To this day calling myself a “runner” still seems bizarre. As a child, I was the opposite of “athletic” (involved in band, choir, theater, academic clubs – yes, anything nerdy you could possibly think of). I was also horrible at sports. I always ended up walking during the dreaded “mile” test every year while my fellow classmates were sprinting out sub 6-minute miles.
In college and after graduation I started working out a little, but it was the normal on-and-off routine. The most I would ever run was about 30 minutes at a 6.0 setting on the treadmill (10-min mile), and I never even fathomed motivating myself to run outside by myself! I also met my now husband (and BibRave co-founder!), Tim, who grew up in sports and was a high school state champion wrestler, so when he encouraged me to run my immediate reaction was “I can’t do what you do.”
It wasn’t until I had moved back to Chicago in the Fall of 2008 that I decided to sign up for my first race. I will always remember… it was a gorgeous day, and it was the day of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The city was BUZZING with energy! My friend Cherie and I were driving around and I was in awe of the marathoners and their amazing accomplishment. “You could do it, ya know. You just have to train,” Cherie said. I was flabbergasted. I CAN BARELY RUN 2-3 MILES! How in the world would I EVER run 26.2? We argued for a long time. I’d never even done a 5K! Cherie wasn’t a runner either, so what did she know?!
Then, Cherie said the line that has now changed my running life – entire life – forever. “You’re young and you’re healthy. It would never be easier than it is right now.” For some reason, that one phrase clicked with me. That day, I committed to running the Chicago Marathon in 2009. I posted it on Facebook (ensuring I would not back out since my Facebook friends would hold me accountable). I texted Tim and my best friend Andy to let them know I was going to run the marathon in 2009, and to my delight, they both agreed to do it too!
I knew NOTHING about running (or training for) a marathon.
I didn’t own one piece of dry-fit clothing. I didn’t even own a basic watch! My running shoes were $35 from who-knows-where. But, after much research and many emotional ups-and-downs (more on that in a later post), I crossed the finish line in 3:59! The amazing sense of accomplishment and knowing that my 16 weeks of dedication, sacrifice, and training had all paid off with an AMAZING marathon finish is something that I will always remember! I still get goosebumps hearing people talk about their first marathon because I know what a life-changing feeling it was to accomplish something I literally thought was impossible.
Even after that great experience and being in the best shape of my life at the time, I again began the on-off yo-yoing with running. Signing up for distance races (10-milers, half marathons, 1 more marathon attempt, etc.) seemed to be the only thing keeping me running regularly. I would regularly go weeks or months without running (or working out) for 3 more years until the Fall of 2012.
After running a 3:48 in Spring 2011 at my 2nd marathon (SunTrust DC Marathon, now the United Airlines Rock ‘n Roll Washington DC Marathon and ½ Marathon), I decided to attempt qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Seeing the excitement and grandeur when Tim ran in 2011 had me jonesing to get there myself. I qualified at Chicago 2012 (nearly in tears because I never imagined that it was possible in my wildest dreams! Also, more on that in another post), and since then I haven’t gone more than a month (or just a few weeks) without running. I’ve run 13 marathons since Chicago 2012 (16 total so far!). And YES, I proudly call myself a runner!
Running has changed my life in more ways than I can describe. It’s given me a sense of control, empowerment, and pride! I am now one of those annoying people telling anyone who is “not a runner” that they should consider a marathon…or half… or a 10K!
I have become, simply put, an evangelist.
And I WILL convert you 😀. Let’s chat!
Jessica, I love this post, and I totally relate. I was never good at anything athletic growing up! I always found a way to get out of gym class, especially when we had to run the dreaded ‘mile’. I also spent most of my time in the music and theater department, too! But, now i couldn’t imagine my life without running. It’s my dream to run Boston one day. But, even if that doesn’t happen, I wouldn’t trade this awesome sport for anything! Thanks for being such an amazing ambassador for running. 🙂
Jessica!!! OMG I love this so much. And when you wrote me that you had started running and reading reviews on BibRave – it was so awesome!! Glad that you can relate to story, and you can always hit me up for any running q’s!!
I am in AWE!! 16 total marathons?!!! You are such a badass!! Loved this post and hearing about your running journey. https://hardshellblog.com/
Wow Jess! BQing just three years after running your first marathon. That’s intense. I’m so far away from BQing that I don’t think I’ll ever get there. It’s unfortunate because I really want that six star medal and I really do want to BQ. Haha
You can always look into running Boston with a charity!!
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I’ve thought about it, but I’m going to try qualifying by time for now. It’ll probably take me a few years before I can even get close to it, but I want to at least see if I have what it takes.
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Jess, This is an awesome story. I have a lot of similarities with my first marathon story. It is so much fun to hear Runner Stories. You are amazing. Your Disney Photo is adorable. Thank you so much for sharing. Good Luck in New York and I can’t wait to share my 30th marathon with you in Tokyo 2018!!!
I’m actually surprised it’s only 16. I’d have guessed 900. 🙂
Definitely a “runner” now!