=PR= Distance Training Programs

About 4 months after I had my third baby in 2011, I was ready to begin training for my 7th marathon.  Though I was a fairly experienced runner (having learned from nearly every mistake in the book) and a certified running coach at the time, I really felt that having a coach of my own and training with a group would be extremely helpful to me.  I believed that I could train for and run a marathon in less than 4 hours (my personal best was a 4:35), even though at the same time I knew that this was a tremendously ballsy goal to have as a nursing mom of three.  The fact is, I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and to have the support and encouragement of others along the way.  In addition to that, I knew that I wanted to learn what it felt like to be coached as a runner, since I am a running coach and believe that is an important perspective to have when working with clients.

I had heard really great things about the training programs offered through my favorite local running store, Potomac River Running.  The head coach of the =PR= Distance Training Program (DTP) happened to be someone who was in my coaching class when I became certified, so I knew her and I understood and agreed with her approach to and philosophy on training and racing.  It seemed like a perfect fit for me.

I signed up and I am telling you – I never looked back.  Joining the =PR= training programs changed my running and to be honest, changed my life.

I made the most amazing friends.  Friends who are my friends for LIFE.  I learned, and am still learning, so incredibly much about this sport that I love so passionately.  I have grown as a runner, and more importantly I have grown as a person.

a wintery track night with the girls

That summer and fall, I took my marathon time from a 4:35 down to a 3:41.  I signed up again in the winter and brought my time down further to a 3:34, qualifying for Boston for the first time in my life – a dream I truly never imagined I would even shoot for.  This fall I ran a 3:25 and in a few weeks I am gearing up to run even faster if all goes as planned.  I have set new personal bests in every distance since joining the =PR= training programs, and I truly believe I still have more ahead of me.  I have no doubt about it, actually.  This whole experience, this whole process, has opened my eyes to the fact that we are ALL capable of so much more than we ever thought possible.  We really, truly are.  And I am not just talking about running faster times.

It is about SO MUCH MORE than that.

The Distance Training Programs are gearing up for the spring marathon season and registration is open now.  I am really excited because this winter I will be an assistant coach for the DTP in Reston with an awesome team of coaches – including my sister Jodi!  This makes me smile ear-to-ear because there is really nothing I love more than helping others discover what they are made of through the sport of running, and sharing in their journey with them.  I cannot wait for training to start in a couple of weeks!

If you are interested in learning more about these awesome programs or if you want to sign up (which I highly encourage you to do!), you can find all of that on the web site HERE.  We are having a kick-off meeting on Sunday, November 25th so now is a good time to sign up!

Have you ever joined a coached training group?  Ever tried one of the =PR= training programs?  What are your training plans for this winter season?


When I became a RRCA Certified Running Coach two years ago, I wasn’t sure where it would take me.  My hope was that it would enhance my knowledge of the sport and that I would learn how to improve as a runner and maybe some day, when the time was right, I could share my passion, experience and knowledge with others who wanted to do the same.  I felt like it was a pivotal point in my journey as a runner, and I took so much more from the experience than I ever thought or dreamed I would.  In truth, it was only a weekend class, but the knowledge opened doors for me and I left it feeling excited about all that I had learned and was teeming with ideas about all I could do with that knowledge.  I couldn’t wait to apply it to my running and to share it with others.

I took that class two years ago.  Since then I have run through my third pregnancy, running for the simple purpose of moving my body and staying healthy for both myself and the health of my growing baby.  I have run postpartum, fully familiar with that feeling of “starting over” with a body that felt completely out of whack and out of shape – every run a monumental struggle and triumph.  I trained for and ran personal bests in every single race distance from the 5k to the marathon (including 3 marathons, shaving more than an hour off my personal best in that distance and qualifying for Boston for the first time ever – a dream I never would have even dared to dream not long ago).  I have applied all that I learned and am continually seeking out and soaking up information on how to become a better runner – from books, articles, friends and other coaches as well as from my own experiences.  I am learning so much about myself as a runner, and about the sport itself.

My passion for running is a huge part of who I am.  I LOVE talking about it and sharing it with others and am so grateful to have the opportunity to guide, advise, motivate and support people through my coaching and teaching.  The joy and satisfaction I get from helping others is impossible to bottle up and describe.  It is one of the best feelings EVER.  I am so thankful to be able to make this such a big part of my life, because it fills my heart with such joy.

This summer marks the beginning of some truly exciting coaching opportunities for me!

=PR= Distance Training Program
Assistant Coach, Ashburn
Last summer I signed up with the =PR= DTP in Reston and it was hands down one of the best decisions I have ever made as a runner.  The team at =PR= is amazing – they are smart, experienced and passionate.  They are encouraging and supportive.  And I don’t just mean the coaching staff – some of the participants in the program have become some of my best friends in running and in life.  I am so incredibly excited to be part of the coaching staff in Ashburn, alongside my sister Jodi and the super cool Coach Will!  Head Coach Meghan Ridgley is one of the most incredible runners and people I have ever known and I am both honored and thrilled to be working with her in this capacity.  The season kicked off a few weeks ago and we are already having a blast.  The W&OD Trail in Ashburn and Leesburg is GORGEOUS and the people who come each week are just amazing and inspiring in every way.


Youth in Motion
Age Group Lead, 5-6 year olds
Youth in Motion (YIM) is a non-profit, non-competetive summer running and fitness program for kids in Northern VA.  The idea behind it is to teach kids to ENJOY exercise – moving their bodies and taking care of themselves in a supportive, safe and FUN environment.  There are over 350 kids and their ages range from 3 years old to 14 years old.  The program has been recognized in the past as the best youth running program in the country by the RRCA.  I am having so much fun working with these kids!!  My own children are participating as well and they are still raving about their first session.  Being a coach in this program is already a major highlight of my summer!

Reston Runners 10 Weeks to a 10k
Program Designer and Coach
My town of Reston has a really wonderful running club called the Reston Runners.  Reston is blessed with amazing paths and trails – it is a PERFECT town for someone who loves to run.  When I moved here four years ago, I was beyond happy to discover such a welcoming and put-together running club.  They have weekly runs for all types of runners – new runners, trail runners, marathoners, ultra runners, walk/runners – you name it and there is something there for you.  Membership for an individual is completely affordable at $15/year ($25 for a family membership).  The club marks the trails and provides water for all of the weekend runs.  It is AWESOME.  I am so excited to be working with several other coaches to create a 10k training program.  I was tasked with the program design and put together two training plans – one for beginner runners and one for intermediate runners.  We are kicking off the program on July 23rd and it is 10 weeks long with the target race being the =PR= Perfect 10 right in Reston on September 30th.  We capped registration to 50 people and we will meet on Monday nights at Reston Pilates, which fits perfectly with the lululemon run club I am leading!  I am beyond excited about this.  And oh so grateful.

Individual Coaching Services
Working one-on-one with individuals to help them accomplish their running goals — whether it’s to begin a running program and run their first 5k or get faster at a certain distance or train for and race their first or their tenth marathon — is SO incredibly awesome.  I am very excited to officially launch my services as a private running coach.  I design personal training programs for my clients based on their individual goals and lifestyle and give them the motivation, encouragement, support and guidance they need to get them where they want to be.  If you’re interested, please visit my Coaching page to learn more about what I have to offer!

me with my first ever client and now good friend Paul after his first marathon!

My running dreams far exceed what happens on the track, on the trail and at a race.  I love the sport so much and it has brought more joy, satisfaction and happiness to my life than I can possibly express.  Becoming a running coach is a huge part of that dream for me.  I am so excited to be embarking on this new stage in my journey as a runner!!

MCM 2010 recap – the longer version

In the effort to continue playing catch up on this blog, I wanted to post a bit more about my experience at MCM a few weeks ago.  Chronicling that day is important to me because it was so special and gave me such a new perspective on things.

my silver whistle from Paul

That morning I set my alarm for 4:45 – just like I would have if I were racing – and got myself ready to head out the door.  I picked up my sister Jodi, my client/friend Paul and my friend Justin and drove the excited marathoners as close to the start line as I could get them.  It was dark and cold but the energy in that car was electric!  They were so excited and nervous and I was too!  Sure there was a part of me that wished I was racing that day, but to be honest it was only a small part.  I was feeling so proud of them and so excited to cheer them on.  I was a part of their journey in a whole new way and very grateful for that.  When I dropped them off I gave them all big hugs and told them they would do great and thanked them for letting me share the experience with them.  I’m an emotional gal so naturally I was tearing up!  Then Paul gave me a box – a gift to say thank you for being his coach and his friend – I simply could not believe this kind gesture.  Inside was a beautiful silver whistle engraved with “Coach Jessica” on one side and “Breathe and Believe” on the other (a mantra we shared during his training).  It is so special to me.  I had never coached anyone before Paul and it was such an incredible experience.  I learned so much and was so inspired by him.  The reward of seeing how healthy, strong and happy he was at the start of that race was enough joy to sail on forever and to have this whistle as a symbol of this experience  was icing on the cake.

After dropping them off, I drove toward where the finish was so I could park my car there for when the race was over.  Then I got out my course map and began the adventure of spectating this amazing race!  I started at mile 1 and got to see the wheel chair and then the elite runners as they soared through.  I don’t usually get to see this and it was inspiring to say the least!  The energy along the course was incredible to be a part of.  I walked over to the Key Bridge from there and saw the runners at Mile 4 as they ran across the bridge.  I had made signs that said “You Inspire Me” and “Trust Your Training” and got high fives and smiles from many runners (along with some who said “What training?” when they saw my sign…sorry buddy!).  At this point I still had not seen my runners…the crowd was THICK and it was hard to see them.  After that though I hopped on the metro and headed to Mile 15 where I saw them for the first time!  They looked AWESOME.  Strong.  They were soaking it up.  My sister Jodi told me that she thought she may have twisted her ankle around Mile 8, but she was running strong despite that.  My husband Robert brought the kids down and they met me there to cheer on the runners for a little while, which was a blast.  I loved to see the excitement on my kids’ faces as they watched all the runners.

Will cheering on the runners

After saying bye to my family I continued on to support my runners at Mile 19.  When I saw them there I could tell they were hurting.  Jodi’s ankle was definitely twisted and she was clearly in pain but determined to finish the race strong.  She kept running.  Paul had a smile across his face, but he was fighting to stay positive.  I was so proud of them.  After seeing them run past I quickly hopped on the metro one last time to head to the finish and see them there.  They looked AMAZING as they approached the finish line.  They did it!!

After they made it through the chutes I greeted them with hugs and smiles.  They were so blissed out and relieved to be finished.  Jodi was hurting so we went straight to the First Aid tent where they iced and wrapped her ankle and gave her crutches.  It was a bad sprain.  Paul was wiped out but on a high from his first marathon.  I was so happy to be there with them.

me and Paul after the race!

What I learned from this race: there are many ways to be a part of a marathon.  It was just as meaningful to me to be there to cheer on and support my loved ones as it was to be supported by them.  I am so grateful for this experience.  Also, it was almost just as exhausting to spectate this race as it was to run it! I have a whole new level of respect and gratitude for my husband for all the races he has schlepped the kids to just to show me he loves me and is proud of me.  To be able to pay that forward in this way was truly priceless.

Thanks again Jodi, Paul and Justin for letting me be a part of your journey.  Peace and love and I cannot wait to run by your side again this spring!!!

weekend recap

saturday morning i went to my first prenatal yoga class at my very favorite studio, beloved yoga.  it was amazing to be in a room full of other pregnant women, all of us there to connect with ourselves and our growing babies.  the yoga itself was very gentle and relaxing and also quite challenging at times.  moving from downward dog into plank was both soothing and difficult with the extra weight i’m carrying in my tum.  the lunges were awesome and i’m still feeling them in my quads this morning.  one posture we did was called “baby dancer” which inevitably brought a smile to my face.  it was tough to do with the weight of my belly being pulled by gravity but i was amazed at how centered and peaceful i felt balancing in this position.  i am definitely heading back to this class as much as possible and highly recommend yoga to every runner, pregnant or not!

“baby dancer”
i’m not sure i looked this graceful, however!

yesterday was also a great day.  i woke up early to meet my client paul for his first 20 mile run.  this was the farthest he had ever run and i wanted to do the first and the last 5 miles with him.  we hit the trail at about 6AM when the weather was pretty much perfect.  cool and cloudy.  we ran at a steady pace for about an hour and caught up with one another along the way.  after the first 5 miles i said goodbye as he headed out for another 10 on his own.  i went home to greet my family, feed everyone breakfast, rest my legs and get some work done.  at around 9AM i went back to meet paul for his last 5 miles.  he was doing great!  at this point the sun was shining brightly and the heat and humidity had increased.  we hit the trail for our last 5 miles together.  it really was wonderful.  i’m not sure how to explain how rewarding this experience of being his coach is for me.  i am really proud of him and all that he is accomplishing and to know that i’m helping to guide him along the way is just incredible.  i loved being able to run with him for some of his run yesterday and it was neat to be there at both the start and the finish.  if i’m able to, i would love to do something like this with him on marathon day.  i’ll be over 27 weeks pregnant at that point but if i can run even a mile or two with him that will make me happy and i think be motivating to him as well.

me and Paul after our first run together (12 miles)
July 2010
today i’m taking the kids to the national zoo, so i’m not sure i can really call it a “rest” day but i am taking the day off from running!!  here’s to a good week ahead!