“Iron defficiency.” This is the distance runner’s easiest get away. Didnt feel strong? Must be iron defficient. Bad workout? Must be iron defficient. Not racing well? Must be iron defficient. It’s an epidemic. Years ago it was found that distance runners that feel weak have low ferritin levels in their blood. Ferritin is a protein that stores iron and releases it to the blood stream. With low iron stores, one becomes easily fatigued because it messes with the oxygen-heme group bondging, limiting the amount of oxygen spreading to the bodily tissues….making it the perfect excuse to poor performance.
I admit that I am one who has used this excuse in the past. In high school my xc team went to a camp up in New Hampshire every summer for a week. The summer before my sophomore year, one of the days they had a guy come in and lecture us about iron defficiency and the signs. That indoor season I noticed that I was feeling some of these symptoms. I was racing slower. It was harder to keep up with my teammates on workouts. I was frustrated as all hell. My coach suggested getting a blood test to see if I happen to have iron defficiency. What do you know?? I had low ferritin levels. Next thing you know I am on liquid iron supplements (which taste like straight metal) and I started performing better by that outdoor season.
I tried keeping my liquid gold a secret (soon became golden pills when I couldn’t handle the taste anymore) thinking it gave me an edge over others. However, I soon realized something. Everyone thinks they are iron defficient. Everyone is on or has taken iron supplements. There is no edge by taking them. It makes me think of the steroid issue in sports such as baseball. MLB players claim they only take steroids cause everyone else is and that the sport has become that. Iron pills don’t make you faster, but a lot of people take them so they don’t get slower. I do continue to take my supplements every day I can remember out of this same fear. I have experienced it and its not fun knowing you should be faster than your body will let you move. However, whenever I hear a person complain about iron defficiency effecting their performance I cannot sympathize for them. It’s not an excuse anymore if it’s affecting everyone….or so they claim.