Legion Profiles: Amory Rowe Salem

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This profile first appeared in the May/June issue of Level Renner. This biography comes in two different points of view, first and third. Be sure to read Salem’s first person narrative as it is quite moving.

Amory Rowe Salem claims to have a case of athletically related ADD. To wit, she grew up playing team sports, only running to stay in shape for those endeavors. Of course, this is a common theme in our profiles section: the progression (and we do consider it progress) from team sport athlete to individual competitor.

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Salem at the 2016 An Ras Mor 5K. Photo by Scott Mason.

However, her crossover did not occur immediately after college graduation (Princeton ‘95). Post Bachelor’s, she lived in Boston and was a part of the US Women’s World Cup lacrosse team. While in Boston she served as assistant coach to the Harvard lacrosse team, and, again, was looking for some people to run with to stay in shape. She found the Greater Boston Track Club, jumped into her first cross-country and indoor track races in 1996, and was instantly hooked.

When Salem returned from the World Cup in May of 1997 (the US won, by the way, in double sudden death overtime), she, at the ripe old age of 23, retired from lacrosse and all team sports. Theretofore, her endurance journey commenced. She recalls, “I ran for Bob Sevene’s Reebok Boston crew for a couple of years, then moved into multisport.” She flourished. So much so that she was the US Duathlon champion in 2004. Eventually, she tried her hand (and legs) at triathlon and won several regional events including the Monster Triathlon, now known as the Boston Triathlon.

After teaching high school English and coaching throughout her twenties, at age thirty she began to think about translating her love for education and sport into “an enterprise that would redound positively for the greater good.”  As a result, she founded the nonprofit In The Area (ITA), a youth development organization that places aspiring Olympians in communities nationwide with the specific mandate to provide mentoring for at-risk children. Salem is still the executive director of ITA. Of her career path she says, “I’m most proud of the work ITA has done with the tens of thousands of children nationwide.”

Besides those tens of thousands of children, Amory has two of her own, Thea (7) and Torin (5), and has been married to her husband David for ten years.

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Below is a first person narrative written by Salem. It’s quite compelling.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of running in my life, for reasons both process and performance oriented. In his tome The Hero’s Journey, Joseph Campbell wrote about how all of life is contained within the egg of a flea. And so it is with running: on its face it is so simple, and yet a world of complexity and nuance lies within. Some days we honor the nuance—the slight changes to a stride, the feel of a different shoe or an adjustment to our mental approach to the day’s running work—and some days we go out and pound the pavement for the raw, human impulse to feel our heart beat hard and our breath run ragged.

This became abundantly clear to me when, in the late summer of 2014, just a month after turning 40, I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. This was a stunning development for me and my family. I had three surgeries in six months: a bilateral mastectomy and two reconstructive efforts. And I ran through them all. After my first (big) surgery, I had an ER doc friend pin my JP drains to my running tights and I went out and shuffled around Fresh Pond with her. The day before my second surgery I went out to the start line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton and ran the 26.2 miles into Boston. (As an aside, ain’t no better marathon recovery plan than to be put on painkillers and hydrated with an IV!).

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Photo courtesy of the Salem family.

amory-rowe-quote-11-19-16I’m not looking for “kudos” or “atta girls.”  I’m just trying to explain how fundamentally important running became to me during that time. Lacing up my shoes and putting one foot in front of the other—for any distance and at any pace—allowed me to feel like me. Running was a way for me to touch the bedrock of who I was during a time of extreme uncertainty. Shortly after being diagnosed, but before any surgery and before I could possibly have known how this would all turn out, I searched far and wide for a story like mine: a story about a seriously physically active woman who could survive a breast cancer diagnosis and come back even stronger than before. I felt like I needed to know that it could be done. But I didn’t find anything. Now I am my own story. I’m running faster (at longer distances) than I’ve ever run. And I run every day. To get faster. To be better. To be me.  Ω

—Amory Salem

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To read more from the May/June 2016 issue of our magazine, click here.

To read from the current issue of our magazine, click here.

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