What You Can Learn From Erin Donohue

Lessons from an Olympic athlete who defies the odds.

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If the odds—any odds—are against you in your career, here's a big dose of inspiration for your midweek rut: Olympian Erin Donohue.

According to the New York Times, Donohue's body is "too short and stocky to be a star middle-distance runner."

But there she is, competing in the 1,500-meter heats in Beijing on Thursday.

The story quotes Edward F. Coyle, an exercise physiologist and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Texas:

"She runs like a big person—heavily," Coyle said. "There is less bounce in her step. She is kind of slow in reacting. She looks like she is muscling her way through the race."

While I instinctively cringe at any critical analysis of a woman's body shape, it's a bit different when it's a discussion of the physiology of her structure and movement and how it relates to her unnatural athletic skill.

An August 1 story on Donohue in the Haddonfield, N.J., native's local paper, the Courier Post, offers some insight into how Donohue manages to run so fast (emphasis is mine):

Michael Burns of Cherry Hill taught Donohue in advanced-placement history courses at Haddonfield Memorial.

"She was just as good a student as she was a runner," he said. " She just has an amazing ability to focus. Whatever she did, she did well."

" She didn't just rest on talent," noted Chris Threston, a former assistant coach for boys' cross-country at the school. " She had a total commitment to being the best runner—and that's what gets you to the Olympics."


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