Running, darkness, and a secret life
Running in three successive Olympic Games is an outstanding achievement, but it's only part of the intriguing life story of Suzy Favor Hamilton.
What came next has led to her becoming an advocate for mental health, and a writer and speaker willing to share her experiences — even though they are at times painful — to give insight and understanding and, she hopes, support for others.
In her peak years as an international athlete, she was the second fastest American woman in history at 1,500 metres. Her time of 3min 57.4sec, from 2000, still makes her the fifth-fastest American of all time.
But after the glory of her track years, things started to deteriorate as she went through depression, and became one of the top escorts in Las Vegas, before her secret life was “outed to the world”.
She was eventually diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, and through her years of recovery has stepped forward to share her story and experiences.
Her autobiography Fast Girl — A Life Spent Running from Madness, was published in 2015 and became a New York Times bestseller.
She is guest speaker at the pre-race pasta dinner, presented by Chubb, at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club on Saturday evening.
Ahead of her arrival, she answered the following questions about her career and her life story.
Q. What was it that led you to a career in track and was that always a goal?
I just found that I had a joy for pure running, and was good at it. I was beating all the boys at a young age which felt good. The better I got through high school, then college, it became apparent I could make a career of it. So it became a goal fairly early on.
Q. What are you most proud about your track career?
Probably being in three Olympics, and setting a couple of American records.
Q. When and why did your running career end, and how did you initially cope with that?
It was 2004 and the cumulation of injuries. I had a desire to stop for some time. I wasn't enjoying it like I should. I wanted to have a baby and did so in 2005. I had zero problem walking away from it. Unfortunately, professional track and field can be very unhealthy.
Q. Was it hard to document your secret life personal story and to write and speak about it openly?
It really wasn't. Getting into family stuff and pain from my past was much more of a challenge. The issue with documenting my secret life was clarity. That period of time was so much of a blur. A crazy time in my life.
Q. What messages do you hope your speaking engagements, and your book, deliver to others?
Of understanding. Of compassion. Of non-judgment. And of hope. That a life can unravel as mine did before, during and after Vegas, and one can still find their way with determination and hopefully, the support of others.
Q. Do you still do running or any other sport in a completive or non-competitive way?
My body does not allow me to run much any more. I might run slowly once every couple of weeks. A pretty intense form of hot yoga, along with hiking big mountains, have done the trick in giving me what my brain seems to need to function properly.