By: Sarah Derrick
I cannot believe I am writing this. It came as a surprise to many that Colleen Quigley is withdrawing herself from the Trials. As a fan of Quigley, I was not only excited to watch her race again after she crushed the Prickly Pear Invite, getting second behind Stafford. But also, I was looking forward to what Lululemon Racing Kit was going to be. It would be the corporation’s first appearance as a sponsor at a major US Track & Field Meet.
Regardless of my surprise of her announcement, what I was unfortunately not surprised by was how quickly people took to a certain website with message boards. And you know what? That, well that was even more disappointing to see.
After seeing the tears welling up in Quigley’s eyes as she shared her injury with us, I realized I can wait. I can wait to see her race again, to see her awesome kit, and wait for her to explain more of what is going on when she is ready for it.
And I am not the only one, we see people rushing in support of Quigley. (You can see below just some of the loving comments that are being posted in support of her decision). It is a display of the epitome of what makes our sport so spectacular. That though we often compete against one another, we are still for each other. At least some of us are.
But, just like with everything else that has happened in 2021 in the running world, people have taken to the message boards of letsrun(dot)com to try and conjecture about what is going on with Quigley. Theories are being spouted that I am not going to write into words here because it is all speculation that believes the worst about people.
Watching this unfold: people rushing to message boards to try and solve a mystery of what they have no right to know, after watching a video of a professional runner explaining that she needs a break both physically and mentally; creating gossip, being crude, and
I am pissed because this is a culture issue. This is not necessarily a culture issue that is new or even special for our small corner of the world.
A person has the courage to be vulnerable with us by explaining that there are things going on that means she cannot live out the dream of making another Olympic team.
A person, who is one of the best a sharing life virtually with others, for once chooses to hold onto the specifics of her life (that she has never owed us in the first place).
And what do we do? We create stories with no real information that paints a negative picture of who that person is.
Damnet people, we can be better than this.
Quigley deserves her time to privacy.
She deserves her time to heal.
She deserves a chance to not deal with the psychological implications of having gossip about her float around message boards on the internet.
And it is not just Quigley, it is all professional runners.
We do not have to make LetsRun(dot)com’s message boards the tabloids of the running world.
I have seen people argue that having real followings, like any other sports fandoms, means allowing spaces for conjuncture to exists and flow freely. The basic argument being made is that letting people have opinions and space for those opinions means that people can become more invested into the sport of running.
I am not going to present an argument against that.
All I am going to do is ask a question: what are we going to do to be better members of our community on these message boards?
If we think it is necessary to have a space that can afford opportunity for cultural growth, but also be a space that can afford disempowerment, misinformation, and even just bad advice, what are we doing about it.
I think we can all agree that our sport is truly special; that the running community is a pretty special membership we get to be part of in our lives. I also think we can agree that there are cultural issues we need to call out. This misuse/abuse of a cultural space for us is only one of those issues.
So, it is on us.
We have to realize what we are doing when we post to a message board. We have to realize that one of the ways culture develops is through our messages. We have to realize that what we post online has implications for those it speaks of – both in their public credibility and also their mental well-being. We have to realize when boundaries surrounding information of professional athletes’ private lives should be respected (regardless of how much they choose to share normally).
We need to be better as a community not just on our local tracks and streets, but also on the internet where we all come together from all over the world.