Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Fri, 18 Oct 2002 19:35:38 -0400

Moller's Medals

RUNNING COMMENTARY 436

This is how it should be. Runners receiving awards after a race are too excited or tired to notice who hands them their prizes.

Few of the medal-winners at the Royal Victoria (British Columbia) Marathon had come to this same theatre a day earlier to hear their medal-presenter speak. Few even knew this middle-aged woman who now said nothing that would identify her as a far more accomplished runner than any of them ever would be.

Lorraine Moller would say this is exactly as it should be. Better to focus on what these runners did today than on what she ran a decade ago.

To be called a "legend" is perilously close to being a relic, frozen in an earlier time. Moller is legendary as a runner but is no museum piece.

On this raceday in Victoria she too was more concerned with present than past. She had to settle down her two-year-old daughter who cried out in protest when her mother went onstage.

Lorraine had a long and diverse racing career, competing internationally for New Zealand at 800 meters when that was the longest distance open to women and later in their first Olympic Marathon. She is the only woman to run four marathons at the Games.

She's also the oldest medalist to date, placing third in Barcelona at age 37. Yet even that finish disappointed her somewhat.

"I thought I still had a gold medal in me," she said in her recent Victoria talk. She didn't think of 41 as too old to try again. "But during the race in Atlanta [where she was 46th] I realized that the young runners had passed me by."

The young mothers hadn't. Another Olympian effort was yet to come for then 45-year-old Lorraine, married to Harlan Smith and living in Boulder.

In 2000 a tough pregnancy replaced her Olympic training. As the Sydney Games opened, her "marathon" began. After two days of labor she delivered her first child, daughter Jasmine.

Besides keeping up with this two-year-old, Lorraine now coaches runners in Boulder. She plans to author a book, titled On the Wings of Mercury, "if I can find some strong glue to stick myself to a chair long enough to get it written."

For now she speaks the material, and does that exceedingly well. She's the most moving speaker I've heard since the passing of George Sheehan -- not just entertaining and informative, but seriously inspiring.

Lorraine is a devotee of Joseph Campbell's works, which deal in myths and symbols. Her special symbol is the winged god Mercury, whose likeness she wears in a medal on a neck chain.

She speaks about the Campbellian "hero's journey," urging everyone in her audience to take such a trip. It's circular, with the hero expected to return home to share what he or she has learned.

Lorraine didn't lock her Olympic medal away in a bank vault, never to be seen again by anyone outside the family. She carries it to her talks.

"I'm so proud of my gold medal," she quipped while holding it up for her listeners to see, "that I had it bronzed." She then invited them to pass it around and "rub it for good luck."

Lorraine's talk in Victoria ended with a standing ovation, a great rarity after running speeches. She earned it less for what she'd done 10 years earlier than what she said this day.

Then she returned to mothering Jasmine. That evening the little girl entertained the pasta-dinner crowd by taking repeated, barefoot sprints to the tray of dinner rolls.

Lorraine Moller is a running legend who isn't frozen in her past. See her if you can, hear her speak, rub her medal and pat the golden head of her best prize, young Jasmine.

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