Diagnosed with Osteoporosis at 18 years of age - Bobby Clay's warning to other athletes

Over-training and under-eating took the British runner from representing her country and breaking personal bests to breaking bones - She shares the story on the Olympic Channel podcast

By Ashlee Tulloch ·

Bobby Clay was a rising running star chasing her Olympic dream until she was diagnosed with Osteoporosis at 18 years of age.

She had been over-training and under-eating.

The British runner, now 21, told the Olympic Channel podcast that she pushed herself to the point that her body started to break.

''It got to the point where I sat down in the gym and my shin snapped. It’s something we do every day and I couldn’t even do that without breaking. If I cant do that, how was I meant to run? That to me was a massive turning point'' - Bobby Clay to the Olympic Channel Podcast.

Over-Training and Under-Eating

Clay was eager to be the best athlete she could, and decided she needed to do more training than her coach set out for her.

While she increased her running mileage, she did not increase her food intake to match.

"I just continued other aspects of my life the way I always had and didn’t take into consideration that actually I’m now expending a lot more energy...I didn't skip meals. I just ate very normally for probably inactive small human, which isn’t enough at all considering what I was doing''

Her bones became frail and weak.

''I was in the swimming pool with my sister and I did a tumble turn off the wall, and as I pushed off the wall I felt something in my foot just break. And I knew, I knew something had broken.''

''I was meant to be the fittest and strongest of my life and I was the most fragile I had ever been.''


''I opened the email with my exam results and straight away it said osteoporosis of the spine and hips. I was reading it over and over again and I was just a bit confused.'' Clay told Olympic Channel presenter Ashlee Tulloch.

''I never would have associated it with someone of my age. The example people use is when an old lady falls over, she breaks her hip.'' - Bobby Clay on Osteoporosis.

Bone density is measured by using T-Scores. The UK National Osteoporosis Society says the average bone density for a young person is from +1 to -1.

''It was -3.8 in my spine and -3.4 in each hip so it wasn’t great.''

Early Success

Clay was a youth phenom.

She was fourth in the 1500m at the 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships and did enough to make Great Britain's Under 20 team for the IAAF World Championships at just 15 years old.

As well as winning multiple national titles, she was the 1500m European junior champion in 2015.

''I’ve always loved running so I always wanted to do more because I enjoyed it so much and it was something that made me feel so free and, I truly felt like myself when I was running. And I love to be able to push the boundaries and push my body to the absolute limit and do things that I previously couldn’t do so, every week I wanted to prove to myself that I could go a little further, go a bit harder, run a bit quicker.''

Recovery and advice

The Brit is still on the road to recovery, and has had support from the #TRAINBRAVE campaign.

It's a drive to raise awareness about over-training, inadequate nutrition and relative energy deficiency in sport.

In telling her story she hopes to help other young athletes.

''Listen to other people. Other people from the outside can look without a skewed or bias view and it’s very easy to get trapped like I did and caught up in your own brain, which is constantly telling you need to do more. When it's people you love telling you things, they’re telling you because they love you.''

''It might not be what you want to hear but you should at least stop to listen and that’s something I didn’t do. And it’s something that maybe I wouldn’t necessarily be in this position if I had.''

The Future

Clay has not given up on her Olympic dream.

''For as long as I can remember I’ve just had this burning desire to be an Olympian and have those Olympic rings tattooed on to me. I feel like I’m meant to be there.''

Her bones are getting stronger, partly thanks to her new cycling training.

She's even taking part in the UK National Track Championships (25-27th January 2019).

While she has no intention of competing on the bike full time, she's using the sport as a chance to get back to where she wants to be in order to run again.

Bobby Clay was this week’s guest on the Olympic Channel Podcast.

Each week we find athletes and speakers to talk about the biggest Olympic talking points.

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