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Jennifer's Running Journey

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

Grandma's Marathon 1997

If you would have told me 30 years ago that Running would play a major part in my lifestyle, I would have laughed at you and said never in a million years. You see, except for the time I played basketball or ran track in Junior and Senior high school running to me was only the means to be a part of a team, to be one of the cool kids, or a form of punishment. Once high school ended so did anything that had to do with running!

Fast forward 10 years…outside of the occasional Jane Fonda or Richard Simmons type workout at the gym, I had no physical activity! I had just given birth to my daughter, Hailey, and was working at a life insurance company in Minneapolis which rewarded their employees for physical activity and would reimburse us for running races and gym memberships (the good old days). I remember the day like it was yesterday; one of my co-workers asked if I had ever thought about running a marathon, she stated a friend was training for one. I laughed and said, “sorry, I don’t even know what a marathon is,” I hadn’t even run a 5K. She said, “I really don’t either”, and we both turned around and continued working. It wasn’t more than five minutes later when I turned around and noticed she had turned around too when I said whatever a marathon is, if your friend can run one so can we! I was also looking for a way to shed some of the baby weight, so it sounded like a great idea!

The Challenge

Keep in mind this was the early days of the internet and before Google, finding information was challenging. I don’t recall how, but we found a marathon coming up in June. It was January in Minnesota, the coldest month of the year, and training needed to commence that month. We were both determined and nothing or nobody was going to stop us. I remember driving home excited to tell my husband of my bucket list goal. When I told him of my plans to run a marathon, I got the blank stare and then the “yeah right”, followed by laughter, followed by “you don’t even run”. You can imagine how I felt. Little did hubby know he fueled the fire of my naive 27-year-old self. My husband wasn’t the only one that thought I was crazy; everyone I seemed to share with would snicker and say good luck with that, or there is no way you can do that! Of course, I was going to prove them wrong, thank you Naysayers!

The average age of a marathon runner then was 38. My friend and I didn’t fit the profile at all with just about every odd against us. Prior to running the marathon, I didn’t know of anyone who had run one; seemed I was trying to achieve the impossible and really didn’t think I would do it! Additionally, I had very low confidence, self-esteem, was an introvert and only had done things prior to that which were comfortable. I wasn’t a goal setter and always settled for average as I had absolutely no belief in myself. Regardless, my friend and I started our six months of training right away. Literally running in below freezing temps, snow, ice, and everything between, with only a simple training plan we could find. Running clubs were nonexistent, unless you were an elite runner. There were no fancy running gadgets. If you wanted to run with music, it was a transistor radio that weighed a ton and played the same five songs rotating on the radio repeatedly. No detailed training plans, zero tips on form, fueling, pacing, proper shoes or apparel. As you see this was before running was cool and we were basically left to figure it out ourselves. Neither of us could run more than 30 seconds at a time when we started, but nothing was going to stand in our way, and we stayed consistent, sticking to the plan and improving day by day.

Marathon Day

Grandma's Marathon, Duluth, MN 1997

Marathon Day had come! June 21st, 1997, the day I became a Runner! As I mentioned earlier, running a marathon was unheard of by most or at least in my circle. I am not going to lie, the marathon was tough and several times during the race I doubted my ability and said to myself, “what the heck am I doing.” I don’t recall getting the ‘runners high’ or the adrenaline rush that day as I think I was just in disbelief of completing the 26.2 miles in one piece. I completed the marathon that day with my non-fancy watch, transistor radio, cotton clothing, too small of shoes, lots of blisters and chafing, lots of crying and probably a little swearing. Okay, maybe a lot of swearing. That day I learned so much about myself and what we are all capable of, if we have the desire and put in the work. I considered it was a one and done, something to check off my bucket list. Believe me, the thought of running another marathon didn’t even creep into my head, that is, until about a month later when it all sunk in. I realized what I did and kept thinking, “what if I trained differently; could I do better on my next race?”

A few years later, we picked up and moved from Minnesota to Texas only knowing my brother and parents who had also moved to the North Texas area. I had no friends, no social network, nothing! By this time in my running journey I had run about five marathons and some other distances between. By no means was I still an experienced runner and wouldn’t even classify myself as one. During some research, I found a local Dallas run club. I can’t recall who or what got me going, but I showed up at White Rock Lake early one Saturday morning and the rest is history. I was part of the local running club for the next several years where I met a bunch of like-minded runners. Over a four-year span, we all trained and traveled to marathons, ran relays… they were my tribe. In 2005 I was looking to do something else with my running and most of my friends at the run club had either moved away or had moved on and I was contacted by a local running store near my house and was offered a part time position. One of the requirements was to coach their running programs, ranging from beginning runners to those wanting to run a half or full marathon. At this point, running had expanded from something I loved to do to something I felt I could help others achieve. Doing this for a few years is what turned my hobby into a passion.

In 2008, a friend asked if I would coach her and a couple of others on the side. I had never thought of doing this on my own, but what the heck, why not! That year my training a few people turned into several, then dozens. Soon after, I was receiving referrals. This little side gig is what led me to where I am now. I have now trained hundreds of runners in helping them achieve their running goals.

What Running has Meant to Me

Paloduro Ultra

To-date, I have run 24 marathons, 89 half marathons, 3 ultra’s and hundreds of 5K’s and 10K’s. I tell you this not to brag, but in-light of my story, hopefully to inspire you to simply start. If I can do this anyone can. I get asked all the time why do I run? If you don’t run it can be hard to grasp or understand, but I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I couldn’t. 23 years ago, if I wouldn’t have said yes to my friend and come out of my comfort zone, I may not be a runner today. Running takes motivation, perseverance, hard work, and at times gives you setbacks. The good thing, it’s never a setback you cannot learn from and start again. Take it from me, running is for anyone that wants it no matter age, shape, size, or athletic ability. I love running as I can compete and push myself; I can run solo or in a group setting and is never the same! Running has given me self-confidence professionally and personally that I once lacked, and belief that anything is possible if you want it and work at it. I was asked recently how much longer I’m going to run and to me it was kind of funny. My answer was, “until I can’t anymore!” Yes, I will probably be that 80-year old grandma or at least I hope I am hitting the pavement, but right now I take it one day at a time!

My greatest joy and accomplishment as a Runner over the past 20+ years is all the friendships I have gained, all the places I have traveled to run and all the people who have trusted me to help them with their running journey. Personally, running has helped me through some tough times. It has built my confidence and helped me physically, as well as mentally; it’s cheaper than therapy.

I hope something in my story resonates with you and will encourage you to start running, or to keep it going, as it has truly changed my life. Don’t let the fear or opinions of what others may think get in the way! We all have start somewhere and I am here to tell you that you too can be a runner! One of my favorite quotes, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” ~Zig Ziglar

One last thing… my husband who laughed at me and thought I was crazy all those years ago, has been my biggest cheerleader. He supports my running addiction and passion 100 percent; accompanies me to most of my races, puts water out on training runs, picks me up from runs, and is always encouraging me to continue.

Run happy and enjoy the journey!

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