Caolan MacMahon shown near the finish of the Bolder Boulder 10K, Memorial Day 2011
Boston or Boston profile #19, Caolan MacMahon, aka, Chronic Runner, of Boulder, Colo., is “the thinking person’s” runner.
Caolan is a philosophy instructor and her main interests are ethics and social issues. Often she intertwines those subjects with running topics on her blog, www.chronicrunner.com.
Take for instance, her post, “I dare you to do something.” In it Caolan talks about the importance of taking action invoke social change, particularly with the subject of educating girls and women across the world.
Caolan is backing up that belief: Three weeks from now she’ll run Boston; in November she’ll run New York, and for both marathons, she’s raising money to benefit Girls Education International.
Caolan said she believes strongly about those subjects because of the positive influences running AND education have made in her life.
Caolan, 48, said she’s been a runner since age 8; that’s when she did her first race with her father.
“Running is necessary for my mental health. It’s just part of who I am. Running in Colorado is fantastic because: a) because the weather is fairly moderate and temperate, and b) there are so many runners here,” she explained.
“The community is energizing and motivating. There are so many women here running so much faster than me! Runners here push through commonly held and expected boundaries, especially concerning age.”
Caolan also has worked through adversity and triumphs with running and racing over the decades.
In her 20s she said was intense about competing and pushing herself — so much so she admitted she burned out on racing.
She ran in first marathon in Portland, Maine in 1992. Her time: 3:40:21. She didn’t realize until later she missed qualifying for Boston by 21 seconds. It was almost two decades before she ran a marathon again.
A native of New Jersey she left the Garden State at 18 for college and never returned. She lived in Maine and New York State before eventually going to graduate school in Colorado, where she still lives today.
While Caolan took a break from racing in her 30s, she never stopped running altogether. She also discovered her passion for climbing — a sport that much her academic pursuits and thought-provoking blog posts benefits from one’s ability to focus, problem-solve, and foster confidence and strength.
Caolan still loves climbing, she said, and she and her husband are both avid climbers. Weekends at their household are a juggling act between caring for their 5-year-old daughter, running, climbing time, and managing the rest of their busy, full lives.
During the week she handles the endless shuffle of being a full-time working mom who teaches classes yet still makes time to blog and inspires many others on social media forums..
Another thread to Caolan’s remarkable story: She qualified for Boston and New York last year after years of not racing and suffering a potentially life-altering, debilitating injury.
During her absence from road racing Caolan fell while bouldering (unroped climbing where you usually stay fairly low to the ground) and she tore her posterior tibialis tendon (inside of the ankle, which supports the arch).
She was in a cast for 6 weeks and then in rehab for almost two years. At one point during her injury she was told that she might never run again.
“After that serious of an injury, where I was told I’d never run again, I made a deal with the gods/supreme powers that be, that if I recovered I’d run a marathon for charity, and I did.”
The injury brought her out of a 17-year hiatus from racing. Little by little she worked her way back to recovery. She returned to racing just a few short years ago.
While she was happy to qualify for Boston and is excited to run it in a few weeks, she said New York will be her crown jewel.
“The New York City Marathon was always on the must do list. In fact NYCM is one reason why I got back into racing. After the injury in 2008, I realized that there were things I still wanted to do in terms of running, and that I may find myself unable to do them at some point, so I better do them now!” she explained.
“When I was 16, my father and I took the train into NYC to watch the marathon. I stood in Central Park and watched as Grete Waitz cruised past me, setting another world record. I said on that day, someday I will run this. I was a high school runner at the time. NYCM means so very much to me,” she added.
Unfortunately she’s battled other injuries since that big one in 2008 but it hasn’t stopped her from making good on that promise AND achieving incredible goals.
She continues to inspire many people through her blog posts and writings on social forums online.
She’s run four marathons so far, and qualified for Boston at the Colorado Marathon in 3:53. Boston and New York will be marathon numbers five and six
Caolan is also an amazing role model on aging well and how being “chronic” in the best of ways can pay off.
“I’m certainly not as fast as when I was younger, and it’s not as easy, but I feel very fortunate to be able to continue feeling good while still getting stronger.”
Caolan said she’s not sure yet what she’ll pursue after Boston and New York. Whatever it is, she’ll likely tackle it with the same energy and passion she brings to other pursuits.
“I believe that running has shaped the life I live, where I live, how I live and my appreciation of the natural world,” she said. “Running has made me who I am, no doubt about it.”
To contribute to her fund-raising efforts for Girls Education International: www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/caolan-macmahon/bostonmarathon2012
Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!