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PattiSue Plumer

"We just sort of feel like my luck's going to turn," says PattiSue Plumer of her latest and most challenging comeback effort. "I can't keep having bad luck. At some point the lottery's got to come up in your favor. That's kind of how we feel about it."

At age 34, Plumer hopes to regain her status as one of America's top distance runners. She's coming back from pregnancy, she's dealing with a touchy hamstring, and she's hoping her hip doesn't shatter. Other than that, it's going great for the lawyer-turned-full-time mom.

The gravest of her problems centers where the hip connects to the pelvis bone. A hairline fracture there is proof that part of Plumer's joint is deteriorating. Her doctors say the bone could fracture any time, or perhaps years down the road. Either way, eventually Plumer will require bone-graft surgery.

"I have to feel that it's going to be OK," she says. "I've been running with it now for at least four years, and it's still holding up. It's gotten a little worse, but not significantly worse. I'm not running a lot of miles. I get an MRI every three months. It's not like I'm going through this blindly. I'm being pretty reasonable. But pretty soon I'm going to have to throw caution to the wind and just go for it, because I'm not making progress quite fast enough."

What on earth would motivate Plumer to take the risk of training? The Olympics, pure and simple. That's what has motivated her all along, and her latest challenge is just another semester in the school of hard knocks.

Plumer is one of those athletes who became national class seemingly overnight. As a Stanford sophomore, she dropped her PR at 3000m from 9:42 to 8:55. She's not the only Plumer with that kind of talent. Younger sister Polly still holds the national high school record in the mile at 4:35.24 and ran a 3000 PR of 8:58.50 in 1994.

Plumer has remained a force in American running ever since her Stanford days, save for those times when bad luck has sidelined her. In 1985, a taxi in Yokohama hit her, breaking her leg. That cost her nine months of training. A foot injury scratched her 1987 season. A severe bout with pneumonia that December nearly killed her; it was her sixth encounter with the illness. She amazingly made the Olympic team the next summer, but food poisoning slowed her in the Seoul Games. In 1991, she finished only 12th in the Worlds 1500, after getting bitten by a dog prior to the race.

The Barcelona Olympics saw Plumer at her best, making the finals of both the 1500 and the 3000. Then she and husband Steve Levere, a real estate lawyer, had a daughter, Jacqueline. Life changed overnight.

Plumer, who had been coached by Brooks Johnson for more than a decade, says the injuries and the maternity are part of what led her to change coaches for the first time since she joined the Stanford team at age 18. The most obvious reason, though, was that Johnson left Stanford to coach at Cal Poly/SLO. "Brooks basically didn't want to coach someone long distance," says Plumer.

So she signed on with a new coach, ironically Johnson's counterpart at SLO, Terry Crawford. "I certainly think that if she hadn't have been involved in my career at this point I would have quit," says Plumer. "When you have things like I have, a comeback from a pregnancy, a comeback from an injury, she looks at it as a positive challenge and an exciting opportunity for her. And I appreciate working with a woman. That was a nice change for me.

"It's been a hard change, too," she adds. "When you work with someone for as long as I did, you get used to certain coaching styles. [And working long-distance] I don't always know what to do, and there's nobody there to ask. That's been the hardest thing to do, making those decisions on a day-to-day basis. Things are so different for me now than they were four years ago that they are no longer clear-cut."

For 1996, Plumer has yet to decide whether she will pursue the 1500 or the 5000. She notes that a double is possible. She suspects a team berth at 5000 is more realistic for her, but her distance training has been affected by her hip problem.

"I'm not doing much mileage," she says. "I never do an easy run, for instance. I do an easy bike ride instead. My quality stuff isn't dramatically affected by it. But I don't do morning runs anymore. Most of my nonspecific training I do elsewhere."

Plumer remains overwhelmingly optimistic. It's a trait that's been useful in her roller coaster of a career. It helps in the rest of her busy life, too. Doing the mommy thing led her to put her career as a labor lawyer on hold, but she is still very active. Plumer founded the Friends of Stanford Track organization and has been helping the local committee that is working to bring track's World Championships to Stanford in 1999.

She is also on the board of directors for the Lucille Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. With what little time she has left, she writes a training advice column for the Internet's Do It Sports service. It's been a hit so far, though Plumer's ride on the Information Superhighway has been touched by her recurrent bad luck. The latest mishap, last fall, involved the death of her computer thanks to an innocent-looking magnet. "I didn't realize magnets could be so lethal to computers," she explains. "Not only were we not online, we weren't even on board."

Career Stats

Born April 27, 1962 in Covina, Ca

5-4/1.62m	107/48kg

Montrose HS (Colorado) '80

Stanford '84


PRs (outdoor): 

800--2:00.3 '90

1500--4:03.42 '92

Mile-- 4:24.90 '91

2000--5:42.82 '89

3000--8:40.98 '92

5000--15:00.00 '89

PRs (indoor): 

1500--4:11.31 '90

Mile--4:30.51 '89

2000--5:49.7 '90

3000--8:41.45 '90

2 Miles--9:45.54 '83

PRs (road):

5K--15:31 '86

Major Meets: 

1981	11h)AIAW 3000

1981	23)NCAA XC

1982	12)NCAA 1500

1982	2)NCAA 3000

1982	5)USA 3000

1982	44)NCAA XC

1983	5)NCAA Indoor Mile

1983	1)NCAA Indoor 2M

1983	2)NCAA 3000

1983	dnc-final)NCAA 5000

1983	8)USA 3000

1983	10)NCAA XC

1984	7)NCAA Indoor 1500

1984	3)NCAA Indoor 3000

1984	2)NCAA 3000

1984	1)NCAA 5000

1984	6)Olympic Trials 3000

1985	60)USA XC

1986	3)USA 3000

1986	3)USA 5000

1986	5)GP Final 5000

1988	3)Olympic Trials 3000

1988	13)Olympic Games 3000

1989	1)USA 3000

1989	3)World Cup 3000

1989	3)GP Final 3000

1990	2)USA Indoor Mile

1990	2)USA Indoor 3000

1990	2)USA 1500

1990	1)USA 5000

1990	1)GP Final 5000

1991	2)USA 1500

1991	1)USA 5000

1991	12)World Championships 1500

1992	2)USA Indoor 3000

1992	2)Olympic Trials 1500 

1992	1)Olympic Trials 3000

1992	10)Olympic Games 1500

1992	5)Olympic Games 3000

1992	9)GP Final Mile

1992	4)GP Final 3000

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