Athlete Biography: Mari Chandler, Runner and Adventure Racer
I ran my first timed mile when I was 12, beat all the boys in my gym class, and never looked back. I ran track and cross country through high school and continued on to run for Central Michigan University. After graduation in 1999, I moved to Ann Arbor, MI to train on a Nike team based at the University of Michigan. I was still training in Ann Arbor when I received a phone call from Coach Frank Gagliano (Gags) inviting me to move to California and run on the Nike Farm Team, Nike’s largest middle distance track club in the country. I wasn’t excited about moving so far away but it was an amazing opportunity to train with such a large group of elite athletes and of course there was the added bonus that I would no longer have to spend my winters running in -5 degree temps on icy slippery roads. In January 2002, I said goodbye to friends and family and headed to Palo Alto, CA. Training in California was fantastic and under the direction of a new coach and an environment solely focused on running, my race times continued to improve. That year, I finished 5th at the US Outdoor National Championships in the 1500m and Gags sent me off to Europe to race and train for the month of July. Life was good. Unfortunately during a 10 mile training run in June of 2003 I tripped and fell pretty hard on my ankle. I thought it was a typical ankle sprain and after taking 1 day off, I continued to train and race on it. By the fall I was in so much pain that I was only running 2 days a week and spent the rest of the time cross training on the bike and in the pool. I finally gave in and was forced into a walking cast and was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my ankle. 5 weeks before the 2004 Olympic Trials, the walking cast came off and I was cleared to begin training again. Unfortunately 5 weeks was not enough time to be ready and I missed the trials by ½ second.
Enter Adventure Racing
I was at a friend’s watching a taped copy of the last Eco Challenge (Fuji 2002) and had commented that I really wanted to try something like that. Mike Prindiville, the boyfriend of one of my track teammates, did adventure racing and offered to do a race with me. He chose the Big Blue Adventure race in Half Moon Bay as a good local short race for me to start out with. The race was an absolute blast and I was hooked! I did a few more sprint races with Mike that fall. I knew my track coach would not approve and did my best to keep my new love affair with adventure racing a secret. I remember showing up to Monday’s practices with my legs all scraped up from doing a race on Saturday and would make up excuses like I got lost hiking or something.
Unfortunately my ankle was still giving me pain and I went to a specialist and had an MRI done. It turned out that when I had rolled my ankle, I had jammed 2 bones together. My stupidity and denial of the injury and continuance of training caused a fracture to run across the bones and eventually broke the tip off of my calcaneous. I ended up having surgery in 2005 and again in 2006 to repair the damage. The fracture had also given me severe arthritis in my ankle joint. My days of running track were over, as my ankle could not withstand the amount of force applied when turning the tight corners on the track or the faster pace. My passion for running track hadn’t been what it once was and because I had found adventure racing, it wasn’t hard to step away. Adventure racing has given me the opportunity to explore in depth various parts of the world, country, and even in my local training grounds. Each time I race I am tested as much physically as I am mentally. I love working with my teammates to push each other for 6 hours or for 6 days straight. Besides, in what other sport can drinking a can of mt. dew and eating pop tarts at 3 a.m. make you feel better?