Former Iowa State standout runner Dani Stack shares her harrowing story about her eating disorder.
At her best, Dani Stack was one of the best collegiate runners in the country during her career at Iowa State. Twice she finished as the runner-up in the 10,000-meter run in the Big Eight Conference meet and earned All-American accolades by placing fourth in that event at the 2011 NCAA outdoor track championships.
But hidden underneath the surface, Stack was suffering from an eating disorder. At the 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championships, Stack collapsed with 200 meters to go in the 6K race and never finished. She later surmised she was badly malnourished, the result of months of restricting her eating.
Now healthy again but not yet recovered, the native of Mankato, Minn., is training with other post-collegiate runners with Team USA Minnesota. She’s been candidly sharing her story since last summer with the hopes of helping other young girls who might be suffering from similar problems.
“At the end of my sophomore year of college, I headed into summer deciding that restricting food would help me lose weight and run faster,” Stack says in an essay for Minneapolis Runner. “A switch had flipped inside me. Being lighter could provide me with that extra edge I needed to be a better runner. Aside from decreasing food intake, I increased my mileage. Counter intuitive when you think about it, but sadly, it worked.”
But the eating disorder wreaked havoc on her physically, mentally and emotionally, and eventually derailed her collegiate running career — even two years into her recovery.
“After almost five years of living my life a certain way, I have had a really hard time just being me,” she writes. “Quite honestly I don’t really know who I am. How strange is that?! I live with myself every day, yet I don’t know anything about myself. I had defined myself as a runner and restrictor for so long that I lost myself along the way.”
MORE: Minneapolis Running