when they’re interested.
- Having been a long time runner and coach, how does this inform what you do on fast-women? Does it give you special insight?
I do hope that I’ve gained some insight as a result of my 20 or so years working in the sport and 30 years of being a runner. You see a lot of patterns emerge, and ideally, you learn from your experiences and mistakes and grow over time.
- I love the fact that you support all women runners. Pregnant women, women with children, transgender women, professional and amateur, etc. In the 70’s and 80’s many of us retired because we were over 30 or were having children and families. The fact that women are running longer has changed the nature of the sport. How do you feel we can continue to expand the numbers of women runners? How does this help improve the sport? What do women runners of all “speeds” get from your newsletter?
We need more racial and socioeconomic diversity in the sport. Getting more people running is always going to be a good thing. If everyone in this country did some form of exercise every day, who knows what we could collectively accomplish.
But in order to get more diversity in the sport, we need to put more women of color on magazine covers, and we need to celebrate them in our coverage of the sport. We need to create more opportunities for a wider range of girls to try distance running, and to see others succeeding at it. And to attract more socioeconomic diversity, we need to stop making running an expensive sport when it doesn’t need to be one.
Though my newsletter focuses on fast runners, I think everyone can take something from it, because those runners usually get to the top by learning from their mistakes. Plus I think a lot of people can appreciate any time someone selects a goal and goes after it with everything they have.
- What do you think running and sports in general give to girls and women? What do athletics bring into their lives?
I think running, particularly distance running, can be life-changing in so many ways that it’s hard to describe it all and be concise. It helps develop discipline, self confidence, resilience, and so much more. It also tends to make us happier, which carries over into all areas of one’s life.
- How have the elite women runners reacted to fast-women? Many years ago there was a women’s Track and Field News. It was on pink paper! We all looked forward to each issue even though much of the news was months old! You are sharing women’s running news and experiences in almost real time. Why is this important?
I didn’t know about the pink Track & Field News. Wow. I think it’s great that we can share information in real time now, because it serves as great motivation to read about what others are achieving, and it’s easier to learn from one another. There were so many stories of Olympic Trials Marathoners reading others’ stories of qualifying for the race, and thinking if she can do it, maybe I can, too.
As for elite runners’ reactions, the ones I’ve gotten have been positive. One runner said she’s thankful she doesn’t have to wade through LetsRun.com for the information she needs anymore, since that’s traditionally been a hostile place for top runners and many women.
- Knowing the history of women’s running helps us understand where we have come from. You are on the cutting edge of our sport with your weekly reports on the results, developments, and changes in women’s running. What do you see in the future for our sport?
I know what I hope to see, and that’s more women in leadership positions throughout the industry, and more diversity among the participants and leaders. As for the rest of it, I can never tell where it’s going. So many trends and ideas come and go, but it’s fun to just be along for the ride and see what happens next.
Alison Wade with her twin daughters
We exist to support, unite, inform, inspire, encourage and empower women coaches at all levels of our sport.