5 Reasons to Love Suzy Favor Hamilton

fri5Unless you’ve been living under a rock without an electronic device, you’ve seen Suzy Favor Hamilton on her press junket promoting her new book.  And unless you’ve been under that rock for 3 years, you know that Suzy, a 3-time Olympian, middle distance runner, was revealed to be a high-priced Vegas call girl when she wasn’t promoting Rock n’ Roll races or the face of brands like Nike and the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers. After her secret was revealed all those companies dropped like a hot potato and it was assumed Suzy would be just another icon that fell from grace.

But that didn’t happen. Suzy Favor Hamilton is awesome. We’re all flawed. Suzy is just a little more intense about things. When she wins, she wins BIG! And when she doesn’t she goes down in a blaze of glory. There’s more too. Here are 5 more reasons that I love Suzy Favor Hamilton and you should too. 

1. She doesn’t run from the truth. When she was outed as being a Vegas call girl, she admitted it and accepted the consequences without flinching. She didn’t deny it or try to pretend it wasn’t a big deal. She accepted responsibility and the truth and dealt with it. Even now she freely admits that if she wasn’t outed she would have continued prostituting and perhaps even advancing to hard drugs. She owns her truth and it is setting her free.

2. She brings awareness to mental health. I didn’t conduct a formal study, but anecdotally I can say many serious runners use running to self-medicate some degree of mental or emotional issue. I’ve written about running and depression, Ginger’s written a lot about anxiety and depression and Ginkgo has written about the complicated struggle between being a runner and a recovering anorexic. Running is cheaper than therapy, but sometimes, as Suzy shows us, runners need therapy too and that’s ok and preferable to leaving mental illness untreated!

2000 --- Suzy Favor Hamilton. --- Image by © Mark Hanauer/Sygma/Corbis
If SFH can rise above her darkest days so can we all. Image by © Mark Hanauer/Sygma/Corbis

3. She brings awareness to suicide. Suzy openly shares how her brother’s suicide was the impetus for her downward spiral. I can completely relate to how Suzy felt enormous pressure to succeed so her family could focus on her success rather than the loss of her brother. I’ve talked openly about how running has helped me grieve my dad’s suicide. But I can’t say I’m running around town openly discussing it and I would guess most people in my life don’t identify me as a suicide survivor. But, I am one and so are millions of others. And look, here I am talking about it because of Suzy.

4. She’s not afraid to show her pain. If you’ve watched any of her interviews, there’s no denying that Suzy still feels the pain of her brother’s death, her Olympic disappointments and of course the hurt she experienced and caused her family from her Las Vegas call girl exploits. You can just feel the rawness of it and sometimes it’s hard to watch, but more often it’s refreshing really. She’s not pretending EVERYTHING’S GREAT NOW THAT I’VE STOPPED HOOKING! Our society seems to demand we all pretend pain doesn’t exist, so to see it on full display goes a long way to show how normal it really is and more importantly that you can experience immense pain and … survive.

5. She shows us that running isn’t the be-all end-all. For a long time, Suzy felt like she had to medal in the Olympics and succeed at running. And after her world-class career was over she struggled to find meaning in her life and of course, she subsequently spiraled downward. However, as she crawled out of her rock bottom she discovered that those parts of her life and herself that she ran away from were the things that are her greatest gifts. Seeing Suzy, the human being with her struggles and her pain, but also an inner joy and strength that shines through despite it all, reminds all of us that life and love are more important that just about … well, anything.

If you haven’t yet, start reading Suzy Favor Hamilton’s new book, Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from Madness. We’ll be discussing it here in a few weeks and we’d love for you to join the discussion.

Do you love Suzy Favor Hamilton? Why or why not?


PS I was not compensated at all for this post. I just really love Suzy Favor Hamilton and feel her story has a lot to offer us all!

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. Yes! I actually just re-read the interview and I think it was way better than the book! The book didn’t do her struggles justice, IMO. It glossed over the important issues and focused too much on the gratuitous parts. I have spent hours discussing this book over the weekend, with friends, family and one person in particular who treats those with bipolar, schizophrenia, alcoholism etc. I want to support her and believe her- I myself have struggled with some of the same issues that have plagued her (luckily not the most serious ones). I just think the book does her wrong, casts unfortunate doubt, and is meant to sell copies vs. really provide insight into how to help people with mental illnesses.

    1. I could see that, maybe. I guess I look at the big picture and respect the entirety of what she’s doing. I enjoyed reading the book, but I also think I read it fully supporting her from go, too. I respect your opinion totally (and not just because you gave me the best compliment ever – whoa!) Thanks again for discussing and sharing your insight!

  2. I also understand that the book was written to sell – and the true dynamics in her marriage (like any other relationship) are complicated. But the book itself just didn’t inspire. I just felt like the most important issues were overshadowed by the titillating content to sell more books.

  3. OK… so I just posted these comments on another page… here’s my assessment of the book:

    I bought and read the entire book yesterday. I feel compelled to comment! I can say that I empathized and sympathized a lot with her struggles. And I found the parts of the book that focused on her running, family, and the very clear issues of eating disorders, perfectionism, and anxiety to be very compelling. Where she lost me was in the second half of the book. I know plenty about bipolar disorder (from family experience and from professional knowledge), and I know that hyper-sexuality is common. However, her description did now reflect the impulsivity and risky-taking that one normally associates with it. Her vegas situation seemed very calculated, and had the support of her husband. He even bought her a condo to facilitate it, and they both subjected their child to this mess. When I read this part of the book, my first thought was that they were making a boat-load of money, and they were in it for the business side of things. She couldn’t remember to show up for an open house for their real estate business, but suddenly she was completely in control of her monthly trips to vegas, working with the scheduler and never missing a beat. To be brutally honest, it just didn’t sniff right. And at the end… after she was outed, she dealt with the aftermath in about 2 pages. Recovery for an alcoholic (which IMO is a disease perhaps with some of the same roots? I’m not a doctor, but trust me, I have seen plenty of alcoholics and plenty of people suffering with bipolar) often includes admitting your mistakes, apologizing, and taking responsibility. She seemed to blame it all on being bipolar, taking little responsibility. I just didn’t buy it. IMO the book was more “mommy porn” than a true evaluation of the very serious and real (real for her, I truly believe) issues relating to perfectionism, eating disorders, mood disorders, and post-athletic career concerns that would have been way more interesting to read about

    1. After you read the book, did you reread her interview here? I think we touched on some of your concerns. http://www.saltyrunning.com/2015/09/29/suzy-favor-hamilton/

      I think if you see that when she’s explaining the escorting she’s talking about it from her manic perspective – she was so self-absorbed and wrapped up in pumping up her own ego she was almost completely blind to the needs of others (including her daughter’s and husband’s) and how her behavior hurt them. She was basically an addict of having her ego stroked and sex/escorting was the means of getting that fix.

      I see what you’re saying about the salaciousness of the book, but I also know it was important to Suzy to lay it all out there because while she is very sad about hurting her loved ones, she is not ashamed and she doesn’t want other people who have gone down this road to feel ashamed either. She wants to lay it all out there to show how intense it actually was and how she IS overcoming it, to give other people who have gone down similar roads hope.

      I get it. I normally hate gratuitous sex, especially for marketing, etc. but I really felt like putting it all out there served this purpose. Or maybe I’m just into mommy porn! Ha!

      But yes, thanks again for sharing your thoughts! I think this conversation is exactly what Suzy wanted from her book!

  4. I wasn’t sure whether I would read it but have now downloaded it to listen to while running. Looking forward to the discussion!