Fairchild is running down a dream

Melody Fairchild is 16 years removed from being one of the best distance runners in United States high school history. At 33, she's still on the go and has a message for today's prep athletes: Take care of yourself and enjoy running for a lifetim...

Melody Fairchild is 16 years removed from being one of the best distance runners in United States high school history.

At 33, she's still on the go and has a message for today's prep athletes: Take care of yourself and enjoy running for a lifetime.

Fairchild, entered in Grandma's Marathon on Saturday, says she needed to see the sport from all sides before understanding what was best for her.

"It's a challenge for me to come and compete at Grandma's and to see if I still have what it takes, but I'm coming to this race with a more relaxed mindset,'' said Fairchild, who grew up in Boulder, Colo., and lives in Eugene, Ore. "I stepped away from running for a couple of years because I wanted to change the way I approached it. I explored the balance of how the mind and body work together. Running now feels easier for me.''

Running brought success, but not always comfort at an early age.


Fairchild won eight Colorado prep titles in cross country and track at Boulder High School, and won consecutive championships in what's now the Foot Locker national cross country championships. She was the first U.S. high school girl to break 10 minutes for two miles on the track with an indoor time of 9 minutes, 55 seconds as a senior in 1991.

She was 5-foot-2 and 95 pounds heading to the University of Oregon when a hip injury negated her freshman season and she took the next year off to get healthy. As a senior, she won the 1996 NCAA Division I indoor 3,000-meter title and earned a degree in English.

Fairchild's course remained uneven as a post-collegiate runner as she gravitated to the marathon. She's run in three 26.2-mile races -- the 1999 Twin Cities Marathon (2 hours, 44 minutes, 42 seconds), the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials (3:05:55) and the 2003 California International Marathon in Sacramento (2:55:11).

"Running was everything. It was my entire reason for being,'' said Fairchild, who is single. "But maybe taking something so seriously isn't the ticket to success.''

Eight years ago she was introduced to Cortical Field Re-Education, which Fairchild credits for a significant turnaround in her well-being. CFR is a form of alternative healing using improved communication between the brain and the body.

A Web site named CFR Passion says CFR sparks the brain connection with nerves and muscles, producing efficient movement. Flexibility and coordination are keys.

Fairchild is now 5-4 and 125 pounds and says she's a stronger, healthier runner. She's been training since December for Grandma's Marathon with the intent of running 2:47 or faster to qualify for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials to be held in conjunction with the Boston Marathon in April.

"She still has the same determination and the same heart and the same motivation to achieve her dreams. It's just that her dreams have changed along the way,'' Fairchild's coach, Margo Jennings of Eugene, told the Rocky Mountain News. "She's learned to relax, to not take things so seriously. She's learned to have fun.''


Fairchild also is more than a runner. She's an assistant track coach at Churchill High School in Eugene and on the staff of the Eugene Running Company running equipment store. And next month she opens the Melody Fairchild Running Camp near Boulder. She expects about 15 girls, ages 14 to 19, for the weeklong event that will emphasize CFR.

"My goal is to give these girls the tools to make life easier and more joyful, so they can do the things they love,'' says Fairchild.

While Fairchild has run just one road race the past three years, it may be a sign of good things Saturday. She was the women's winner in the 31st Pear Blossom Run 10-Miler on April 14 in Medford, Ore. The 31st Grandma's Marathon is straight ahead.


Fairchild is part of a record number of American entrants Saturday for women and men. Most are seeking qualifying times for the U.S. Olympic Trials, which determine the U.S. marathon team for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

Grandma's Marathon lists 75 U.S. women and 95 U.S. men as part of the elite field, which will be led by a typically-strong foreign contingent.

The last American man to win Grandma's Marathon was 13 years ago. The last American woman to win was 11 years ago.

Heather Hanscom, 29, of Eugene, Ore., and Mary Akor, 30, of Lomita, Calif., lead the U.S. women entries. Hanscom, making her Grandma's Marathon debut, ran 2:31:53 to place sixth in the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials, while Akor ran 2:33:42 to finish second in the 2006 Twin Cities Marathon (she was third in the 2006 Grandma's Marathon.)


Hanscom said she was forced to drop out during the 2006 Twin Cities Marathon because of a leg injury, but has recovered, although she hasn't been racing.

Katie Koski, 34, of Two Harbors is among the top Minnesota entrants. She was 18th last year in 2:54:28 and ran a personal best of 2:42:33 here in 2002.

Former St. Scholastica runner Desiree Budd, the 2006 Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon women's winner, is making her road marathon debut. Budd, 27, won the 2005 Minnesota Half-Voyageur Trail Marathon in 3:47:43.

The women's masters field, those 40 and older, is led by former overall Grandma's Marathon women's champion Jenny Spangler, 43, of Lake Villa, Ill., a former Olympian who previously held the U.S. masters record, and Russians Ramilia Burangulova, 46, and Tatiana Titova, 41.

Defending wheelchair champion Amanda McGrory, 20, of Kennett Square, Pa., is considering going after the women's world record of 1:38:20, set by Italy's Francesca Porcellato in 2005. McGrory won the Oensingen (Switzerland) Marathon last Saturday in 1:39:20. She won here last year and then went on to win the 2006 New York City Marathon women's wheelchair division last November and was second in the 2007 Boston Marathon in April.

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