Chris Muldoon needed a break.
He ran competitively through middle and high school. He ran competitively at Syracuse University. And when work brought him to Buffalo, he ran competitively, too, winning the J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge four years in a row.
Then came a blood clot that traveled to his lungs in 2011. Two years later, that was followed by another blood clot in his calf.
The rest he was thinking about taking no longer became an option.
"Initially, it was for health reasons," Muldoon said. "But it also kinda came at a time I was backing off on my training. I think I needed a mental as much as a physical break from the competitive side. It just all happened at the same time and health issues forced me to take a break for a while where I could just enjoy running for fun not so much for racing."
The hiatus did him a world of good and allowed him to reframe his running career.
Now, Muldoon is back on the competitive scene in Western New York. His 15:45 time in the Jenny Kuzma Memorial Bergen 5K in August ranks as the 12th fastest 5K in a Buffalo-area race according to buffalorunners.com.
In May, he won the Brian Dugan Memorial Scholarship 5K in 15:49 while in July he placed second at the Ronald McDonald House 5K with a 15:52.
But race times aren't his priority these days. Heck, he doesn't even have a structured training plan, at least not one that goes out beyond a week. And that's part of what has made his return to competitive running enjoyable.
Rewind to those years when Muldoon was winning the Corporate Challenge, fresh out of college and working as a copywriter for Crowley Webb and Associates. He was still thinking as a college runner, focused on training and obtaining results.
"Being a couple years out of college, I still felt I was putting in 95 percent of the work as I did when I was in school," Muldoon said. "I naturally started slowing down and wasn't running anywhere close to my persona records. That took a toll on me. I wasn't running the times I was accustomed to, which is something I've gotten over. Years removed, I know those college times aren't going to come anymore. I just race for the sake of racing and enjoy the process."
While Muldoon was pulling back from competitive running, he was still running, especially with his dog, an energetic young husky who was tearing the house apart. Muldoon noticed that after the run, his dog was better behaved. That spawned an idea which turned into Dash Dog Running. Yep, dog running. It's a way to help dogs get some intensity and endurance in their outdoor time. It's a small business that has grown just enough over the past few years.
"It's a unique, specialized service," Muldoon said. "It's not for every dog."
But when Muldoon is running with the dogs, well, he can't quite be all caught up in his head about things like training and paces.
"There's perspective," Muldoon said. "Most of the dogs we run pick it up right away and love it. Once they get into a groove, they're great running partners. It doesn't matter what the weather is for the most part, they just want to go. That enthusiasm is different, it's fun, it's a little infectious."
That joy of running spilled over to Muldoon, who while he's returned to being a little more serious about running still is rather informal in his training. And he's a little wiser to the way his own mind works.
"One thing I don't do anymore is circle a race five months in advance. I don't say 'I'm training for this. This is the goal,'" Muldoon said. "Everyone has bad days and bad weeks and I recognize I'm not at the point where I can handle those bad weeks if there's one goal in mind.
"I just do things on a weekly basis. My goal for the week may be a long run or speed workout. I take it a week at time. I might have some races that would be nice if I could run fast at, but it's not the end of the world if I'm not feeling it and don't do it or am not as sharp on that day. If I put some date on the calendar, I make too big a deal out of it and I'm more likely to get frustrated if I have one misstep. People ask me what I'm training for and I tell them I'm just training."
Right now, he's running the Pete Glavin Cross Country Series as part of Checkers AC. He may do a half marathon this fall. He may not. He'll probably run the Turkey Trot, but if he's not feeling it, well, he won't. Whatever he ends up racing, or not, he's certainly enjoying the run.
"The last time around when I was running hard, I was training to race," Muldoon said. "I didn't necessarily enjoy the workouts, I just knew they were a means to an end. Now I look forward to the workouts. I know they will be just as painful, but I feel like I get more excited for the training and the journey and to see the progression in my training than for the final time on the clock."
Sunday, Sept. 24
- Bemus Point 15K, 9 a.m., Village Park, 1 Lakeside Dr., Bemus Point
- Linda Yalem Safety Run, 5K, 9:30 a.m., Alumni Arena, University at Buffalo
- Tanya's Trot for Epilepsy, 5K, Cummings Lodge, Skyline Dr., Akron NY
Saturday, Sept. 30
- 5 KAC Challenge, 5K, 1K, 9 a.m., Kenmore Alliance Church, 175 Bonnett Ave., Tonawanda
- Celebrate Ian, 5K, 9:30 a.m., Delaware Park Ring Road
- Step Up For Kids, 5K, 10 a.m., Cassadaga Beach Park
- CCSPC Run 4 Life 5K, 10 a.m., St. Bonaventure University
- Chowder Challenge, 5K, 11 a.m., Pine Woods Park, North Tonawanda
- Rally At Three Valley Trail Races, 6K, 10K, 20K, 11 a.m., Three Valley Campground, 9766 Olean Rd. Rt. 16, Holland
Sunday, Oct. 1
- Queen City Women's Half Marathon and 5K, 8 a.m., Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo
- Come Home To The West Side 5K, 8 a.m., West Side Community Services, 161 Vermont St., Buffalo
- Dash for Diversity, 9K Relay, 3K Walk, 10 a.m., Parkside Lodge, Delaware Park
- Billies On The Run, 5K, 10 a.m., Williamsville South High School, 5950 Main St., Williamsville
- Twist N'Run, 5K, 10 a.m., Big Tree Soft Serve, 4403 West Fairmont Ave., Lakewood