She is arguably the greatest woman middle distance runner in U.S. track and field history. It is hard to believe that Mary Decker Slaney turns 57 years old on August 4th. Many old enough (including this reporter) remember when she broke into the national consciousness as a pig-tailed 90 lb teenage known as “Little Mary Decker”.
She’s been running since she was 11 and oh did she run. She set 17 world records and 36 national records. Her events were the metric mile, 2000 and 3000 meters. The most famous, or infamous moment of her career, occurred in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles where as a heavy favorite in the 3000 meters she fell, or was tripped in a duel with Zola Budd, a young South African.
Today, Mary Decker Slaney suffers from arthritis.
Years of training - hard training - have taken their toll as have the 40 surgeries she’s undergone on her lower legs and feet. A succession of stress fractures, ten years of rehab with the goal of running again. Osteoarthritis and some of the other inflammatory “itises” as she called them have held her back.
Despite all the thousands of miles and the damage they did and the years that have passed, she has never lost the passion for running. But her body told her that’s enough. The arthritis and the accompanying inflammation reduced her to a jogger - and as she said in an interview with the National Pain Report, “I’m a competitive runner, not a jogger. If I can’t run, hard, I’m not getting done what I need to do.”
Mary Decker Slaney understands the importance of exercise to dealing with her chronic pain. In addition to her attempts at jogging, she also tried to maintain fitness by running in water (aqua jogging) which gives you exercise benefit without the weight bearing pounding of running on pavement or a track.
“If you don’t keep moving, you go the opposite way,” she said.
She has found a way to exercise in the hard competitive way that she likes, and it’s not running, at least not exactly.
She’s a devotee of the ElliptiGo which is a fitness product aimed at giving you the benefit of cross country running without the physical pounding. It combines the components of an elliptical machine and a bicycle and has been around for about ten years.
She’s planning to compete in the California Coast Classic in late August which starts in San Francisco and winds over scenic Highway 1 in California winding up on the strand in Los Angeles. 8 days, over 500 miles and it benefits the Arthritis Foundation.
In case you’re wondering, she is not going along just for the ride. She’s going at it the only way she knows - hard!
“I’m better and fitter than I have felt in ten years,” she told us.
Pity her competitors.
Editor’s Note: Mary Decker Slaney made it a point to tell us that she is not compensated by ElliptiGo. She likes to talk about the product because she is grateful that it has given her back her opportunity to train. She also encouraged other chronic pain sufferers to find something that allows you to “move around” as she put it. It’s good for you and your body.