Jill Marie Kenyon

I Run with my Heart

by Jill Marie Kenyon

I ran my first marathon in 2009. I was 31 years old and I had never run before. I wanted to do something that would challenge me, but I also wanted to do something to help raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). I lost my best friend to Leukemia, so this was important to me. I had no idea what I was in for, but I signed up and got my training schedule. I bought my first pair of running shoes, laced them up and stepped out of the door to take those first steps. It was hard…really hard, but two miles later, I returned home with a feeling of accomplishment. I just did that!

Throughout the next several weeks, I did exactly what was on my training schedule and while each run was more difficult than the last, I somehow managed to survive. I’ll never forget finishing my first 7 mile run and that’s when I thought, “how far is this marathon thing?” You guessed it – I signed up for this race and had no idea what a full marathon distance was. I had been following the training plan and just looking at what I needed to do on that day. It never occurred to me to look at the end of the training schedule, but when I did, I panicked. Twenty-Six Point Two Miles?!? What was I thinking? I had never run a race before, not even a 5k, 10k, or a half marathon. I didn’t even know what those distances were, but there I was embarking on a full marathon for my very first race. Let’s just say, “go big or go home” became my new motto.

I continued to follow the schedule and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. There was running, walking, crawling and crying along the way, but I finished every run with this awesome feeling and it fed my desire to prove to myself that I can do this crazy marathon thing. I was sharing this journey with friends, family and anyone who would listen because, for me, it was always about raising funds & awareness for the LLS and honoring the memory of my friend. It worked because I raised over $7,000! Now I had to finish the race because I had so many people supporting me and this great cause…no turning back now.

I prepared myself the best I could over those 4 months of training and headed to sunny San Diego where I stood terrified, yet excited at the start. My legs may have carried me every step of the way that day, but when my legs ran out of gas, I ran with my heart. It took me five hours and eight minutes to cross the finish line that day. It was the most grueling and amazing thing I had ever accomplished. I signed up to run this race for the LLS in hopes of helping change the lives of others, but I had no idea running would be a life-changing experience for me.

I recently finished my 17 marathon and third Boston. I’m currently training for the New York City Marathon and I am looking forward to tackling this course in November. I’m still the same gal who finished that sunny San Diego Marathon in 5:08, but with a lot more miles on my shoes. My training struggles are the same today as they were back then. It is just as hard now to strive for a 7:20 pace as it was when I was trying to get down to a 10 minute mile. It feels exactly the same…hard, really hard. I still treat each training day the same by continuing to put one foot in front of the other and even when my legs run out of gas, I remember why I started and I run with my heart. I have now raised over $35,000 for the LLS and I’m not stopping now.[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Jill Marie Kenyon is a six-time Boston Marathon qualifier & three-time finisher. She is currently training to tackle the New York City Marathon in November. Jill Marie is an RRCA Certified Coach and an ambassador for tasc Performance. She leads the local tasc Run Club’s bi-weekly Tuesday run group and enjoys getting others involved in fitness. As a trained dancer, Jill Marie grew up competing around the country and became an NFL Cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints where she performed for 5 seasons. You can find her running the streets and the track on a regular basis, but she’s always up for traveling to new places to explore on foot.  You can follow Jill Marie on the FitCal365 blog and on Instagram @bigeasykenyons. Feel free to reach out to her with questions and comments.[/author_info] [/author]

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