At the end of our last post, I mentioned I would bring to your attention the story of another serious battle that women athletes sometimes encounter during their careers. It's not just the athletes but girls and women in all areas and strata of our society. In this particular case which was reported by ESPN (see link) the US distance runner Emily Infeld was stalked and hounded by a man who himself had a lot of mental health problems. Certainly not everyone with mental health problems is a danger to others but only to themselves, however in Emily's case, the man, Craig Donnelly put his victim under unbelievable stress and fear which certainly added to the regular pressures an athlete undergoes in the best of circumstances. For years Emily had to endure Donnelly's rantings and online messages. He went so far as to tell her he had arranged their wedding and sent her packages via UPS prior to his 'scheduled nuptials', which she wisely refused to sign for.
While living in Oregon and training with the Bowerman team, she had to leave town and move to Atlanta to get away from her tormentor. She was notified by police that he had moved within ten minutes of her residence. Donnelly was able either knowingly or unknowingly to evade stalking laws because of the jumble of different laws varying from state to state. He did finally slip up and was arrested on a federal warrant and is currently being held on stalking charges. But he got away with his acts for so long, it was hardly a relief at the time to think that he would not be out again soon and continuing with his behaviors.
Emily has long been a very gifted and dedicated runner from her days in the Cleveland, OH area at Beaumont high school along with her sister Maggie, then on to Georgetown University where she was an All American distance runner and then to a professional career. In 2016 Emily made the US team and placed 11th in the 10,000 meters at Rio in 31:26.94. In 2017 she placed sixth in the same event at the World Championships. Despite Donnelly's efforts and continuous harassment, Emily was able to make it back to the US team trials in Oregon last June. Unfortunately she was not able to get back on the team finishing a remarkable sixth place despite all that she had been through.
I can speak from experience that these things go on regularly at all levels of our society. In my coaching career, I know of one instance where a former runner had to leave graduate school because of a stalker. If you are the parent, grandparent, cousin, or sibling of a young girl, the odds of this type of thing happening to them are not very encouraging. So do your best to be supportive to people you know this is happening to. Here is ESPN's story. It is not light reading. . Emily Infeld, Stalked