Distance runners of all levels deal with pain and adversity at during various points in their lives, but Lanni Marchant has seen more than her fair share of obstacles. The 26-year-old from London, Ont., has overcome a broken femur, fractured tibia and most recently, a broken pelvis, en route to becoming one of Canada’s brightest female hopes in the marathon.
Marchant finished second to Dayna Pidhoresky in the historic Around the Bay Race on Sunday, running 1:53:49 in her debut at the 30K distance. It was the first time she had ever run that far, never attempting a run that length in training. “At least I know what to expect now, if I’m going to try to run a marathon this spring,” Marchant said from her home in East Lansing, Michigan, where she currently attends law school.
The Ottawa Marathon is only one of the challenges Marchant is hoping to conquer this spring. She’s also finishing a dual American-Canadian law degree at Michigan State University. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the funds to complete the bar requirements.
Needing to raise about $5,000 to finish law school, Marchant was ready to give up on serious running, especially after breaking her pelvis on a training run just days before the Mt. Sac Relays in 2009. However, her coach convinced her to keep training seriously, and figure out another way to get the money.
“I rely on my race winnings to pay my bills,” Marchant said, searching out road races within a short drive, hoping to recover enough money to pay for gas and race entry, and still make a profit. Most races might only pay a few hundred bucks, but the Around the Bay cheque, a cool $2,000, has given her hope.
Marchant, a graduate of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (UTC), has also started taking pledges for what she calls a “runathon.” She’s hoping to raise enough money to complete her bar exam, starting a website dedicated to the effort. It’s called “two feet and a heartbeat,” a simple campaign, she said, to raise awareness to the plight aspiring runners face as they try to pursue their graduate career and training, after their undergrad athletic scholarships run out.
“A lot of my girlfriends from University of Tennessee-Chattanooga went to work full-time after school and gave up running. But I’m definitely someone who wanted to go to law school all my life, and I love running and don’t think I could ever walk away.”
If Marchant raises more money than need, she’ll donate the surplus to other needy athletes, she said.
“At some point I would like to be in the financial situation where I can enter a race purely for the competition and not for the cheque at the end of the finish line. It’s definitely crossed my mind these last months, if what I’m plugging for is worth it. But I wouldn’t trade what I’m going through for anything.”
Marchant, who boasts a strong track resume, transformed into one Canada’s top road runners in 2010, with PBs over 10K (34:34) and the half-marathon (1:15:04). She represented Canada in the prestigious Ekiden Relays in Japan in December, after her surprise third-place finish in the Canadian 10K road race championships.
Diagnosed with osteoporosis during her junior year at UTC, she has struggled with bone injuries. Doctors told Marchant that her broken pelvis was the result of tight quad muscles, pulling sharply on her pelvic area, causing a fracture during one particular stride near the end of a long run.
Because of her bone-density issues, Marchant keeps her mileage down (relative to other competitive marathoners), running about 90K per week, complementing it with about 60 to 90 minutes of cross-training, including regular core-strength sessions every day. She never runs more than once a day and takes one day completely off running each week.
“I definitely think I’m stronger doing the cross-training than I would be if I were only running. The main focus for me is to run how I feel. If something is pulling or [my legs are] tight, I know just to stop. Tightness is not a good thing for me.”
Click here to listen to full interview with Lanni Marchant.