As Catholic's Ellie Gonzalez staked out a lead in the Girls Elite race of the Spiked Shoe Invitational in September, she felt a familiar urge.
She needed to throw up. So with a runner breathing down her neck, Gonzalez puked and kept going.
"It's kind of a common thing," she said.
Gonzalez didn't break stride, finishing in first place and beating out her competition by five seconds. Later, she asked if second-place finisher Isabel Griffith had noticed her getting sick. Her competition hadn't.Gonzalez's performance underscores understanding in the running world that nausea and vomiting after intense competition are not out of the ordinary.
A 1992 International Journal of Sports study says 93 percent of endurance athletes experience some sort of Gastro-Intestinal symptoms during races. A 2005 review in the International SportMed Journal says that some studies have placed that number between 30 and 83 percent.
Many notable runners have dealt with this issue, sometimes on a very public stage. In the 1996 men's Olympic Marathon Trials, Bob Kempainen won and set the course record despite vomiting for the final two miles. Derek Clayton, in the hours after his world-record setting marathon in 1969, suffered more serious consequences, including vomiting, diarrhea and urination of blood.
Gonzalez, though, isn't worried.
“I’m completely comfortable talking about it. It doesn't’t happen too much in indoor or outdoor, because I’m running shorter races,” Gonzalez said, noting that it happens most during cross country meets. “It’s a good thing because, unless it’s nerves, that’s just how my body reacts when I push myself as hard as I possibly can.”
Gonzalez said her habit doesn't put her at a disadvantage, and jokingly advised her competition to avoid mistaking sickness with weakness.
“Don’t be fooled,” Gonzalez said. “Just because somebody is throwing up does not mean that they can’t beat you.”
The senior capped her season by winning the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland cross country championship last month, beating John Carroll’s Kristen Kohles by one minute and 12 seconds. She was also named the Gatorade Maryland Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year and the Baltimore Sun’s Girls Athlete of the Year last year.