“What Made Maddy Run” Book Review

What Made Maddy Run, a book by Kate Fagan, tells the riveting tale of Maddy Holleran. Maddy was a University of Pennsylvania Division I runner who struggled from depression and anxiety, which ultimately led to ending her life by suicide. This is a must-read for any college student, especially athletes, and highlights the importance of mental health, not only in the case of Maddy Holleran, but for our own wellbeing. Below we share some common themes and takeaways from the book.

maddy holleran

Common themes from What Made Maddy Run:

  • Starting at the bottom of the food chain when shifting to a more competitive runner – a shift in status that triggers loss of a sense of self.
  • Alienating oneself and feeling like your problems are too big to be shared.
  • Addiction to progress, always moving forward in a linear way on the ladder rungs of success.
  • Choosing to push through pain – knowing the difference between a hurdle and a brick wall, and a coach’s role in deciphering between the two.
  • 1 in every 4 or 5 young adults struggles with mental health issues, with expectations being even higher for student athletes.
  • Lack of emotional health being prioritized in collegiate athletic departments (according to a 2014 ESPN study, fewer than twenty-five Division I athletic departments employed a full-time psychologist, p.88-89).
  • How we’ve become products to be branded or marketed in all venues of our lives, which results in constant comparison and a dehumanized mindset (p.113).
  • Social persona on social media – presenting only the best version of yourself through a filter, also called a “split image” (p.140-141).
  • Like cancer, depression is not a one-size fits all prognosis. There are many types and multiple layers to any single case.


With its chronological timeline, side notes about mental health and string of text messages, What Made Maddy Run provides an inside view into the struggles Maddy faced that ultimately led to her far too early death. It also provides insight that benefits a parent, coach, or athlete. We highly recommend it.

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Author: Megan

Founder of Strong Runner Chicks. Avid steeplechaser, distance runner and certified personal trainer. Lover of coffee, carrot cake, and anything avocado.

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