Unless 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!
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!