President's Column - June 2023
This article was supposed to be an easy one for me to write and share with you all. It is one I am proud of even though my goal wasn’t entirely realized. But it is a story now that brings up many emotions including bitterness and sadness for me now. I am going to share with you my journey with running.
I have never been one to consider myself a runner. I wouldn’t even truly try in gym class for the mile or mile and a half run/fitness tests growing up. I would power walk it most of the time and jog a stretch just enough to not fail the test.
But then it all changed. One year, I was convinced to go from the couch to Chicago Shamrock Shuffle 8k (4.97 miles)… a little above and beyond the popular book! I had been preparing at the gym for a few months with training on the treadmill, but nothing could have prepared me for that first run. The crisp morning air filled my lungs, but I was too pumped up to be cold. The energy of the other runners was buzzing through the air, somehow keeping us warmed up and ready to run. The excitement of the onlookers was incredible. But what I still have a hard time believing is how quickly everything went. The practice runs surely never felt that way at the gym!
This race was the turning point for me. I decided if I could go from never even running a mile in gym class to running five, I wanted to push myself further and run a half marathon, 13.1 miles. So, I did. My first half marathon was in June of 2010. I ran in Chicago, IL, USA and to be honest, it was brutal! I wasn’t ready. Adding an additional eight miles was no joke. I hadn’t trained enough. I got through the race with a combination of running and walking. But I did it. It was the proof I needed to show myself it could be done as well as the motivation for myself to do better.
In 2012, I got back at it and ran another… then another! I had caught the bug for sure and then as I often do with my ideas, dreamt up quite the challenge for myself. 2013 was going to be the year of running for me! I wanted to run an official race every calendar month of the year.
I was living in Atlanta, GA, USA at the time, so many of my races were down South. I started off the year in Charleston, SC, USA. It was a relatively flat race, so a nice way to ease into things. In February, I traveled to Myrtle Beach, SC, USA. I remember thinking that it was both fun and kind of creepy running through the parks that are usually packed and crowded but were closed down for the season! Two down, ten more to go! My third run of the year required much less travel being in Atlanta, GA, USA. It was nice to have some familiar faces around to help cheer all of us runners on. In April, I ran in Nashville, TN, USA. I’ll never forget this run. It was pouring rain so badly that I was fearful the race was going to be canceled. Eventually it was, but not before I finished, thank goodness!
In May, I was able to run with an ex-Marine and took part in the historic half marathon in Fredericksburg, VA, USA. To run with so many individuals that have served our nation was really something special. Next stop was The ODDyssey Half in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Much like our Odyssey show, this race was another great event that brought like-minded souls together! It also marked an important point in my challenge.
Woah, we’re halfway there Woah-oh, livin’ on a prayer!
July brought me back to Chicago, IL, USA, to where it all began. There is something about running through that city, especially, that holds a special magic for me. But no race would compare to my next stop, Dublin, Ireland! What I remember most vividly about this race was how beautiful this race was. What a blessing that was because what I remember next is how awful I felt! Ugh! I know! I had caught a head cold right before the flight and by the time I landed in Ireland, I knew this was going to be a really rough race for me. I often wonder if that race had been state side if I would have completed in it or if I would have fallen off track. I feel if I was too close to home, I would have done just that and gone home. Thankfully, I was in Ireland though and running through its countryside was honestly what I felt got me through that race!
Once back in the USA, I managed to run one more race in September. This race was in Talladega, AL, USA. It was a fun race… in theory. It was on the Talladega Speedway, so naturally I dressed in my Wonder Bread shirt because it was time to Shake and Bake! The reality of running a half marathon on a speedway, for me, was that it was too repetitive and tedious. It certainly did not offer me the stunning views Ireland had just spoiled me with. I finished the race, but I wasn’t excited for anything other than having finished the race.
At this point in the journey, I was really struggling with keeping up with my training anymore. Running really had dictated everything about that year, and I was burnt out from it! What I hadn’t realized at the time of dreaming this challenge, was that planning itself was going to be so difficult. Some months, I would have six weeks between each race and others, I had to run them in back-to-back weeks!
I did not finish the races I had planned for October through December of that year. Part of me will always hold a little bit of regret that I was unable to finish the challenge completely. But it pales in comparison to the part of me that is proud to have made it as far as I did.
Today I went for a walk with one of my closest friends. I was whining to him about having a hard time writing this article. I complained about how frustrated I am with the medical issues I have been dealing with, and how I can’t even imagine myself being able to jog even a single step without my body failing me. I feel twisted and unbalanced. Between that, the spasticity of my muscles and the poor nerve communication to said muscles, my body simply won’t allow for this type of movement yet. Annoyingly, he reminded me that recalling all of this should be used as motivation. That I need to remember that my recovery is like my half marathons. It’s not easy. It’s not quick. I have to keep pushing through it both mentally and physically. So, I will.
See what I mean? Super annoying. I mean, thank you Bob.
Jennifer Thoroe is Director of Customer Service & Business Development for National Steel Rule, a steel rule manufacturer based in Linden, NJ, USA. She joined forces with National on November 1, 2018 after working in the industry and volunteering with the IADD for over 15 years. She moved up to NJ from GA in the summer of 2019. One pandemic and three moves later, Jennifer is finally settling into her home near the Jersey Shores with her awesome super-fantastic brother Tom and his even cooler dog, Kelowna.
She has consistently used her time and talents to bring greater value to IADD members, whether through chapter activities, managing volunteers, Board service or overseeing myriad membership recruitment and retention activities. For this, Jennifer received the 2017 IADD Cutting Edge Award, one of the Association’s highest honors. She is the first woman to serve as IADD president.
The President's Column appears in The Cutting Edge, the IADD's monthly magazine.