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Jessica Hoover is not new to running. She has run competitively for years, including years of collegiate running both at Miami (OH) and Michigan State. Since then, she’s continued an impressive post-collegiate running career focusing on road races from 5ks to half marathons. Jessica, however, is new to the marathon. On October 20, Jessica will race her first 26.2 at the Columbus Marathon with the goal of running an Olympic Trials qualifying time.
The marathon has always been in the back of Jessica’s mind, but she values patience and had to be sure she was ready to face the challenge. “I feel like longer distances play to my strengths, but I also knew I wanted to be patient and respect the distance,” Jessica said. “Now that I have a couple years of post-collegiate running under my belt, I feel more confident and excited about the training and ready to tackle that goal.”
Anybody who has run a marathon knows the training is brutal. In Jessica’s case, her new marathon training schedule resulted in several challenges she’s had to overcome, including adapting to the higher weekly mileage and some IT band issues. However, the hardest challenge of it all is managing time.
“Marathon training means more miles, which means more time, and makes things like sleep and eating all the more important,” Jessica said. “There were plenty of Wednesday night runs after a full day of work when it’s humid or pouring down rain and I’m finishing 14 miles alone in the dark.”
During marathon training, it’s easy to feel stuck in the “work, run, eat, sleep, repeat” routine without much time for anything else. So, how did Jessica stay sane during the strenuous and time-consuming training? By building a strong support system. “I am beyond lucky to be surrounded by some really strong, fast, and just all-around amazing women who have paved the way in the marathon right here in Columbus. I think in a lot of ways my OTQ goal has been inspired by them.”
Jessica describes herself as a very social person who always makes time for friends and family. One of those friends is her coach, Christina Murphy. Christina is another member of the CRC Elite team, and she qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2016. Her experience boosted Jessica’s confidence throughout her training. “That woman is a God-send,” Jessica said. “She checks in every week and is a perfect sounding board when I have questions. I also feel that we are very similar runners, so I find myself responding well to her training and the nature of the workouts. I love that she is a smart, patient racer, and she has taught me so much in such a short amount of time.”
In addition to Christina, Jessica also regularly trains with her boyfriend and fellow CRC Elite team member Cory Irwin. Although they have very different schedules, they find the time to run together three or four times a week. “He gets me out the door on the hard days and is always so encouraging and supportive of my goals.”
The person who motivates Jessica the most is her mother. Jessica grew up watching her mom train for and run marathons. “I just remember wanting to be like her. I have so many memories of bundling up as a little kid on marathon morning with my brother and sister, making homemade signs, and going downtown with my grandparents to North Market to cheer as my mom ran past. She truly is my hero, still today, and the way she approaches running is the same way she approaches life – she’s calm, confident, patient, and continually trying to better herself.”
Having been around the sport since she was little, it's natural that Jessica uses running as a metaphor for life. “Running is my favorite part of my day,” Jessica said. “I love that it’s a time where I can be in my own mind, when stresses of the day and other responsibilities just kind of disappear. I always finish a run with a clearer mind, and everything just seems a little more simple. It’s just a wonderful sport, and I’ve truly met the best people and heard the best stories in the midst of all the miles.”
As the Columbus Marathon quickly approaches, Jessica is in full taper mode trying to keep her legs fresh and getting used to her marathon pace. When asked about what to expect on race day, Jessica responded, “I’ve watched enough races to know that anything can happen on marathon day, and in all honesty, I will just be excited to be out there, racing along teammates and friends, on the streets I call my home. If I’m able to walk away with an OTQ it will be a dream come true, and if not, I will have just run a full marathon as hard as I could, and that’s not a bad day either.”
Her advice to any runner in the race is to be conservative in the first half, and to run your own race and to not get caught up in what others are doing. As of now the weather looks like it will be perfect for a fast time. So, be sure to cheer on Jessica on race day and help her reach her goal! Keep a lookout for the CRC Elite Singlet and a pair of Adidas Tempos near the front of the pack!
Best of luck to Jessica and all of the other runners in the race!