Rock My {Running} World: Meet Jessica

Do you want to meet a runner who is dedicated, smart and inspiring?  Someone who has been patient and persistent with her training and has seen it pay off?  Well, Jessica is a rock star runner and I am so excited to introduce you to her.  Read on to learn all about her and then give her a shout out to wish her luck this weekend (though she doesn’t need it) as she gets ready for her first ultra distance race – the JFK 50 Miler!  Jessica is going to have an amazing race this weekend.  I just know it.

Strong + Happy + Determined = Jessica on the Run!

Name: Jessica Karazsia

Age: 36 

Location: Alexandria, VA 


Twitter: @irun26at8 

What do you do in “real” life?
I am the head of Membership at a professional association in Old Town Alexandria. For the first 10 years of my career, I was a Marketing Manager in the Media and Finance industries. Three years ago, I decided to take a leap into the non-profit/association world. It was a great choice and brought me to the DC area which I love.

How long have you been running?
I consider when I purchased my first pair of real running shoes my start. That was about 11 years ago. I ran a few races here and there, but nothing serious until about 6 years ago when I decided to start training for my first marathon – Chicago 2005.

Why did you start running?
I have always loved to work out. I was a competitive tennis player in high school and my coaches always stressed the importance of cross-training and conditioning. I love the game of tennis, but I always loved the conditioning too. Then I went to college. I stopped playing tennis and moving basically.  (That is a lie, I actually moved very quickly to the keg, cafeteria line and self-serve ice cream bar in the dorm.) I successfully put on the Freshman 15 or really more like 20. I think I topped at 150 by the time I was 19 years old. The summer after my freshman year, I lost most of the weight, but maintained my fighting weight of 130-135 throughout my college career by sporadically working out and eating/drinking a lot of comfort food. Even though I was chubby, and my self-body image was pretty low, those years were sooooo fun.  After college, it was much easier to control what I ate and drank and I pretty effortlessly dropped 10 pounds and could maintain 120 -125 without too much struggle. I was able to maintain a fitness routine which consisted of a little running, the dreaded Stairmaster, bike and some weights. Then around age 25, when I moved to Cleveland, OH I started running a little more and began thinking about running a marathon before I turned 30. 

How many marathons have you run? 6

Personal Records:
Marathon: 3:39:45 (MCM 2010)
Half Marathon: 1:41:48 (VA Beach 2011)
10 Miler: 1:14:35 (GW Parkway Classic 2011)
10K: 45:49 (Jingle all The Way 2010)
5K: 22:02 (Crystal City 5K 2011) 

What is your proudest running moment?:
Hands down, my proudest running moment was when I crossed the finish line at MCM 2010. My goal for that race was to run a sub-4 marathon. I ran 3:39:45 and qualified for Boston. I was floating for weeks. 

Pick one of your favorite parts of the lululemon manifesto and tell me why it speaks to you:
Life is full of setbacks. Success is determined by how you handle setbacks. Failure is inevitable, but it is how you deal with it that is important. You ALWAYS have two choices, let it break you or get up and keep fighting. I choose to keep fighting. Through words and actions, I have had people tell me I am not good enough, strong enough, smart enough, pretty enough and although it hurts, I chose not to believe them and keep moving forward. 

Do you have a favorite running mantra?  Why does this work for you?:
My mantra changes depending on my state of mind. The word CONQUER gives me strength and motivation. Just one foot in front of the other is something I say to myself on almost every run. Running is hard. Period. There are times during a run when I want to stop. I know that if I just keep moving forward, it will eventually get better. 

Tell us a little about what you do to strengthen your running (core training, lifting, yoga, Pilates, etc) and what do you do to protect yourself from injury?  I am a strong believer in cross-training. Running exposes all of your weaknesses – physically and mentally. Although I would love to do more yoga, my cross-training now consists of a lot of weights (high reps/low weight) and core work. I will also ride a bike at the gym a couple times a week. I think it is really important to strengthen the muscles around the main running muscles. 

If you run with music, tell us a few of your favorite running songs:
I used to never leave the house without my iPod. Over the past year, I have really been trying to run with it less. I currently run with music for about 50% of my runs. I song that always seems to creep on my playlist is: REM’s Circus Envy. 

What is your next race?  What is your goal for that race?
I have been training since August 1 for the JFK 50 Miler which takes place on November 19. Phew! It has been quite an experience, to say the least. I went in with the mindset, if I am going to do this, I am going to jump in with both feet and give 100%. I just don’t want to be at mile 37 wishing I had trained harder/smarter. I feel really confident in my training, but it was tough! I hope to finish in less than 10 hours. Then, the next biggie will be Boston Marathon. I am so excited to start training for that race. I will be training with the Capital Area Runners and George Buckheit. My goal is 3:30 – aggressive but I think it is possible!

Jessica rocks it at the finish of the VA Beach RnR Half Marathon, 2011
What are your long term running goals?
My goal all along has always been to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. I did not think I would have that opportunity for several years down the road, but it will be here soon enough! I always tease people and say after the race in April, my hobby will be watching TV and eating Bon Bons. I don’t see that happening though. Ha. OF COURSE, I want to continue to run, but see my running transforming into not just being about ME and MY GOALS. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of PRs in these legs but I would love to get more involved in the running community, helping others achieve their goals, fundraising, etc. I look forward to seeing where it takes me. 

What advice do you have for other runners out there?
Start slow. So many people jump on the marathon bandwagon, fall in love with running and then just keep getting chronically injured. There is no easy way to get faster or to run longer other than just slowly progressing. I was running a good 3-4 years before I started running marathons, then I ran my first at 4:35:21. It took me 5+ years before I qualified for Boston. I have not had any serious running injuries because I take it slow. I just think it is crazy for people to expect to go out there and on the first try qualify for Boston or even break 4 hours. Sure, people do it and it is amazing but each of our bodies are different. We have to listen to them. 

Who rocks your (running) world?
There are many “famous” people who inspire me with their running wisdom – Ryan and Sara Hall, Deena Kastor, Lance Armstrong, Bart Yasso, and Dean Karnazes to name a few. But, the one person who inspires me to run the most isn’t famous and isn’t even a runner. That would be my mom. She is my biggest cheerleader. She always attends my big races. Most of the time traveling cross country. She has mastered being a spectator, believes in me and everything I do. Her strength, power and wisdom encourage me to get out there every day. She has seen me through my lowest points (in racing and in life) and has celebrated the highest with me.

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