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Running into Happiness

By Jennifer Worden 

Jennifer is a mom of three and lives in Northern Michigan. She spent her 20s living in Los Angeles, London, and Chicago before returning to her home roots. In the last year, she started running again. We sat down to talk with her about how it felt to start from scratch, how running has impacted her mental well-being, and what advice she has for other moms who want to try but might be stuck at the starting line. 

What made you decide to start running? 

In December of last year (2021), I looked in the mirror and saw someone I didn’t recognize – not just because of the extra weight I was carrying, but because of how unhealthy I looked. We had gotten a puppy recently, and I knew I would have to walk him often. I would walk him twice a day, sometimes jog, and simultaneously push a stroller with my son. I started noticing how much better I felt and noticing some weight loss. 

I decided to look into the next 5k in my town, and it turned out it was the Leapin’ Leprechaun. I had run this race pre-COVID, so why not give it another go? (Mind you, the weather in Northern Michigan is unpredictable, and it ended up being -5 with the wind chill) I finished the race tired and cold but craving more. I had grown up in cross-country and then just enjoyed the odd off-and-on run, either on the treadmill at the gym or outdoors.

How has running impacted your mental health and mindset? 

I, along with millions of others during COVID, experienced a lot of anxiety and depression. I didn’t know how to get out of it. Once I started moving my body, I realized how much it helped my overall mindset. I was smiling and feeling all the endorphins; it basically turned into my therapy. 

How did you decide that signing up for a race was something you were interested in doing? 

I had run a few races here and there, just randomly, when I felt like it. But when I started running consistently, I noticed I craved more races. Side note I am very competitive, so when I saw my times improving, I had more of an urge to sign up for other races.

Several races down and a recent marathon under your belt – how are you feeling? Can you share what the early days felt like and what you feel now?

I just ran my 10th race of the year this weekend. How far I have come in such a short time still blows my mind. It really shows the power of the mind and body when you stick to something and make it a routine. Despite a nagging injury from the Chicago Marathon (I have been working on strength training and stretching to help), I feel great. I am ready to see what is to come in 2023. The Berlin Marathon is my big one 🙂

As a mom, it’s so hard to make time for ourselves. What do you do to ensure you get that time for yourself? 

This was my biggest obstacle at first. I felt guilty taking the time to run because I felt like I was taking away time from my kids. My husband’s support, cheering me on and allowing me to train, has been my biggest help throughout this journey. I couldn’t have done it without him.

How has dedicating that time to running impacted you as a mom? 

When I finally realized that it’s OK to take the time for myself and how important it actually is, I had a breakthrough. I would come back from my runs happier, and, in turn, helped me to be a better mom. My kids saw me accomplishing something I didn’t think was possible. They saw that hard work and determination can lead to some pretty amazing things. I was very emotional seeing my family on the side cheering me on at the Chicago Marathon. They were so proud of me, and I am so thankful they were there. 

What advice and insight would you share from your journey for those who would like to try running but are starting from scratch?

The biggest advice I can give is to TAKE YOUR TIME. You need a base to build on; you can only go out and run a marathon with proper training – and don’t worry about your time at first. When you push yourself too hard at first, you will get injured. Also, I want to stress the importance of strength training. You don’t need a gym for this, either. Resistance bands, foam rollers, and/or therapy guns are your friend. Also, running doesn’t always have to involve racing. Whether running around your neighborhood, running a 5k or a 10k, or training for a marathon, running is universal for everyone! Figure out whatever makes YOU the happiest. 

You can follow Jennifer and her running journey at @workingonmyrunpace on Instagram, where she gives updates on her races, her running routines, and the gear she finds most useful. 

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