Runner has yoga on her mind

Marathoner uses and teaches yoga to quiet the mind

Nearing the 30-kilometre mark of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last Sunday, Katherine Moore repeated the phrase, "I am tough as nails."

As the fastest Canadian woman in the 2010 race, Moore was aiming to defend her title and run a personal best.

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Her speed put her on pace to better her 2010 time of two hours, 47 minutes and 43 seconds. This year, she reached 30 km in 1: 57.59, nearly one minute faster than the previous year.

"I felt really good," she said this week from her Yaletown home. She finished 63rd out of a field of thousands, was the eighth woman to cross the finish line and repeated as the fastest Canadian woman.

But Moore didn't run a personal best and finished a minute slower than her 2010 time, clocking in at 2: 48.47.

The Toronto weather slowed her down. "It was extremely windy and cold," she said, noting the marathon date shifted from September to midOctober and the start time was moved back two hours to 9 a.m.

"It was so windy the last seven kilometres, I was actually feeling as if I was being pushed backward. When you're tired like that, it was extremely painful. I pretty much just held on and just wanted to get to the finish line."

Moore, 33, who picked up long-distance running six years ago, tapped into a resolve and inner calm she'd developed through years of yoga. The practice is also one she teaches in her Running into Yoga workshops and hot yoga classes through Y Yoga, which are popular with athletes.

With 12 km until the end of the marathon, Moore pushed on.

"I changed my mind and any pain that I felt, I just started to think very positively, [saying] very positive mantras and affirmations to myself."

She reminded herself that a competitive 42-km road race is something she enjoys, and said she had to "just know that I wanted to be there and try to enjoy the atmosphere, the energy when you're really hurt and struggling."

Moore's self-talk became specific. "When I start to hurt, I just focus on 'relax,' or I'll repeat the word 'breathe' just to take deep breaths."

Runners have much to learn from yoga, said Moore, although the two pursuits are at odds from one another.

"Running is completely the opposite of yoga. Running, you're contracting the muscle, it's a strenuous activity, it's a demand on the body. Yoga counter-balances that, it's more relaxing, lengthening the muscles, quieting the mind," she said.

"I find the focus you get in yoga, learning just to focus your attention and try to clear out a lot of the chatter in the in mind, helps when things get really tough in a race or in training."

Moore's Colorado-based coach, Olympic marathoner Kathy Butler, said each runner is different but all can benefit from yoga. In Moore's case, she was already practising yoga when she returned to competitive running.

"If someone has been running for 20 years but never done yoga, it would make more sense to take a more cautious approach to yoga and running," Butler wrote in an email. "I still think it can be very beneficial, especially if it is somewhat targeted to athletes or runners or at least approached with those weaknesses and strengths in mind."

Stretching is good for the body and is calming for the mind, said Butler, who credited Moore's professionalism and dedication.

"The training leading up to a marathon is the best way to prepare yourself physically, but I think it also gave Katherine the confidence to know she was in good shape and could push through the rough patches of the race," she said. "With a little less wind, she was in shape to take a decent chunk off her previous best marathon."

Moore is sponsored by Saucony and believes the marathon has shifted, in part, from an extreme sport for a small number of athletes into a mass-participation event out of the desire for a personal sense of accomplishment.

"Running in itself has become much more popular. People love the challenge [.] to get out there and participate."

Moore will race shorter distance races next season, including the James Cunningham Seawall Race in February, the Vancouver Sun Run and possibly the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon. Twitter: @MHStewart

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