N. Harford's Howard now able to run all she wants Harrier overcomes eating disorder

October 25, 1992|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff Writer

Only one person has ever stopped Lucy Howard from running, and he was a doctor.

Although only 16, the North Harford junior has been hooked on running for three years. One of her favorites is Friday's Harford County Cross Country Championships.

She first ran to lose weight after schoolmates at St. Margaret's Middle School teased her about being "a little chunky."

She weighed only 103 pounds, but Howard thought her schoolmates were right. She ran every day at home and even sometimes on summer vacation in Europe.

Her weight dropped to 83 pounds during her freshman cross country season. A doctor told her she had developed anorexia nervosa and she had to stop running.

She knew he was right.

"Suddenly, I had forgotten great lengths of my life. I just couldn't remember things, and it really scared me," she said. "My body was taking from my brain to keep me alive.

"I had to take two weeks off from cross country or stop running until I weighed 98 pounds, because I could permanently have been brain-damaged. That was hard, because I had to redo my thinking about how I should look."

Howard began to eat more and soon gained enough weight to rejoin the team. She developed a realistic image of how she should look, and at 5 feet 2, weighs 105 pounds. A vegetarian diet keeps her running strong.

"I used to get hunger pains, but I was able to go with those hunger pains," she said. "My brain just kind of turned them off. I don't feel like I want to do that anymore."

Her commitment to running, though, hasn't changed. Nobody can tell her she can't run.

On a summer church-group trip to Mexico, Howard was instructed not to run in the streets. Instead, she ran up and down the stairs, through the hotel garden and on the roof for 20 minutes every night.

"They weren't really happy about that, but I was really scared that I would get out of shape and I would no longer have fun running," said Howard, who spent the two weeks working at a Mayan Indian girls school in the Yucatan.

"When I started running, I never liked it. I think I did it as a way ofpunishing myself. I started liking running during my freshman year of track when I got more interested in getting out and running around as a way of touring."

Howard ran through some of the most scenic areas of the West late last summer during a five-week camping trip with her parents. She ran trails in Glacier National Park in Montana, Arches and Canyonlands national parks in Utah, and Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

She ran switchbacks up Scotts Bluff in Nebraska and ran near the antelope in Big Atlantic Gulch, Wyo. She ran along the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail and Little Bighorn National Battlefield wondering what it was like for those who had followed such routes a century ago.

"When I'm running really well, it's like I'm in a dream," said Howard. "It's like you're gliding and it feels good. Not every run is like that. But it's worth running through all the bad days to get those really good days."

For Howard, those dreamlike runs only come in training.

"That doesn't happen in races. I love practice," she said. "I just get so nervous about races, and I hate that feeling. I get scared a whole week before the race."

Howard is already nervous about Friday's county championship at Harford Glen. By defeating defending county champion Stacy Servia of C. Milton Wright by more than a minute Thursday, Howard established herself as the runner to beat. That makes her even more nervous.

"We have to work on her confidence," said North Harford coach Dave Starnes. "She gets nervous an awful lot, but if she keeps winning or does well, confidence will build."

Starnes said Howard is under a lot of pressure to win, but that it all comes from within.

"She is just one who does not stand for mediocrity. In everything she does, she wants to excel. She is extremely self-motivated," said Starnes of Howard, who carries a 3.7 grade-point average and is a member of the National Honor Society.

Howard, who also plays the violin, plans to run in college and beyond. She already races in RASAC 5Ks and 10Ks when she's not running cross country or track.

She also wants to travel more and tour on the run.

"I like running the longer distances. The more I run, the more loosened up I get, the more I'm able to feel like I can go on forever," she said.

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