Saucony 26 Strong – Looking for my cadet!

There is nothing quite like training for and running your first ever marathon.
There is also nothing quite like being by a friend’s side, guiding and helping her, celebrating her ups and staying by her through her downs- every step of the way – for her first marathon.
Last year I had the honor and the privilege to be a coach for the Saucony 26 Strong program. Saucony and Competitor Group chose 13 experienced marathoners to coach 13 women (of their choosing) for their first marathons – making up an incredible team of 26 strong and inspiring women to support one another and share the journey of a lifetime. It was honestly a magical experience for all of us, and one I will most surely never forget.

When I was selected last year, I had it in my heart to ask my dear friend and Pilates mentor Kathryn to be my ‘cadet’ for the program. Kathryn had done so much for me and had shared with me that she had found running to be very healing for her after the sudden death of her father that winter. We talked about it and both believed that training for and running a marathon, and this incredible program, would be wonderful for her. So I put a training plan together for her and in December we ran the Honolulu Marathon together along with several amazing women from some of the other 26 Strong teams. Kathryn’s mother and her aunt and uncle were all there to support her as well. 
It was such a beautiful and fun experience!
I honestly never imagined getting to have this sort of experience in my life again, so when Saucony contacted me recently to ask if I would be a coach for this year’s program, I felt like I had won the lottery! This time it feels even more exciting to me in a way, I guess because after last year I truly know how special it is. I just can’t wait to share the experience with my cadet.
This year all 13 teams will be running the Chicago Marathon on October 11. I have run Chicago before and it is one of my favorite marathons. It is big and exciting and the energy there is just beyond awesome! I’m so happy that all 26 of us will be there together, really united as a TEAM and that we will have the chance to spend time with one another, to get ready together and to celebrate together after the race.
This year I am choosing my cadet differently than I did last year. I want to put it out there to all my readers, to my friends and family, and select someone through my blog! 
So here are the details …

To be considered (no exceptions):

  • You must have completed a half marathon already.
  • You must be female.
  • You must be a first-time marathoner.
  • You must be willing to commit to training for a full marathon with me (either virtually or in person)
  • You must live in the US or Canada.
  • You must be okay with sharing your journey and inspiring others via social media (no need to have a blog of your own, but be cool with sharing (and me sharing) our story here, on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and via Competitor and Saucony media channels).
  • You must be able to travel to Chicago for the race on October 11, 2015 (tentative trip dates are from October 8-12 – race registration, travel and accommodations will be covered!).
  • You must be able to commit to all of this by this Friday, April 24th!
To enter, please leave a comment here or send me an email directly at by this Thursday, April 23rd at 4:00PM EST. I know it’s a quick turn around, and I apologize for that! I am going to have a lot to read through and consider in a short amount of time. My plan is to select and notify everyone by this Friday the 24th at 4:00PM.

What do I want to know? About you! How do you FIND YOUR STRONG? Why do you want to run a marathon? What does running mean to you? Share whatever you think would be helpful in expressing why you would be the perfect person for our 26 Strong team!
Thank you so much! I can’t wait to hear from those of you who are interested in sharing this experience with me. Please spread the word and pass this along to any friends or family who you think would be great for this, too. I just know the perfect person is out there. I will be so honored to help her every step of the way to her first 26.2!

37 thoughts on “Saucony 26 Strong – Looking for my cadet!

  1. I ran my first marathon last year (Richmond) It was great. I could only imagine being a cadet with this program AND having you as a coach! What an incredible opportunity for someone!

  2. I started running 3 years ago this Spring. I have completed several half marathons but never a full. I want to train for a Full marathon this Fall. I will finally become part of Half Fanatics this May. I have an active Facebook, Twitter, Instagram account (Gracious Warrior Princess). I want to inspire others on their journey to being healthy in addition to maintaining that lifestyle for myself. I am interested in running a full marathon but have found that I need the discipline of someone else to help me. I find my strong through other people and learning how to do it too! Running means to me finding my own strength, courage along with helping others. Running has changed my life and given me a new perspective on what I can do versus what I can not do. I would love this opportunity! Thank you. 🙂

  3. When I read your post this m orning, my heart literally jumped to my throat. To be a member of the 26-Strong group would be incredible, and this opportunity would be a dream come true for me and a literal Godsend right now in my life. My name is Whitney, and I am a 28-year old Industrial Engineer in Atlanta, GA. I work for a global healthcare architecture firm designing and building hospitals, and I absolutely love my job. I am a past collegiate fastpitch softball player at Georgia Tech, and I still hold Georgia Tech and ACC single season and career records for home runs, RBIs, total bases, and putouts—and I am a proud Ramblin Wreck!

    This race would be an amazing opportunity for me because I am going through a rough time in my life right now—my world has been rocked, and I am getting a divorce that is finalized in May. I had my life planned out, and it was pulled away from me, leaving me shell shocked and feeling like a failure. Running has been my release and my saving grace through this painful time, and it is the one thing I can count on to ease my emotions and free my mind. I run 3-4 times a week, and it is the ME time in the day that helps me maintain my optimism. To run the Chicago marathon would be amazing, and I truly hope that you pick me. I would love to run by your side, and you would give me the chance to prove to myself that, despite the hardships, I am still and will always be a champion.

    I am crossing my fingers that everything happens for a reason and I was meant to read your post this morning. You are wonderful to offer this opportunity, and I cannot wait to hear on Friday!!!!

    Thank you so much,


  4. Good Morning Jess!! I couldn't believe my eyes when I read this post today. It would be an honor to have you as my coach and to run 26.2 besides you. My name is Lavanya and I am 30 something year old wife and mom to two great boys. I read your blog every single day and have been following your running journey sincerely. I am originally from India and settled in the US for the last 14 years. I stay in NJ and work full time. I contacted you a couple of months ago regarding coaching me for my 1st full marathon. I was recovering from some injuries and you wanted me to be consistently running before using a coach. I am back on track now and ran the Washington DC half few weeks ago. I have ran around 8 half's so far but I am prone to becoming injured because of my lack of knowledge surrounding the techniques, strength and core work. I definitely am lacking in these areas and would love some guidance from mentors like you. I don't have a big running community around where i stay and I am always on the hunt for people to run with. Being from India, my friends and family are not too supportive of what i do. Me and my husband are from different religions and our parents in India refused to get us married for almost 7 years. It was a teary 8 years and running got me through every single day. The day we got married, me and my husband ran the NJ 1/2 to commemorate our union. Running kept us sane and it is more than exercise now. It is therapeutic and a spiritual experience. I have also applied for Chicago marathon via lottery. I really hope I can join hands with an amazing coach like you to fulfill my dream of running a full marathon.

  5. This is such a great opportunity to share with someone! I loved reading your story and it made me inspired (yet again) to finally take on the marathon! After stopping running after my first half in high school, I started again about a year ago. Since then I've run 2 marathons (cutting off 9 minutes) and I'm doing another this weekend. I'm so excited to improve even more! Running has been my saving grace while in graduate school – it's my favorite mode of relaxation and may I say…procrastination?! Every time I go out to run, I know that if I can make it through a hard run, I can make it through another day at school. But I also know that if I can make it through grad school, I can totally make it through a marathon! It's a huge goal of mine, but I simply haven't had the guts to take the leap and sign up yet.

  6. Running a marathon has been a dream of mine since I starting running about three years ago. I have run over 11+ half marathons with tons of smaller races in between. I am not fast,but I am determined. I want to prove to myself that after beating cervical cancer in 2013 that I can push myself to overcome 26.2 miles. I know all I need is some motivation and good coaching to get me there, so I would be honored to be your cadet 🙂 Thanks so much for this opportunity!

  7. I am so excited to be able to enter this! When I first found out about it, I knew I wanted to participate! I got into running after my sister, Maggie, passed away from a tragic car accident in 2012. I have ran 2 half marathons (training for my 3rd now!), countless 5k's, 10k’s and have always dreamed of doing a marathon! Chicago has been a dream of mine, as I live in Illinois! I started Running for Maggie as a way to help me cope with my sister’s death and to raise money for her foundation. This is how I found my strong. To be able to honor my sister in such a way and raise money for her foundaiton. In 2013 I trained for my first half marathon and lost over 50 pounds! Running is in my blood. I have followed Hal Higdon’s plans and enjoyed them! I have always looked for someone who could mentor me and this is the opportunity I have been looking for! I am a wife and mother; I work full time; I play coed slow pitch softball two nights a week; I love to work in my yard; I am a huge Chicago Cubs fan! I already share my journey via social media and would love the opportunity to spend my summer training with you for my first marathon!

  8. My name is Julie, and I’m a 30 year old mother of two little boys age 2 and 6. I am a Registered Nurse and very passionate about my job. I have loved running since high school, where I was the only girl on the high school cross-country team. I would love to be considered to mentor under you through the 26Strong program and run my first ever marathon. I am from a small town in Western Wisconsin, and traveling to Chicago to complete my first Marathon, would truly be amazing.

    I have 2 half marathons under my belt, and am training for my 3rd in June, the Gary Bjkorlund half marathon in Duluth, MN. Running makes me feel so good, and helps me be a better mom, wife and co-worker. Completing the Chicago marathon would be a dream come true, and an accomplishment of a lifetime for me. I’ve been told that I could never finish a full marathon, I can prove them wrong with your help!! 🙂

    I will pour my blood sweat and tears into training for the Chicago Marathon.

  9. Hi Jess! This is the opportunity of a lifetime! I have been in love with the Saucony 26 Strong program ever since I first read about it and would love to be a part of it with you as my mentor! I have always been semi-fit, but college took a toll on me. So after graduating last May I really started working out again – walking, running, spin, barre classes – and I really started paying attention to my nutrition, which is just a way of life now! I ran my second (but the first that I trained for, oops!) half about a month ago and haven't stopped raving about it! I ran the Love Run half in Philly and had an incredible experience. Everything about the day was great – the weather wasn't terrible, my legs felt good, my breathing was steady, and I PRed by 47 minutes, finishing in 2:25! Way more than I ever dreamed of! Running is my me time. It's what I do to stay sane. It gives me such a confidence boost to tackle everything else in life. If I can run 13.1 miles straight, what can't I do?! It also renews my faith in the human race. People can be mean, but I've never met a mean person at a race, be it runner or spectator. Accomplishing such an incedible feat with you by my side would be amazing! I was going to wait till next year to tackle a half, but I love a challenge and I know I can do anything I put my mind to!

  10. Hey there! I'm Liza and I am 26 years old and live in Savannah, GA. I ran my first half marathon in February at Tybee Island. Prior to beginning my half training in December, I had never run more than a 10k. Now my crazy running friends have convinced me to try a marathon and I would absolutely love to train for Chicago with you! My husband is the Army and is currently overseas so running has become my favorite way to pass the time and meet new friends! I think that training for my first marathon with you would be a great opportunity to do something for “me” while he is away!

  11. I would love to be considered for the Saucony 26 Strong Campaign! I am mid-westerner born and raised who has dug her roots in NYC. I am a full-time working mom to 2 boys, 5 years old & 21 months old and am living in Queens. I have been running for as long as I can remember but since having kids that struggle to get out the door is real! I have found group running to be a big motivator and am a co-founder of a Facebook group called Mamas Run Queens which is an active moms running group, currently of about 40 Mamas! I love to help other moms motivate to get out the door and run. As for me, my race experience is limited and recent. My first race was the NYRR Queens 10K in June of 2014 and my most recent was the NYCRUNS Queens Half Marathon on April 12th. I can say now, I'm an addict. I never thought I'd even be interested in running a full marathon and I know I've even said those words out loud!. But I love the challenge and an opportunity like this is just what I need!

  12. I have always wanted to do a full! I have done 3 halfs. Last one at 01:56! I started running at 30 years old and will be 34 this May. I started running as a way to escape a emotionally abusive marriage. Through running I “Found My Strong” and got the courage to stand up for myself and leave this man. Now I’m in a relationship that is healthy, loving, encouraging and strong. After a break from racing since 2013 ( still averaging 10-15 miles a week) I am so reading to race again. Divorced for over a year and now with new reasons to run, I'm so excited to train for a marathon! I'm healthy and a mother of two girls 11 and 13. I would love for them to see just how strong I can be and encourage them to find their own confidence and strength!! Please consider me!!

  13. Kourtney Roe

    I want this. Running is a thing for me. I run when I'm stressed, homesick, mad, happy, and everything in between. I have been surrounded by successful people my entire life and I have always thought life would fall into place for me like it has for everyone else around me. Truth is, it hasn't. I have an amazing husband and a really cute dog, but I am not where I want to be in life. My plans are screwed up. My schooling isn't right, my job outlooks aren't great, and meeting door after closed door weighs on me daily. When I run and I get to the end of my race a feeling comes over me that I am successful. I can overlook everything going wrong in my life and feel joy and pride in my small success and rejoice in the excitement that I only feel when I run. It's like opening a door every time, and letting the sun in. Running with you would be an amazing journey for me. I only imagine the things this will encourage me to do. I my name is Kourtney Roe, I'm almost 23 years old, and I want to be a marathoner. I never in my life thought I could do this, but I want to succeed. I need you to help me succeed.

  14. Love this idea! I'm a 31-year-old mother of two boys (ages 5 and 7) in northeast Florida. I'm a recent running convert. I DESPISED running until last summer when I injured my thumb and couldn't do the cardio/strength DVD workouts I like and found a pair of running shoes in my size at a discount store and for the first time I thought, “You know? I could run.” So I bought the shoes, and I ran. I still didn't enjoy it, so I stopped in October when my thumb was well enough to go back to the other workouts. But then in December I realized I actually MISSED RUNNING. So bizarre! So, I started running again! I even ran in the cold (well, Florida cold: low 30s 🙂 ), and I HATE COLD. That's when I realized: I am really a runner! My family doesn't recognize me, and my runner friends laugh smugly because I used to be so negative about running. 😉

    My longest race distance so far is 15K but I'm running a half in Tennessee on May 18th. I know that may disqualify me but I had to try. 🙂 And running a half in May still gives me 5 months till the Chicago in October…

    Thank you!
    Bethany B.

  15. What an amazing experience you are offering! I am a 37 year old mom, from Ohio! I started running just last September. I was a heavy 209 pound runner. Since then I have lost over 50 pounds and fallen in love with running and a healthy life. Also since September I have completed a few 5ks, 4 milers, a couple 10ks, and a 15k. On Saturday May 2,15 I'll be completing my first 1/2 marathon. I never thought a half would be a goal of mine, but as my new year resolution I signed up for 2 half's this year. My training hasn't been the best, but I have learned to push past your comfort zone to get where you want to be. I also believe in order to change you need to challenge yourself. I never thought a half would be possible right along with a full marathon, but as a runner you learn your goals change over time and over the course of improving times.

    Again thanks for offing an amazing experience, coach, and memories of a life time! Best of luck to everyone!

  16. I sent a quick email this morning as well but also wanted to comment here. This would be the opportunity of a lifetime. I've run two half marathons and it's always been my dream to run a full. I'm a single mom of two beautiful boys ages 11 & 4. I work full time as a daycare licensor for the state in which I live. Running is a passion of mine. It is my therapy, and quite frankly the only thing I do for myself. This opportunity would allow me to be proud of myself for working hard and accomplishing a goal I have wanted to accomplish for a long time. I'm extremely competitive and know if given this opportunity I would knock it out of the park! I really need this in my life right now (something to feel good about myself and proud about as well as something to give me that extra push out the door). I'm very excited and hope I am chosen. Not to mention I am obsessed with Saucony! 🙂 I've never worn anything else! I appreciate your consideration and wish all the people who enter luck. It's definitely an amazing opportunity. -Charity Camire (Charity Lynn on Facebook).

  17. My name is Emma, and I am am 18 year old college student from Edmonton currently attending UBC Vancouver! I am ready to run a marathon because, to me, it is a symbol of bravery. Signing up for my first half marathon in high school was my way of proving to myself, and others around me, that I could do something worthwhile. That I was somebody. I channelled the strength I developed from that training and 13.1 mile race when I moved to Vancouver all by myself, not knowing a soul. Over this past year, I have grown and developed more than I ever thought possible. The idea of running 26.2 scares the heck out of me, but not trying scares me even more. And the Boston Marathon, my ultimate goal, just so happens to be a marathon as well! Hah. It would be such an honour to be chosen for the 26 Strong campaign, and I know that it would be such a phenomenal support system and source of motivation. I dream of inspiring other teens / young adults to live a healthy lifestyle, so the social media platform of this campaign would also be a dream come true. I’ve already learned that I can do absolutely anything I set my mind to, and I sincerely hope the 2015 Chicago Marathon becomes another one of those things!

  18. First off kudos to Saucony for coming up with this amazing program and to you for being a part of it. My name’s Christina and I am a 34 year old stay at home Mom to a 2 and 1/2 year old and a 6 month old and currently live in VA. Running has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I played sports growing up, I’ve run 5 half marathons, tons of shorter distance races, completed an half ironman, numerous sprint triathlons, mountain races(Mount Marathon), but never a marathon. It’s on my list because I would ultimately like to do a full ironman. I would love the opportunity to be part of this program. Honestly I took running for granted until I had kids. Now it's the one thing I do for me.Being a military spouse moves are part of the deal and while it's always hard to leave I always look forward to the next adventure. This past move has been especially hard because i had two great running buddies and while I have two amazing kiddos I haven't been able to fill that void here yet. I would love some help navigating thru my first marathon.

  19. Good morning! I am an Atlanta gal and running has always been a part of my life, which has impacted my career and mamahood. I have completed a handful of half marathons, but never a full. My 4 year old little lady enjoys running with me, and I teach PE to amazing middle school kiddos! As a multi-sport coach, I would LOVE the chance to be coached by an incredible mentor! Although I am a teacher, I am an even better student! This opportunity would give me a chance to inspire my students, staff, and family and friends, which is priceless!

    I am not gonna lie…I want this for selfish reasons too. During a routine exam in November, I was diagnosed with Adeno Carcinoma in Situ (Cervical). I had a hysterectomy, as a curative treatment, March 10, 2015, and was cleared to resume normal activities yesterday. I was asking the doctor many questions about exercise, and she responded, “You can run a marathon tomorrow!”. A few short hours later, I saw this post. IT IS A SIGN! It's meant to be! No disease, or surgery is going to stop me from achieving a goal and crossing that finish line (and a marathon off of my bucket list)!

    Chicago is also on the top of my list of cities to see, and what better way to experience the Windy City, for the 1st time, than through a 26 mile adventure?? Aaaaand, I am already a Saucony lovin' and wearing gal. I promise that with me you will get someone who is “all in” and ready to crush it with an amazing coach by my side. Let's do this! 🙂

  20. I used to hate running! After baby #2 I was overweight and started running and exercise videos. I now LOVE running and have lost 70 pounds. I'm shocked to see what my body can do and love seeing how I can push it. I'm capable of more than I ever expected- like saying “Only 8k left, no problem”. I run to show my kids how much I love it and encourage them to grow up active and healthy – I want them to see their Mom accomplish dreams and love what her body can do. I run to keep my unhealthy family history at bay. I run to inspire others, to raise money for charity, and to be a role model.

    I have run three halfs in the last 6 months (one on sheer ice!), PB of 1:59:56. I am a stay at home Mom from Nova Scotia, Canada -a huge run like Chicago would be amazing and something I couldn't afford to do on my own. To do it with 26 Strong, a coach, and in Saucony would be the chance of a lifetime!

    I don't have a heartbreaking tale to tell you about myself -I am the one who steps up and helps friends and family in crisis, and I love being that person! I love helping others and if I was to inspire people near and far through Saucony 26 Strong it would be an honour and a privilege that I would not take for granted!

  21. What an incredible opportunity for both you and your cadet! I would love to train with someone as experienced and lovely as you are! I'm 29 and based in Vancouver, BC.

    I was going to race a half-ironman at the end of the summer, but my shoulder (injured from years of water polo) is not cooperating so far, and I'm trying to be kind to it. Maybe training for a marathon is just what I need instead? I've run two halves, most recently in February (1:54), but I know I have a lot more speed in these legs!

    I started running last January to cope with my anxiety and depression, and it's been so empowering to take charge of my mental health, and life. It has also helped me cope with my diagnosis of Celiac disease. Did you know there's gluten-free deep dish pizza in Chicago? 😀 I've even got a new blog coming to fruition, and I'd love to blog about this experience with you!

    Good luck choosing your cadet – there are many amazing women who've posted here.

  22. I'm a stay-at-home mom of 4-year-old twins, who were born on my birthday in 2011. My “first C25K” facebook post was on March 19, six days before they turned two, and read “it was either run, or sell one of the twins.” Running has been instrumental in managing stress and arresting the progression of PMBR – Preschool Mom Brain Rot. (It's a thing. Really.) Running has taught me that I am capable of doing much more than I ever would think is possible.
    My goal 5K was the Thanksgiving day race near my home, about 8 months after I started running. On Halloween, a beginner runner friend posted a facebook call for running buddies to join her for her first 5K… three days later. I knew I could finish, so why not? I finished in 37-something and got hooked.
    Exactly one year after that first 5K, I was at the starting line of my first half, and had trained myself to a 2:38 finish on a hilly course. Just a few months earlier, I never would have dreamed I would be able to do it at all. Next month, I will run my second half marathon after (carefully) training myself through a challenging hamstring injury. I don't plan on a PR, but my three best running friends are coming from out of town to do it with me. One of them is running her tenth half. The other two are running their first, and I am so excited to get to be with them for it! Three of our foursome are running the Disney Marathon in 2016, but Chicago would be an awesome via point. I love the city, and have heard amazing things about the marathon. I'd love to get to run it with you!

  23. I love this concept, but I wish some company would come out with an opportunity for those runners who have completed a marathon (long before this program existed). There's so many runners out there who don't qualify but would love to work with a coach to reach a marathon goal (such as a BQ). Maybe someday. Good Luck finding your Cadet, she will be one lucky runner!

  24. I'm so sad I missed your deadline for this (but I just found your blog through shutupandrun). Wow – what an amazing experience!! I have just finished my 3rd marathon – and I just started running last year. And my mine is started to turn to something I have never ever thought I would ever think about… a full marathon. I'm thinking nows the time.I know it's too late to be considered your cadet but it still inspires me to keep moving forward. All the best – I'll be following along!!


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