It’s time for another interview with another amazing lady! Meet ultrarunner Jenn.
I have been following Jenn for a while now and am in awe of her endurance. Not to mention, I LOVE seeing photos of her adorable baby boy! I know you’ll enjoy hearing her heart and learning about her life on and off the trails today.
Welcome Jenn! Thanks so much for sharing your story with us.
Hi there! I’m Jenn and I’m living life in Aubrey, Texas. I’m a 28-year-old stay at home mama to our son Kaden who is our world. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know what I mean because I’m basically obsessed. Goodbye running pictures and hello to way too many baby pictures but I just can’t stop! My husband and I were both born and raised in sunny Southern California, but I spent a good few years living in Oregon. We really love living in in Texas. It’s the friendliest, hottest, most flat place I’ve ever been but we feel right at home here.
What’s a typical day like in your shoes?
A typical day for me is not all that exciting I’m sure. Our son wakes up bright and early at 6 AM, and he’s an energetic 8-month-old. I try to drink my coffee and get some breakfast in me while he crawls all over me and drags every favorite toy into my lap. He naps around 8:30 AM and then we suit up and go for a run with our dog. I try to get out of the house at least once or twice a week especially as he’s getting older.
It can be so easy to get sucked into the baby schedule of nursing, eating solids, playtime, and nap time that days and weeks pass by and I haven’t gotten out of the house outside of a daily run and a weekly grocery store trip. We play and clean and he takes a few more naps and then I cook some dinner at 5pm and start our bedtime routine. See? Nothing too exciting but it’s everything to me and I enjoy the simple day to day mom life.
How long have you been running, and what made you get started?
I first began running when I was 17, so a good 10 or 11 years ago. After graduating from high school I got my license, packed up my car, and drove 16 hours straight to Oregon. I had a friend who set me up with a place to stay at her sister’s house. I had one week to find a place while they let me crash on their couch. I found some random girl on Craiglist who had a room for rent in her two-bedroom apartment up on the hill near Spencer’s Butte in Eugene, Oregon. I didn’t know a single person and it was pretty lonely so after job searching every day I started going for a run. I’d run up the Butte every single day rain or shine. Then I began to run into town and back, taking all the trails along the Willamette River and the dirt track trails through the suburbs back up the hill. Running was my companion and escape when I felt alone and scared and when I doubted myself. Could I really start a life all by myself in a new place with no plans? I joined not one, but THREE local running groups to meet other like-minded people and fell in love with life in Oregon and of course with running too.
What are your proudest running moments?
Hmm, well full disclaimer I am NOT a fast runner but I can run distance. I’d have to say my proudest running moment was running my first 50k, the Leona Divide 50k/50M by Keira Henninger in SoCal. It was not only my first Ultra Marathon, but also where I met my husband for the first time at the finish line and it was the race that led me on a path to be saved by Christ. What could ever beat that right?? Second to that would be the Cuyumaca 100k in the San Diego mountains because I just had so much fun.
Do you have a favorite race distance, and why?
My favorite running distance is the 50 Miler. I love Ultra Marathons but I also really love early bed times and warm coffee with breakfast in my PJ’s as the sun rises. Not to mention I hate bugs and can’t see at night so the 100 miler which involves running through the night is not an interest of mine. I love that in a 50k or 50 M race you get to meet new people, play in the mountains or trails and eat tons of food at aid stations all while making it in time to drink a beer at the finish line and be in bed by 9pm. My kind of party!
Are there any goals that you’re currently chasing?
Currently my only goal is growing our family.
My husband Matt and I got married a year and a half ago, and we’re really focused on saving money for our future and growing a big family, God willing. As far as running goes its still a huge part of our lives. I feel like all we do is take turns running and watching Kaden or go on family runs together with our baby and dog. I run 30 miles, 5 runs a week and my longest is 12 miles. I’d love to sprinkle some half marathons in there, and hopefully do a full marathon at some point but for now I’m just focused on nursing our boy and running for fun when I can. At first it was difficult to not compare my running to other new or recent post-partum moms because I initially wanted to jump right into training but I really had to step back and just enjoy exactly where I’m at right now. I’m prone to mastitis infections and have had mastitis five times in my 8.5 months of nursing so far so I’ve scaled back and try not to run too long. The marathon is calling my name as soon as I can though ;).
Do you have a favorite mantra or quote that inspires you?
I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
When you walk, your step will not be hampered; and if you run, you will not stumble. Proverbs 4:12
And of course, Isaiah 40:31, But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
What’s your advice to someone who wants to start running?
Just start somewhere. Also, maybe try out a running group! I found when I first started, that the runs I did with others flew by and I wasn’t so caught up in the difficulty. Once I got out of my head and talked with people it began to feel fun and the miles flew by! Now anytime my husband and I move we find a local running group and it helps us meet new people and make friends too.
What running products/gadgets do you swear by?
I’m super simple and usually just run with a water bottle and a Lara Bar and maybe some Nuun in my bottle if I’m running long. Total mom life-I can’t run without my amazing Thule jogging stroller so Kaden can accompany me too! He does all my midweek runs with me in the stroller.
What are some of your favorite things in life, apart from running?
Apart from running I’m also an avid reader. If you have any good book recommendations please share with me! I enjoy cooking homemade vegan meals for my family, I love hiking and being outdoors and meeting new people. I love a good glass of red wine at night. That’s about it ☺.
Just for fun – what are three things that you’re grateful for?
I am so very thankful for finding my faith in God and that I’m saved by the grace of Jesus. I’m thankful for finding the love of my life and having our sweet boy. Although my day to day isn’t all that exciting to most people it really is a dream come true for me. I wouldn’t trade these simple days for anything. We don’t have a lot of things but yet it feels like I have everything. Thanks for letting me share a peak into my glamorous mom life Charlotte! I love reading your In Her Shoes blogs and I’m always so inspired by all the runners you interview. I’m shocked and flattered anyone would want to see what my running and daily life is like and I hope it inspires someone or is relatable for any other first-time mamas.
To keep up with Jenn, follow her on Instagram: @jennkafkaruns
Is this your first time reading an In Her Shoes interview?
You finish up an epic, endorphin-filled, long run on a beautiful, warm and sunny morning. You pushed yourself faster and farther than ever before. You crush your goal. You couldn’t do this six months ago. You feel yourself getting faster, tougher, stronger. And you’re soaking in that post-run bliss… nothing can bring you down!
Until it does.
You cool down, stretch out, grab some water and a protein shake, and mindlessly hop on Instagram (oh, what a terrible habit it is!) only to scroll and see that another girl just ran the same distance. Except way, way, WAY faster than you.
Your parade TOTALLY just got rained on, right?
Suddenly, you’re not proud of your run anymore. You just feel inadequate – again.
Sound familiar? At least, that’s the way it’s been for me before. Countless times, I’ve hopped on social media wanting to share something I’m proud of, only to be instantly crushed when I feel like my best run isn’t good enough. I got caught up in the stats and the times and the splits and was so focused on what everyone else was doing that I couldn’t celebrate how far I’d come on my own running journey.
If you’re in the Instagram fitness + running community, you know it’s amazing. Like me, I bet you’ve made some incredible friendships and found some serious inspiration, encouragement, and really helpful resources in those little squares. When running is such a solitary sport, the online community can bond and connect us to feel like we’re all on the same team.
But you know what else is tucked away in the dark corners of the Instagram game? Self-doubt, insecurity, and comparison.
And I’m breaking up with it.
I’m not breaking up with Instagram – I’m just breaking up with posting Garmin (watch) selfies and my running stats. No more numbers. I might share how many miles I ran or a beautiful shot of a route I enjoyed, but why get caught up in what the watch says? I’ve got nothing against those of you who post Garmin selfies – I love seeing you improve and cheering you on! But I don’t want my running stats to be someone else’s measuring stick. I never want someone to see the numbers behind my run and feel like they are less than.
Because I know I have felt like that before. I’ve felt like my personal accomplishments don’t matter, when I see girls that are qualifying for Boston or the Olympic Trials and I’m over here just trying to build my mileage up without passing out at the top of every hill. I’ve run long and fast tempos, faster than I ever have before, only to hop on the ‘gram and see that someone else’s “easy” day is still two minutes per mile faster than my best effort. That kind of thing can crush your spirits like no other, if you let it.
And alternatively, I’ve had friends say to me that they wish they could run at my pace, or that they’re embarrassed with their pace compared to mine as they start to build their endurance and figure out this whole distance running thing.
Y’all, that’s crazy. My friends are out there running SO MANY MILES – and a picture of my watch and some numbers just diminished their achievement?!
Your best effort is never something to be embarrassed about. Your best effort is just that – your BEST – and that is something to be celebrated!
All of this comparison, ladies, it just ain’t worth it. I don’t want to play anymore.
I’ve posted lots of Garmin selfies over the past couple of years. And I’m so sorry if my numbers ever made you feel like yours aren’t amazing, just like I know I have when I look at other women, crushing their goals.
Hear me loud and clear – if you are a runner, you are amazing. The fact that you are out there, running at all, is a huge accomplishment that can’t be measured. Numbers are just that – silly little numbers. When we get caught up in the stats, we miss out on the joy that drew us to this sport we love in the first place.
So for now, I’ll keep taking Garmin selfies. But you won’t see them on my blog or Instagram anymore. I might occasionally send them to my mini-group text of real-life running friends – we do that with each other and I love it. But mostly I’ll just store them on my phone, privately, to quietly celebrate my wins and to not let them be dampened by or dampen anyone else’s.
And perhaps most importantly – I want to run, JUST TO RUN! What a novel idea. 🙂 Not to have something to post. Not to prove anything. Not to get likes. Not to impress. Not to measure up.
My mom (best coach I ever had) used to preach this to us during grade school cross country: It does not matter how fast or slow you go – it just matters that you go.
Keep running, ladies. Keep pushing past your limits and keep finding your new best.
Did you hear that last one? YOUR new best. Not her new best. 😉
And don’t let those silly numbers get in the way.