Positive running story – Jenny Patterson

Our positive running story this time is on Jenny Patterson, a military mum and runner from New Jersey. Jenny recently attended one of our intermediate women’s running camps, and was one of the most incredibly supportive runners that has ever attended one of our camps. (Jen is pictured above on the far left of the group at camp.) Jenny is a First Sergeant in the military, and is charged with taking care of her recruits so that they can make their mission happen. We recently asked if we could interview her for our positive running story series, and here is the result of our interview:

Can you share your brief running history to date? 
I used to run only to pass my mile and a half physical training test.  Once I had my second baby my hubby signed up foe his first marathon and I signed up for a half marathon.  One year post partum I ran it without training (which was a horrible idea) but I finished.  It inspired me because I saw that my body was capable of so much more than I ever gave it credit for.  It was so empowering to me, so I did more.  I have been running for the last two years now regularly.  I have run over 2 dozen half marathons since 2017 along with the Marine Corps Marathon, and will be running the NYC marathon this fall.  Running has become my therapy and my self care that I enjoy the most (aside from sleep, I love to sleep).

What are the top three things that you enjoy about running, and why?
The top three things I enjoy about running is the mental clarity it gives me, the way it makes me feel when I meet or exceed a goal and it keeps me fit so I can keep up with my wo boys.  I never knew how much running improves your mental strength, the body really is amazing because it does what your mind tells it to do.  It has made me much tougher person.  I feel alive when I am done running, the reward of youth is something I have felt since I incorporated regular running into my life and it inspires others.  The community is such an awesome one because it is inclusive no matter shape, size or ability everyone is cheering each other on.  Its something I want to be a part of.

You are a military family, with 2 boys of 3 & 5. How does this impact your ability to train and race, and what have you learned to help you manage this?
Incorporating running into my life with the boys and with my husband and I both being active duty has been a challenge.  It really has taken me making a diligent effort to make it a priority in my day.  I started by increasing my daily step count and trying to be intentional with that goal.  Once I did that, meeting my step goal everyday before I went to bed made it easier.  I fit my running in at night after the boys go to bed.  It isn’t the ideal time of day for training, but it works for us because it doesn’t take time away from my boys and I’m not a morning person.  The biggest thing it has taught me is that you have to make your health and training a priority if you want to make improvements.  Just do small things consistently and the improvements will happen over time.

You attended one of our women’s running camps this Summer. What was it that attracted you to our camp, and what three things did you enjoy most about your experience?
I learned about the camp through Vacation races, and thought that it sounded like a great investment in myself (MOMCATION 2019!!!).  The camp went over goal setting, form, pace, positive mindset and so many other techniques that I thought would help me meet my goals for this year.  It was also in a great location and provided a good opportunity to meet other women, in a low threat environment.

Camp was amazing, I loved the people I met the most, from the coaches, to the women who I attended camp with.  I truly feel like I found my tribe even though we are all from very different backgrounds and walks of life.  We still keep in touch months later and even signed up to do a 50K race together next year.  I loved second breakfast and the nutrition part of camp.  It helped me see that there is a more sustainable way to eat that will benefit my running goals.  The third thing I loved about camp was getting to go into Rocky Mountain National Park to run.  It was so beautiful and inspiring.  Camp was a great experience and I cannot wait to sign up for the advanced camp in the future.

It was very apparent at camp that you are an incredibly supportive person. Have you always been this way, or has your role in the military helped this develop?
I think I have always tried to be supportive of others, but over the last ten years or so as I became directly responsible for others in the military I have grown immensely in this area.  Realizing that if we empower each other and lift each other up we are all so much stronger.  It’s powerful to support others, you never know what kind of impact that might make on someone else’s trajectory in life.  The chance for it to become a movement is there, so what is there to lose by trying?

Our camp was the first time that you had been away from your boys for several days since they were born. What would you say to any mums who are thinking about making time like this for themselves?
Camp was my first time away for something not related to work.  It was hard at first, because I felt guilty choosing to be away from my family.  It was so necessary though.  I realized that I can’t properly take care of them if I am not well myself.  This was my time to practice and learn self care and how to fit it into my life so I am better able to care and provide for my family.

The mom guilt is real, but you also can’t pour from an empty cup.  Make yourself a priority, you are worth it and you deserve it.  Your family deserves the best version of you, and that won’t happen if you don’t give yourself time.  You are a better mother, and you are modeling what self care looks like so your kids will more likely grow up valuing themselves because they see you valuing yourself.

What wisdoms would you share with a younger version of yourself about being a woman runner?
Fuel your body with good nutrient dense food.  Treats are okay, but should be treats, not everyday food.  I would also tell myself it hurts because you are getting better, growth can be painful but the rewards are so worth it.  I would also tell myself to make me a priority sooner than I did.  My self image, mental strength and health have all improved because of running.  I would also say start where you are, it’s not a race against others.  It’s a race against being better than yesterdays version of you.

If we could share one message on your behalf to the World, what would you want to say?
The world needs people to be open minded, and ready to understand where others are coming from.  I feel if we had more of that, and more solidarity as human beings there would be less hatred and contention.  Love yourself and love others, we all are inherently wired for connection and right now I feel as though the connection with others is what we are missing the most.

Can you share one thing that is unique about Jen that no one would know by looking at you?
I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I am a very insecure person.  I don’t feel as though I come across that way, but I am always judging myself and feel judged by others very easily.

What are your goals for the rest of 2019, and beyond?
My goal for the rest of 2019 is to finish the NYC marathon in under 5 hours.  Beyond that, my goals have slightly changed due to military service, but as of now it is to spend as much time with my boys as possible.  Eventually I would love to run an ultra marathon, and maybe start a women’s workshop to help empower other women runners and show them what they are truly capable of when they make themselves a priority and have a positive mindset.

Jenny, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us, and we look forward to many more years of running for you! May you achieve your goals and more, have fun looking after your boys, and thank you for the incredible service you give to your soldiers, and your country!

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