Megan Lizotte shushes me for a second to look back at the trampoline. “You hear a shriek and you don’t know if it’s an emergency, or if it’s just… lunch,” she jokes. The screaming stops just then. “They’re fine,” she insists, of seven-year-old Maven and three-year-old Bodie.
Like most of the rest of the world, Lizotte is sheltering in place, and doing it with two kids and no close family around. My wife and I are trying to do the same thing, and it’s incredibly hard, but Lizotte’s got it admirably under control.
“Maven’s really into gymnastics, so we set up a balance beam and a bar in the backyard,” she said of their avoid-going-crazy routine, at home just outside of San Diego, California. They’re managing, and Lizotte is finding her way back into running after a years-long stretch of injury.
Lizotte, now 36 years old, grew up in Basalt, Colorado, competed at NCAA Division II University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and then raced on the roads around America through the late aughts. “Eventually I just decided that it wasn’t for me. I had a bit of impostor syndrome. I wasn’t quite fast enough for the big races, and the pressure was just so much (when racing on the roads),” she said in echoing a familiar thought.
A third-place run at the 2009 Teva Mountain Games Spring Runoff 10k, not far from her home in Colorado, led to a chance meeting with USATF mountain running partners Nancy Hobbs and Ellen Miller. Lizotte missed at her first qualifying attempt that year in New Hampshire, but finished second that same year at a qualifying race in Colorado Springs, Colorado. That was the first of five U.S. mountain running teams. Lizotte made three national teams for the North American Central American Caribbean (NACAC) mountain running championships too, and she hit her peak in 2010 with a win at the famed Sierre-Zinal race in Switzerland.
She was the first American woman to ever win Sierre-Zinal, and the first American regardless of gender since 1974. That win catapulted her to a seven-year stretch as a Montrail-sponsored athlete, and led to three to four races in Europe each summer for the next several years.
Lizotte last ran the World Mountain Running Championships in Italy in 2014, and last ran any race in 2017. She finished the Boston Marathon in 2:55 that year, when her son was just seven months old. “I started training four weeks postpartum, and developed Haglund’s deformity.” She keeps going and I start to lose track of the injury cycle. “I hurt my Achilles during the build, but it was nothing show stopping until eventually it turned into a full Achilles tear.” And that Haglund’s-plus-Achilles cycle went on for three years. Lizotte endured two surgeries on the Achilles, and swears off an explanation for why the injury required two surgeries.
She’s eight months removed from that second Achilles surgery now and running about 30 miles per week, but still fighting pent-up compensation and gait issues.
She makes a quick check and her kids are still busy on the trampoline, and so Lizotte starts to speak to her next adventure.
She was at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta, Georgia in February. This is a race that she’d competed in twice–2008 and 2012–but this year’s participation was to launch Athlete Mamas. The website is not quite ready for primetime, but the Instagram page does share some early insights, and in Atlanta, Lizotte led a panel of moms that included Kasie Enman, Neeley Spence Gracey, and others about what it’s like to be both a mom and a professional athlete.
Lizotte just got her podcasting equipment last week. “I might have to lock myself in the bathroom,” she thinks out loud when planning to record without kid interruptions, but she’s going to have a slick production.
She knows that everyone’s got a podcast these days, but is looking for a niche in interviewing women that are balancing life as a professional athlete and as a mom. “It’s a group that I needed before, that didn’t really exist. There weren’t a lot of resources for having a family and a career as a professional athlete. It’ll be an online platform, and a way to connect with fans,” she said in describing her vision, and points to some recent traction that Alysia Montaño and Allyson Felix have made with sponsors. Coronavirus be damned, Lizotte hopes Athlete Mamas goes live on Global Running Day, June 5.
“I’m trying to get back into running, I’d like to make a few more U.S. teams,” she trails off, still in her always cheery tone, and points to the World Mountain Running Long Distance Championships as a future goal. Lizotte regains her thought and speaks up with more fervor. “But being able to give back means so much more. Athlete Mamas is my reinvention story and I can’t wait.”
Call for Comments (from Meghan Hicks)
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