My name is Jess and I am a long distance runner with an undying love for coffee and trail running. I have been running since 2010 and some of my highlights have been my first ultra marathon, a 100 mile expedition, a 120 mile stage race, a 48 adventure race and my first Boston marathon.
I was not always a runner and most certainly not athletic. As a teenager, I was more interested in reading than playing on sports teams. But mid-way through high school everything changed for me when my youngest sister was diagnosed with a severe case of anorexia, which she still struggles with today.
This was a very pivotal moment for me because I realized the harm that self doubt and self harm can do, not just to the person who is engaging in that behaviour, but to their loved ones as well. I found I needed a place to process everything so I started taking long walks on the abandoned rail road tracks by my house so I could think. Gradually, these became longer and longer and I started challenging myself to run the trail.
Running immediately became an integral part of who I am. I found it was a vital way for me to process difficult things, celebrate the beautiful things and just learn how to focus. It also tied into positive self esteem – I learned that I could always run a little further than I thought I could and I discovered at an early age that celebrating my body for what it could do rather than criticizing it for anything it wasn’t was the key to athletic success. In short, running taught me how to love myself and believe in myself.
As I grew older and people would challenge me to do things, athletic or otherwise, “of COURSE I can” became an immediate response. And I did.
When I was challenged to run an ultra marathon in 2010 by a coworker, I agreed and I took it a step further and ran it for my youngest sister with a sign that said “For Jolene, you are stronger than you think.”
Since that first ultra, I have kept that “of COURSE I can” attitude and it has taken me further than I ever thought possible. I need running just like I need my morning coffee because miles change things, not just for myself but for others around me. For example, I run for a company called RunJanji where every piece of clothing purchased provides a year of clean drinking water for people who need fresh water. I also run knowing that my youngest sister is watching me, seeing me reach goals and believe in myself. I can only hope that someday she too can believe that much in herself and beat her eating disorder.
Through my running, I have met many women who are strong, empowered and self-accepting which is what we need in a culture where women are told that there is always something lacking. These women enjoy their cake as much as they love their running shoes and are more worried about the number of times that they are laughing in a day than the number on the scale.
Running has helped me reach my full potential and focus on what matters – happiness, health and relationships. It doesn’t matter if you are a runner, a reader, a blogger or a foodie, it is important that you find that one thing that lights you on fire and allows you to say to yourself “I am so lucky.”
If you have any questions about self esteem, running or just need to talk to someone who is always happy to listen, Feel free to stop by my blog or my social media and say hello! My blog is an extension of my adventures, my call to make running about more than the amount of miles in your training log and my obsession with lattes.
~ Written by Jessica Kuepfer (Guest Blogger from lacesandlattes.com)
Want to take Jessica’s advice and push yourself to try something new? The Sport and Social Club offers a variety of sports for adults all around the GTA. Check out our website to learn how you can get out and active!