Every Monday morning, running fans, athletes, and journalists alike open their in-box in eager anticipation. At around 5 a.m. Eastern time, Alison Wade’s Fast Women newsletter arrives.
Since its launch in January 2019, the weekly roundup of news, links, and race results—often topped with a few paragraphs of Wade’s smart commentary or original reporting—has become a must-read for those interested or invested in women’s distance running.
The missive grew out of fast-women.com, a website Wade founded and operated for the New York Road Runners in the early 2000s. Afterward, she held other running-related jobs—collegiate coach, freelance writer, researcher—while continuing to closely follow elite competition.
Even as digital media platforms and podcasts proliferated, Wade still found herself spending hours hunting down the information she sought—and wishing for a single, comprehensive source dedicated to the women’s side of the sport. Since no one else had picked up where fast-women.com left off, she decided to create her own, again. “A lot of other people are doing the good reporting,” she says. “I just help consolidate and spread the word.”
Each week, in the spare moments between overseeing remote school for her 9-year-old twin daughters, she bookmarks news stories; watches road races and track meets online, on TV, or when possible, in person (including, often, live-Tweeting them); and listens to podcasts, searching for both breaking news and deeper insights.
On Saturday and Sunday, she pulls it all together, sending a draft to editor Sarah Lorge Butler for review before blasting it to thousands of subscribers. “It’s become basically a full-time job, but with really weird work hours,” she says. Her salary is entirely supported by sponsorships and Patreon donations; to keep the information accessible, she doesn’t charge for subscriptions.
You might think that, in a year with most competitions on pause, a sports newsletter would lose relevance. But thanks to Wade’s expansive attention to the culture and business of running, she’s continued to both curate and create new, compelling content.
“It was like whiplash, because it was coming off such a high,” she says, of the transition from the Olympic Marathon Trials to pandemic-related delays and cancellations. “The momentum was really building and then it all came to a halt. But I quickly realized that even if there’s no competition, there’s always the story of how runners are handling this, how they’re making it work.”
And then, of course, came this summer’s social-justice reckoning, beginning with the February killing of Black runner Ahmaud Arbery. Wade had touched on issues of racism in the sport before. She’d noticed, and pointed out, how Black runners receive less coverage and fewer opportunities despite their significant accomplishments. But she didn’t always know behind-the-scenes details, and whether the athletes themselves perceived the prejudice.
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Now, as more runners of every level openly share experiences with discrimination, she amplifies their voices in the Fast Women newsletter and on her social media accounts. Though she recognizes how much work remains, she’s seen significant signs of progress toward racial equity in the sport and the industry, including more diversity in podcast hosts and other content creators. “There are more athletes speaking out consistently, and more white athletes speaking out,” she says. “We have a lot more people on board with doing better.”
In addition to the newsletter, Wade moderates a Facebook group for readers. More than 1,000 active participants share their thoughts and observations, absent the toxicity so common on anonymous message boards. “How do you talk about women’s running without also tearing down women? I think there are ways you can do it,” she says. “You don’t always have to say, these people are perfect, I have no criticism. But it’s also not talking about people’s bodies.”
When competitions resume, she hopes the sport continues working toward a “new normal” when it comes to issues of race and gender—a vision she’ll continue both documenting and advocating for in Fast Women. “I want to keep improving and filling holes where I see them,” she says, “and doing it all in an anti-racist fashion.”
This profile was first published in the Winter 2021 print issue of Women’s Running as part of “Women Who Lead: Power Women of 2021” which celebrates 25 women who are reshaping the running industry for the better. You can see the full list of honorees here.