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Follow This Mother!

Heather looking sassy in her skirt (natch!) in the Athletes' Village before running Boston

Countless times this year, Dimity and I felt like our anthem should be the U2 song, "Running to Stand Still." As in, we're busting our humps, but not making any forward progress. Dimity finally had the brilliant idea to hire an assistant--a mothers' helper (ha, ha--get it?). We interviewed several talented candidates, and hired Heather Durocher, who you might know as Michigan Runner Girl. This mother of three--Emma, 12; Andrew, 10; and Alex, 6--lives in Traverse City, Michigan, giving us even greater geographic distribution. Like us, Heather is a freelance magazine writer; and like me, she ran the Boston Marathon in April. Find out more about the newest member of Team Another Mother Runner.

Best recent run: I’m a trail runner at heart and feel lucky to live steps from the Vasa Pathway, a series of challenging and beautiful loops (3K, 5K, 10K, 25K) in the Pere Marquette State Forest. These trails are where I find shade and quiet in the spring and fall, and especially throughout summer. Sometimes my kids and our black lab, Max, come along--the kids ride their mountain bikes while I run alongside them--but, on a recent Saturday afternoon, it was just me and my 12-year-old daughter. It was sticky hot even before we got going, but I knew the trails would be cooler. We planned to run/walk, just taking it easy and seeing how we felt. We ended up doing an out-and-back route, a total of six miles, and the very best part was talking with Emma. While I consider the two us close, she isa middle-schooler. Friends, texting, hanging out in her bedroom…these are pretty high priorities for her right now, which I understand. But she’s my baby, my only girl, and it is a delicate balance to be involved but not be overbearing. To be someone she wants to talk with, but not be more of a friend than a parent. Having that time to run and walk with her, to hear her share things I don’t know she’d necessarily share if we were sitting at home, was pretty special.

The Durocher family (including Heather's dad) at hubby's recent 10K race

Running in the Mitten: I’m a Midwestern girl. I was born in Wisconsin, but moved back to my parents’ home state of Michigan when I was very young and grew up here in Traverse City. My first newspaper job was in Ohio, and I lived for a time in Minnesota (loved the Twin Cities!), but was very happy to return to northern Michigan and raise our family here. Finding a passion for running later in life has only cemented my love for Michigan—there are just so many beautiful places here to explore by foot, especially up north where we live and in the Upper Peninsula. I love that we’re able to share such gorgeous surroundings with our kids. I tell them all the time how lucky they are to live minutes from Lake Michigan, where the beaches rival any sugar-sand shoreline in the world, and to have miles upon miles of trails for biking, hiking, and snowshoeing right outside our front door. Next to running trails, my favorite place is to be on the water. I’ve traveled to some stunning places--I definitely felt at home in Boulder, and the Oregon coast was breathtaking--but I know I wouldn’t ever want to live without my Great Lakes. Michigan also is a great place for exceptional local food, craft beer, and regional wine, all of which help make celebrating great runs and races all the sweeter.

IT band: my "it" injury: I’ve had my share of running injuries over the past several years, but this spring was the first time I’d experienced this issue. It started with outer knee pain and some achiness in my left hip. Rolling on the foam roller was brutal but helpful. I’d only wished I started with the foam roller sooner. I contemplated chiropractic work, and also maybe seeing a physical therapist, but with both of us self-employed and not having the greatest health insurance coverage, I wasn’t exactly excited about getting started on these potentially pricey options. I asked around and one guy’s name kept coming up over and over, a massage therapist (and lifelong runner/athlete) who specializes in Active Release Technique. I read up on it--in a nutshell, it’s breaking up scar tissue that’s formed over time in your muscles through deep-tissue massage--and I decided to give it a try. Within two or three hurts-so-good sessions, I was feeling so much better. Regular nighttime stretching, ongoing icing, foam rolling, and adjusting my training plan for Boston also helped, of course. But I can’t tell you how great this treatment was for me. I ran pain-free in Boston.

Mile 24 of Boston, when Heather's kids got in on the sweaty action for a few steps

1,000 miles to Boston: Wish I could say I had some elaborately designed plan for a 1,000-mile drive to a marathon with three kids…but I didn’t. Looking back, I can say that my kids truly were troopers. The trip fell not even two weeks after their spring break, meaning we’d just gotten back into the routine of things when off we went for another cross-country drive (our spring break: 20-hour drive to Gulf Shores, Ala.) But when I was training for my first marathon in May 2011 and shared with my family that I really wanted to BQ [Boston qualified]-- and that I really wanted them to come to Boston with me if in fact that happened--well, it was set. We’d experience the city together. Another huge help with the trip itself: taking our time getting to Boston by first spending a couple of nights with my best friend, Jenn, and her family, who live in Connecticut. Jenn even came up to Boston to cheer me on, which meant the world to me. It really is crazy that we all went out there for this race--there were five kids, ranging in ages from 2 to 11, out there on race day, in scorching heat--and there were a few stressful moments. But we just did our best to make it as fun as possible. We are in Boston! I also drank as much water as I could leading up to race day and thankfully was able to enjoy a beautiful night’s sleep the night before the marathon.

Boston memories: When I think about the marathon, I think about how utterly hot it was and how drenched I was--from sweating and also from dumping cups of water over my head every chance I could get. Kids holding out orange slices and ice chips to runners, and people spraying water from hoses into the streets also stand out in my mind. The spectators are amazing. It was such a humbling race, but I am proud I finished. Remembering how I saw Jenn and her kids at Mile 17, then my family around Mile 24 gets me teary eyed. It was such an experience. Different than what I imagined it would be, but unforgettable and so special to me.

Snooze, please: I used to be an early-morning runner—this is how I started out, with a group of women I’d met through the local fitness center. I definitely liked the routine of it. But somewhere along the way I found I liked other times of day, too, like evening when I could catch an orange-pink sunset mid-run. Training for my first marathon, I scheduled my runs after morning school drop-off, which worked out especially well since I trained all winter long outside and at that time of year it really doesn’t get light out until 7 a.m. Lately, though, I’m back to early mornings. I love early morning sleep but I also love the feeling of having knocked out my run first thing. I’m taking a Pilates reformer class twice a week super early, and I like the feeling of running either right before the class or right after. There's no denying how morning exercise can totally set the tone for your day.

Running plans/dreams: After multiple destination races in the past few years--Eugene, Ore., San Francisco, Boston--I feel it would be good for me (and my family) to slow down some on the non-stop training and traveling. They’ve been so supportive, but it’s a lot. Next up is a family run, a 5K during a summer festival in our city. It’ll be the first time all five of us run a race together. I’ve done one triathlon--a bike, run, and kayak race--and would like to give that another go, except one with swimming. I would also like to try a trail marathon at some point, maybe next summer after giving my body a break from 26.2 miles. I’m also excited about a new half marathon in Traverse City this fall and just started training with my friend Ann, a longtime runner who has always been so encouraging to me and my running goals. And I guess I have to add that I want to keep sharing my love for running and for Michigan on my blog. It’s been very cool meeting other Michigan runners and athletes, and learning of running-related events taking place throughout the state.

Follow this mother at: michiganrunnergirl.com and on Twitter.

10 responses to “Follow This Mother!

  1. YAY Heather! I am a native Michigander, and newer runner training for my first half this fall – we are often up north throughout the year, especially summer-time, visiting with my dad in Alpena…LOVE LOVE running in Michigan, but especially up north!! 🙂 🙂

  2. Welcome Heather! Great backgrounder. And I am a complete active release devotee, it has turned me from a whiny, ibuprofen-addled runner to a nearly pain-free 50+ running mama! Best to you and your family (PS I have a 14 year old Emma).

  3. Headed to our cottage on Torch Lake after the 4th! LOVE LOVE LOVE the area. I celebrated my bday last year at TL with an 8 mile run around the lake and it was one of the best ever! I look forward to another this year. Have wanted to do a race while in town but we’re always traveling on the Saturday race days. Next summer I hope to stay for 2 weeks and run a local ‘up north’ race! Welcome!

  4. Welcome! I’m a Midwestern girl at heart too, though I no longer live there. Looking forward to reading your blog and “seeing” you around the AMR-sphere.

    1. Hey MJ! Thank you for the welcome. I’m thrilled and honored to be working with Dimity and Sarah, and to be part of the awesome AMR tribe here. Looking forward to getting to know even more mother runners!

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