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Yuki Hebner: Wesleyan University Cross Country and general toxicity in distance running

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Yuki Hebner is currently a PhD candidate at UCLA, studying molecular biology in a neuroscience lab. She is also a 2017 alumna and former Cross Country and Track athlete at Wesleyan University. In March 2020, Yuki wrote an open letter to Wesleyan University, signed by 36 track and cross-country alumni. The letter described how their head coach, John Crooke, fostered a toxic culture within the program. For over a decade, athletes had been called in for so-called “fat talks,” where Crooke would tell runners to lose weight, and make them log the food and calories they ate. Within the program, injuries, body shaming, and eating disorders were rampant. Crooke eventually retired in August, amidst alumni and student outrage.

Yuki wants listeners to know that this is not a personal sob-story. This is a peek into a widespread and ongoing problem across the sport of distance running.

References:

Also discussed in this episode:

  • Culture of eating disorders in distance running
  • RED-S (relative energy deficiency in sports)
  • NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference)
  • Mary Cain’s op-doc in the New York Times

Outside resources on eating disorders in distance running:

Quotes:

  • “When I had the conversation with my coach where he brought up weight loss, it wasn’t a conversation that I came away upset from. I don’t remember it as being a traumatic moment. If anything, I felt invigorated. I felt like I was given a task to do and I was excited to do it. I was excited that he had seen potential in me.”
  • “To me, the base knowledge of any abusive behavior is knowing that it isn’t consistent. He did not abuse every single person that he met.  But there is no reason that should determine the outcome of a Title 9 case.”

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