Boston Profile #19: ‘Chronic Runner’ Caolan MacMahon

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,

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: />


Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!

Mileage yesterday: 3; Mileage for 2012: 280

Balancing motherhood + running

It’s been a rough week on the parenting + running front — the kind where the mama bird in me wants to swoop in and cushion the blow for my babies, but I can’t because it’s not in my power to do.

Jane has been in a swimming class that focuses on mastering the technical skills of each stroke. She was hoping to pass out of it and move on to the next level, but she didn’t. She found out on Friday

Her “passing,” or not passing, didn’t bother me. It still doesn’t. Her last hurdle has been the butterfly stroke, which she’s getting close to doing. I think she’s doing amazing. Hell, I can’t swim the butterfly, and I never will be able to either. It looks hard. I’ve told her this many times.

What broke my heart was she had a meltdown this week and she told me how pressured she felt.

The episode totally blind-sided me. How did this happen? Nine-year-olds should not feel  “pressured” but such is the world she is growing up into and how different it is from when I was a child.

Red-shirting — holding kids back and starting them in school later (and physically bigger) for the sake of sports achievement — for example,  is common in her generation.

My son is 5 years old, soon to 6, and already we have “missed the window” for him to play tee ball. (They start coach-pitching to kids by age 6 these days.)

Our culture is also tough on parents. On one hand, you don’t want to get sucked in and become one of those neurotic, screaming soccer parents out there, but on the other, you also don’t want your kids to lose out and not support them. What do you do??? 

I was thinking about this as I listened to Jane cry and express her frustrations. I could not help but wonder, did I do something wrong? Did my own intensity as a runner inadvertently rub off on her in a bad way? I hope not. The last thing I want to be is a loony “Toddler & Tiaras” stage mom or the sports-parent equivalent.

Jane and I talked things out and we decided she needs a break from the class for awhile. Jane wants to continue swimming and taking private lessons from her favorite coach. She still wants to do summer swim team. I’m good with all of that.

I also spoke to Jane’s coach. She, too, was surprised by Jane’s reaction. The coach also sees how far Jane has come, and above all, like me, does not want her to lose her love of the sport or see her confidence erode.

No, this mama bird could not swoop away the disappointment when it arrived on Friday, but I did the closest thing I could. I chose to cancel my trip to Moab and not run the Canyonlands Half Marathon so I could be there for Jane.

For me this choice was not about martyrdom and motherhood, it came down to this: I could not run this weekend with my feet in Utah but my heart left  back in Colorado. I knew the Dude, my husband, would do his best, but Jane needed me, too.

I have no regrets. There will be more races in my future. I’ve already signed up for another fall marathon (to be revealed soon in a future blog post).

Such are the challenges of combining motherhood + running — sometimes it requires us to make hard choices as we balance having it all — family, fitness, careers, goals.

You can’t protect your children
from their disappointments or their karma. That’s the difficult parenting lesson I
got this week. All you can do is love your children and show them that we build our characters during tough breaks. We grow stronger by
going forward with perseverance and grace.

Yes, I was sad not to run in Moab this weekend, but I know I made the right choice because it came from a place of empowerment and unconditional love.

What more can you ask from a parent or from yourself??


Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!!!

Mileage today: 9; Mileage 2012: 255

Lent-friendly, runner-approved pasta recipe

It’s lent and following Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition I am eating vegan (no meat except for fish occasionally, and, no dairy or animal byproducts) for the duration until Easter arrives. (FYI, Eastern Orthodox lent started about a week later than for other Christians and we will celebrate Easter about a week later as well.)

Today I made this yummy Pasta Primavera recipe from the April 2012 issue of Good Housekeeping (minus the Parmesan cheese) and it’s a keeper:

12 oz. whole wheat pasta
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 pt. grape tomatoes
12 oz. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 med. zucchini, cut into half moons
1/4 c. water
1 can, no-salt-added garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 med. carrot, shredded
1/4 oz. shredded Parmesan (about 2 Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
fresh basil for garnish

Boil pasta, and meanwhile heat skillet with oil on medium. Add garlic and onion and cook 2-3 minutes until golden.

Add grape tomatoes and cook 5 minutes until softened.

Add asparagus, zucchini, water and salt. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes or until tomatoes begin to burst.

Stir in beans and carrot; cook 2-3 minutes or until beans are heated through.

Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Drain pasta; return to sauce pot and add vegetable mixture, Parmesan, lemon juice, reserved cooking water and salt. Toss until combined. Serve and garnish with basil.

Each serving: About 495 calories; 22 g protein; 95 g carbohydrates; 6 g. total fat; 18 g. fiber; 2 mg cholesterol; 375 mg sodium.



Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!

Mileage today: 5; Mileage for 2012: 233

My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and Gatorade slushies
Bright colored jog bras on my boobies no crushies,
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things …

When Jane was a preschooler one of her favorite things was watching what she called “the Do-Re-Mi movie.”

We haven’t sat down to enjoy “The Sound of Music” as a family in a long time, but perhaps we will tonight.

Seeing cute-as-Tinkerbell, pixie-cut “Maria” (Julie Andrews) always puts me in a good mood. I could use that today. I’m not feeling well physically and I got bad news. My sister is injured and she can’t go to Moab with me to run the Canyonlands races. I’m bummed.

Also, for the past few months I’ve been in a slump — a writing slump, a running slump and a general slump. I feel like I can’t do anything well lately. It’s messing with my head and, worse, hurting my heart.

That’s the stinky-rotten-egg news of today.

Now here’s the good part.  There are two things I know for certain about slumps:
1) They are real and almost everyone goes through one once in awhile; and
2) They don’t last forever.

My choices are to focus on my slumps or shift gears. I’m choosing the latter.

Borrowing from “Maria” and “the Do-Re-Mi movie,” here are some of my favorite things:
1) Feeling my strong legs move beneath me and the sunshine on my face as I run.
2) My daughter’s smile and the beautiful freckles across the bridge of her nose.

3) Playing go-fish and Mario Wii with my 5-year-old son today, and holding his warm, little hand as I walked him to school. (I know that won’t last forever.)
5) Eating a bowl of yummy oatmeal with almonds and blueberries and drinking freshly brewed coffee after my run. (Ahhh, heaven!!)
6) A sunrise more gorgeous than high definition can deliver and knowing I can get on with my day in peace now that I’ve already worked out.
7) Hot showers, rising my sweat off me, and and feeling refreshed again.
8) Seeing blue skies here in Colorado once more (it’s been a rough, blustery winter) and having hope that spring may come yet.
9) Curling up to almost anything written by Frank McCourt, Amy Tan or David Sedaris. These writers make me want to stand up on my kitchen table and attempt to sing “Habanera” from “Carmen” (another favorite, and no, I can’t sing to save my life!) — they are that wonderful and talented to me.

10) Bright-colored, great-fitting running clothes such as my orange crush outfit. They make me smile inside and out — always a good thing.

“I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad …”


Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!

Mileage for 2012: 224


An American Runner in Paris

Tres bien, mon cheri!!

I want to run the Paris Marathon.

Do you have a bucket list of places you’d love to run? I do and the Paris Marathon is definitely on it.

The other day Forbes posted an article on “The 10 Best Marathon Worth Traveling For,” and it included Paris.

Reading the article sparked my wanderlust and hankering croissants and brie.

Some other contenders on the Forbes list that also peaked my interest: The Napa Valley Marathon and London Marathon.

The one not on the Forbes list that I think should be: The Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland.

To me there are few better ways to connect to a place and its people than on foot, and 26.2 miles gives you plenty of that.

There’s another reason I’d love to run a marathon in Paris: I’d like to finish what I started.

Many years ago I traveled to Paris and I was training for my second marathon. I did all my training while on vacation at Luxembourg Gardens. The park has a one-mile loop and I can remember going around and around it. It’s a lovely park but I want the chance to run throughout the City of Lights.

My hope: To run the Paris Marathon in the next five years.

Invite you to share your bucket lists, too. Let’s do a little arm-chair traveling together until we get the chance to be there in person.

Until that lucky day, au revoir, my friends!!!


Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!

Mileage today: 12; Mileage for 2012: 225

More inspiration for fantastic voyages — Le Mont Saint Michel