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Jeannette Faber — December, 2012
Jeanette Faber has moved into the top ten of current U.S. female marathoners with her 2012 Twin Cities Marathon victory in a personal best time by over four minutes of 2:32:38. She has raced 13 marathons and set 13 consecutive personal best times. Jeannette’s other marathon victories include the 2010 and 2009 Hartford Marathon, 2009 National Marathon in Washington, D.C. and the 2007 Reggae Marathon. She finished in 10th place at the 2011 Chicago Marathon and was first American. Jeannette was 21st at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in 2:36:50. She placed eighth at the USATF 2012 Half Marathon Championship in Duluth, MN. Jeannette graduated from Grand Valley State (MI) in 2004 where she was a Great Lakes All-Region and All-American runner in cross country for the Lakers with collegiate track bests of 17:36 and 36:39 for 5,000 and 10,000 meters, respectively. At Gull Lake High School (Richland, MI) she earned two All-State honors and recorded best times of 5:18 for 1,600 meters and 11:32 for 3,200 meters. Her personal best times include: 3,000m – 9:53.99; 5,000m – 16:06.98; 10,000m – 33:12.76; 15k – 53:07; 10 miles – 59:04; 20k – 1:09:35; Half Marathon – 1:13:27; 25k – 1:27:16 and Marathon – 2:32:38. A Photography major at Grand Valley State, Jeannette’s hobbies include reading, photography and drinking a wide variety of good beers. She enjoys time with her two dogs, Bongo and Iggy.
GCR:You won the recent Twin Cities Marathon with a four minute personal best time of 2:32:38. How did the results compare with your hopes and expectations as far as both time and place?
JFTo be honest I had been training for a 5:50 pace marathon which would have been a time in the high 2:32s. All of my efforts had been focused on that pace. However, I don’t know how many times I’ve actually raced exactly what I’ve been training for so I was prepared to run in the 2:33 to 2:34 range and I would have been pretty happy with that. So it was icing on the cake that I ran as planned at almost perfect 5:50 pace. My pace each mile was up and down given the hills on the course but the average was there. Last year at Twin Cities the winner ran around 2:28, so coming in I didn’t really believe I would be contending for first place. It can always happen depending on the field in a certain year but I thought I would place somewhere from second to fourth if I ran well. It was exciting to be in the hunt, but I wasn’t expecting to take the lead. When I did at mile 23 I was a little hesitant to do so, but the pace was comfortable and the girls I was passing were struggling. So it felt right the way I was running to go past them.
GCR:When you passed the final two runners as you moved into second place and then the lead, did they offer much resistance?
JFIt seemed to me that they didn’t react at all. I went by both pretty quickly and I was waiting for them to come back up on my shoulder. It just didn’t happen. I didn’t look back to see where they were, but they didn’t stick with me. I think they just faded.
GCR:What was your strategy during the early miles in terms of your running in relation to your competitors?
JFDuring the first few miles I was just thinking about running at 5:50 pace and didn’t have any concern about the leaders. I knew they were going to take off and I wasn’t going to go with them. There were a few women running around me whom I had competed against quite a bit – Sherry Pierce from Maine, Heidi Westover from New Hampshire and Esther Erb from North Carolina. I ran with Heidi for a few miles and it felt right. But the first five miles I was cold and my hamstring was tight. My first mile was a bit fast at 5:45, but then the next two miles I ran 6:05 and freaked out a little bit. But I figured I would run what felt right rather than for a set time each mile because of the rolling terrain. Also, in any marathon I would rather go out on the slow side rather than the fast side so I was telling myself to relax. I figured if I didn’t see the leaders during the early part that I shouldn’t concern myself with that.
GCR:When during the race did your focus change from running fast and placing high to trying to win the race?
JFI didn’t even know that the lead pack was nearby until the 14th or 15th mile when a spectator mentioned that they were just ahead. There was a red car following them so for a long time I just focused on the red car. I don’t think I started catching runners in the lead pack until after 17 or 18 miles and it was just one runner at a time. By mile 19 or 20 I was in fourth place and as I passed each runner my thoughts would change to something like, ‘maybe I can finish third.’ I just kept looking ahead. Martha Johnson-White and another woman were ahead of me and I could see them, but I didn’t want to speed up to try and catch them. I wanted to let it happen slowly because at 20 miles into a marathon there is still a lot of racing left. I knew it would be a rough stretch right after that as there was some climbing from 20 to 23 miles. So I just kept saying to myself, ‘Be patient, be patient.’ I was feeling good and my pace was steady. My 21st mile was 5:58 even with climbing an uphill so it wasn’t too far off of my goal pace. Miles 22 and 23 were slower, 6:03 and 6:10, but still not too far off and I felt pretty good. It was around mile 23 when I passed Martha and it just felt right. I would actually have had to slow down to run with her. It felt proper to maintain my pace and to go past though it was also scary to take the lead. I was thinking, ‘Is this right?’ Then I forgot about those thoughts and ran my race. From then on I guess I ran scared. I wanted to run as hard as I could to the finish and to hold onto the lead.
GCR:I’ve raced at Twin Cities and there is that final downhill stretch to the finish. Did it feel good going down that hill that sort of shoots you into the finish line?
JFYes, it was great as I accelerated. Part of it was excitement and part of it was going down the hill.
GCR:Your four minute improvement from your previous personal best set earlier this year at the U.S. Olympic Trials was a big jump. Was it due to more miles, faster tempo runs, better track times or a combination of all three?
JFIt was a bit of a combination. I set PRs at every distance except 5k in 2012. I knew that my fitness level was improving. The big indicators were a really good race at the 25k in Grand Rapids and taking almost a minute off of my half marathon PR. So I knew I was more fit than I had been going into the Trials. As far as pacing in my workouts, we had been targeting 5:50 pace for the Trials and for Chicago in late 2011 so it wasn’t necessarily because I was training faster. I had the target I was aiming for and it finally happened for me as I didn’t fade to a slower time. It took me three times to make it happen. In Chicago last year I went through the half marathon almost on pace, maybe a bit slower and then I faded to a three minute positive split which I was pretty bummed about. I’m sure part of it was due to the warm weather, but I probably wasn’t quite ready to race that fast yet. The Trials were frustrating because of issues with plantar fasciitis and I had to stop running during the month of December. The cross training was good, but it wasn’t an ideal build-up. I knew I wasn’t in as good of shape going in to the Trials. I basically targeted 2:35 and faded a bit to 2:36 high.
GCR:This was your 13th marathon and your 13th straight personal best time. It’s so difficult a feat with the effects of weather, ups and downs of training and elements of our personal lives. What in your training and racing has allowed you to keep improving in marathon after marathon?
JFI haven’t researched how uncommon my streak is, though I hear that Dick Beardsley is one other runner who raced 13 marathon PRs in a row. I started out pretty slowly and wasn’t training anywhere near the level I’m training at now. So, my first couple of marathons were just to stay active and have fun. Being fairly injury-free over the years has helped. I dealt with a minor bout of IT band syndrome in 2005 and because I wasn’t too serious about running at that time I took off three months in hopes that it would go away. And luckily it did. The only problem I’ve had other than that was the plantar fasciitis I mentioned having last winter. Running pretty uninterrupted for six years has been a big key for me. My mileage has gotten bigger and bigger over the years. In 2004 and 2005 it was maybe only 40 or 50 miles per week. It has steadily climbed and in the buildup to Twin Cities I had seven weeks that were between 90 and 105 miles. I am going to keep building in the future as when I ran my highest weekly total of 105 miles I felt like I can go beyond that. It wasn’t the mileage that was a problem, it’s just that my coach, Jerry, and I were trying to stay smart and not build too quickly.
GCR:It’s interesting you mention that when we look at the differences in training and coaching now compared to years ago. When I was training my best in the 1970s and early 1980s we didn’t know much which may have both hurt us and helped us. I remember my junior year in college when I was home for Christmas break I was working 40 hours a week, but I still ran 133 and 142 miles those two weeks. I just wanted to see what I could run during those two weeks. Now a coach would kill you for doing that, but I didn’t even tell my coach. What do you think about the good and bad with regard to the current running knowledge base?
JFI think that half of the coaches are probably holding their runners back while they try to keep us under control. We all want to go out and run 20 miles a day. So in your personal case did you get any injuries?
GCR:I had no injuries, went back to school and ran an indoor 2-mile PR and won my only Southern Conference title, so now that I look back it might have helped. But let’s get back to you now. You placed 21st at the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon, but your Twin Cities time would have put you in tenth place. Where do you see yourself now in relation to the upper echelon of U.S. women and does it give you hope to make a serious run at the 2016 Olympic squad?
JFIt absolutely gives me more hope to do better in 2016. Somebody once said to respect your competition, but not to fear them. I feel that is very true for me. I have a ton of respect for the women who were in the top ten at the Trials and even more for those in the top five. But when I race with them and if I have a chance to run with them or to pass them I will always take that opportunity. So that is what happened at Twin Cities. I may not expect to win to to get a certain place, but if I am in position I absolutely go for it. I think there is a lot of room for me to improve. The 2:30 mark is the barrier that I want to break and once I break that I look ahead to 2:28. I am the type of person who looks at the smaller steps. I don’t think, ‘I’m a 2:32 runner and I’m going for 2:25.’ I take the smaller steps, make it manageable and that is why I keep running PRs along the way.
GCR:Two minutes at a time seems reasonable because that equates to five seconds a mile. So in the next few years will this be the continuing thought process?
JFI can’t say I can improve right from 5:50 pace to 5:35 pace, but if I look at five seconds a year for three years it does seem possible.
GCR:It is an honor to compete in the Olympic Trials Marathon. How exciting was it to qualify and what are some of the highlights of your Olympic Trials experience?
JFI actually watched the 2008 Olympic Trials Women’s Marathon in Boston because I was running the Boston Marathon the next day. For me to see that was the first time that I thought, ‘This is amazing. This is what I want to do.’ It was such an honor for the women and I was in awe of them. That is when I set the goal and started thinking seriously about my own running. To be there in 2012 was the realization of what I had trained for over the years. I came in with the ‘A’ standard – I didn’t just squeak in, so it was phenomenal. I have so much respect again for the competition. Running is a strange sport as there is much more camaraderie out there than you see in other sports. I was there with many women I have trained with and competed against and since it is a pretty tight knit running community that makes it special as well. All of us as we walked down the runway to the starting line were excited to be out there. Then we ran the first two miles together before the lead ladies took off and it started stringing out. My goal going in was just to finish because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. I wanted to finish the race though to make it a complete Olympic Trials experience.
GCR:That must have given you quite a spark at the 2008 Olympic Trials since the next day you went out at Boston and ran your first sub-3:00 marathon. Did your finishing time encourage you since you were closer to the Trials qualifying time?
JFIt definitely did as running a 2:54 started making 2:46 seem more possible in my mind. It really did. I might have been in shape to break 3:00 in Jamaica, but it was hot and I took a rest room break. Being under three hours the first time was nice as it is such a threshold time. I had worked so hard and it was great to see a ‘2’ at the start of my marathon PR.
GCR:Let’s go back through your marathon history. What sparked you to do your first marathon, which was the 2004 Chicago Marathon?
JFI had always been a longer distance runner in college. I constantly tried to get speed under me, but I only ran one mile race in college, a 5:21, and my coach told me I wasn’t doing that again. I did the best at 5k and 10k and so the marathon was the next step. I stayed on at Grand Valley State as a graduate assistant and wanted something to work towards since I was around the girls and running with them. It just made sense to have some kind of race on my radar. I didn’t prepare very well and only did one long run of 20 miles, though I know that is what most people do. It just wasn’t enough for me. I made rookie mistakes, went out too hard, felt great the first ten miles and then at mile 17 I didn’t even know if I was going to finish. I walked part of it, but eventually hobbled to the finish line. I thought it was stupid way to race a marathon. I knew I would run another one and that I just hadn’t prepared properly.
GCR:Over the next three years you ran one marathon a year in Detroit, Portland and Jamaica. When did you think seriously about stepping up your training to start aiming to reach your potential?
JFAt Detroit in 2005 I was still dabbling at the marathon. My training was 40 to 50 miles a week, though I did more than one 20-miler beforehand. It was a completely different race experience, I felt great in the latter miles probably because I went out more conservatively. I had a great time with it and remember Detroit being a wonderful racing experience. I had just moved to Portland when I raced there and hadn’t met up with running buddies so I made another mistake of going out too hard and struggled the last few miles though I did take six minutes off of my PR. After Portland and being so close to three hours I was training with a woman who had competed in the 2000 or 2004 Olympic Trials marathon. It was a long way off, but I thought of it as a possibility. I had joined a running club, was doing workouts more regularly and gained momentum. It was a fun experience in Jamaica. It was a tiny marathon, but it was my first win. They did a great job and it was different because I was winning. There was a bicycle escort and it was both exciting and exhilarating. I was so close to three hours and wanted to break it.
GCR:In 2009 you took your marathon racing to another level with wins at the National Marathon in 2:48:38 and Hartford in 2:46:33. What were you doing differently in training and mental focus that year?
JFI joined the Boston Athletic Association after I raced in Boston and it was a great group. They had six women run in the 2008 Olympic Trials so they knew what they were doing. It was nice to be thrown in with them, to hear their experiences, to see how they worked out together and also to learn from them as they were smart racers. The group when I was there was a little bit older so I learned a lot. I said to myself that if I wanted to train with this group, which was a pretty good group, that I had to step it up. So my mileage went to 65 to 75 miles a week, though most of the women in my group were running 95 to 110 miles a week, so I was definitely the rookie. But I had to go up in small steps. I didn’t want to go right to 100. It was nice in that group though I was in the back quite a bit.
GCR:At the National Marathon you had to win with a kick – I thought you had no speed?
JFI guess speed is relative. It was crazy that day as we had a good pack of women from mile nine to about 15. There were about five or six women in the pack. Some were from the New England area and we were definitely taking turns leading and doing the work. As a couple of the leaders fell off of the pace, there were Elaina Orlova, another woman and me. I tried to encourage them to also lead because it was windy and cold and it dawned on me that they weren’t going to. I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t want to be the only one setting the pace, but they weren’t helping. I had been in enough races that I knew what was going to happen and, sure enough, at mile 25 they both went flying around me. But I tried to play it smart rather than make it a 1.2 mile kick. I let them go a little bit, but kept within striking distance. The one woman struggled on a hill and I passed her. The second woman kept looking back at me so I knew that she must have been struggling also. If she was feeling great she would have charged to the finish, but by looking back it gave me some confidence that I could catch her. I was also steaming from having to lead for so long so that played into it. When I took the lead in the last 200 or 300 meters and got the victory it was a lot of fun.
GCR:Do you remember hearing the crowd cheering or were you so focused as you ran to the line that you didn’t notice them?
JFIt was a cold morning and it was very early so there wasn’t much of a crowd until the last 100 meters. There was a lot of quiet time as I focused on catching her and I had already caught her by the time we got to the crowd. At that time I just ran as hard as I could until I crossed the finish line so there was a lot of focus.
GCR:You stepped it up another notch in 2010 with three more PRs of 2:42:41 at Grandma’s, 2:41:06 at Hartford and 2:39:41 at New York City. Was this a natural progression as you were getting more comfortable with the marathon distance?
JFI think so. Before Grandma’s I had done a long buildup and it was the first time I had done some weeks of 80 miles. That was my first attempt at qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Trials so my goal was simply to run under 2:46. That went pretty well despite a headwind. I had another decent buildup into Hartford and was focused now on 2:40. I ran with some gentlemen for a while and then found myself alone leading the women’s race by quite a bit. I kind of lost some focus in the later miles as I was dealing with some wind. I felt fine but was a little bit discouraged that I hadn’t broken 2:40. I didn’t feel that I had put everything out there.
GCR:How tough was your first sub-2:40 in New York, especially since it was so close after your win in Hartford?
JFI had a hard time pushing myself since I was winning by over five minutes at Hartford. I wanted to take another crack at 2:40 so I jumped into the New York City Marathon even though it was only four weeks later. I felt much better about that experience as I was catching women the entire second half of the race. Even though I was only 90 seconds faster than at Hartford, I felt it was a good 90 seconds. It isn’t a flat course and I was very happy.
GCR:How did it feel to race two marathons so close together? I have a frame of reference as I ran a 2:28 and 2:23 five weeks apart when they were my second and third fastest efforts. Do you think for most people it may be tougher mentally than physically?
JFI go back and forth as to which is harder. For the big picture I try to be very calculated and smart with training and racing, but I think that our bodies can do pretty amazing things. Some people race very often and beat up their bodies, but if you listen to your body and don’t push through when you have a nagging pain you should be okay. I felt great after Hartford, had some excellent workouts and had a lot of confidence going into New York that I would be fine and bounce back. If I hadn’t had good workouts or had been hurting I wouldn’t have tried running New York as I do believe it is important to take some rest now and then from training or racing
GCR:After progressing from 2:48 to 2:46, 2:42 and 2:41, how exciting was it to have a PR with a ‘3’ as the second number as you broke 2:40?
JFIt was nice. It was really nice. It was only 90 seconds faster than Hartford, but it was great to see that next number. And that is why I am itching now to see myself run a two-twenty-something. It will be another whole level of satisfaction.
GCR:What was the reason you raced only one marathon in 2011? Were you concentrating on ramping up training or racing at shorter distances in advance of the Chicago Marathon?
JFI had decided that I really wanted to develop some speed. In 2010 I had only run one 10k, but it was a 34:25 which was a two minute improvement from my collegiate best. Since I was dropping time at the shorter distances I felt that more improvements in my times for 5k and 10k would eventually lead to improvements in my marathon. So we specifically worked on speed in the first half of 2011 before turning focus back to the marathon. That’s what I did. I ran a big 33:20 PR for 10k at the Peyton Jordan Invitational in April that qualified me for the outdoor U.S. Track and Field Championships where, unfortunately, I ran a poor race of 33:55 which was a bummer. But I also ran 16:05 at a small 5k in Massachusetts which was a 30 second PR. So I felt like I got what I needed out of the track season. The focus on getting fast in shorter races led to my being able to sustain a faster marathon pace.
GCR:Did you see your 2:36:58 performance in Chicago as stepping up to another threshold since you were top ten overall, first American and it was the first time you averaged under six minutes a mile for the marathon distance?
JFIt was nearly a three minute PR so I was happy, but I expected to run well as my training had gone almost perfectly going into Chicago. I felt pretty good through the first half but basically faded. I didn’t cramp or anything but was fatigued. It was a great experience to be in the top ten – it was crazy as I hadn’t even dreamed about that. I enjoyed it for what it was though it was a less competitive field of Americans as many women were getting ready for the Trials. It was definitely a good experience, just not as fast as what I was aiming for.
GCR:You were in a bit less than top form for the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon due to plantar fasciitis. How tough was it to keep your PR streak going which you only did by eight seconds?
JFI was thinking about it in the last two miles. To be honest, from mile 20 to mile 24 I felt pretty good. I was passing some women. I thought I wouldn’t run 2:35 which is what I set out to run but that it would still be a good time and under my PR. Then suddenly at mile 24 everything came undone and I hit the wall. I thought that my splits went from 6:00 or 6:05 per mile to 6:45 when in reality they only went to 6:15 or 6:20. In the last two miles I thought it was slipping away and that I wouldn’t get that PR. When I finally crossed the finish line with an eight second PR I was very pleased with it, very relieved and just very happy to be done with the pain.
GCR:You’ve raced at various shorter road distances from 5k up to the half marathon. Do any of these races stand out either for tough competition or a breakthrough performance?
JFI really have enjoyed the 25k race distance the past two years. Part of that is because the 25k National Championships are in Grand Rapids where I went to college and many of my family members are there. I don’t know why it is so comfortable to race at that distance, but I really enjoy it as it is longer than a half marathon, but nowhere near a marathon. Racing 25k feels competitive but doesn’t ruin you like in a marathon where you have to take two weeks off afterward. In 2010 it was as slightly weaker field and I finished third. That was fun as I had never finished that high before. This past May I ran about 90 seconds faster and ended up seventh. It was awesome to run that much faster and I could tell that things were progressing for me and finishing seventh was still good in a championship race.
GCR:Speaking of the Grand Rapids area, have you developed a friendship with 1983 Boston Marathon Champ, Greg Meyer, or received training tips from him since he lives there?
JFI’ve only talked with Greg a little bit around race time, so I don’t really know him too well. We both like beer and there are great places in Grand Rapids, so maybe I can buy him a beer and get some advice. (Laughing)
GCR:Let’s discuss some elements of your training. We’ve discussed weekly mileage and touched a bit on long runs where you’ve said you do 20-milers. In leading up to your last few marathons, how long are your long runs, how many do you do and at what pace or intensity?
JFI definitely go over 20 miles on my longest training runs. I can’t give an exact number, but I do five, six or seven long runs of at least 20 miles before a marathon in an idea marathon buildup. Typically the pace is easy. I will run segments at marathon pace in some of the long runs. In my buildup to Twin Cities I had two long runs like that. The first had 12 miles at marathon pace and the second had a 15-mile segment at marathon pace. Those were 22 to 23 mile runs in total. Generally my long runs are very easy and some on trails can be at 8:00 pace. Some people do over distance and I haven’t actually done that, but what I have done is to run for a length of time that is longer than I will race in a marathon. Leading up to Twin Cities I did a 25-mle run that took about three hours and ten minutes. It also had a good hill climb in the middle of the run. Though it wasn’t fast, it gave me a lot of strength.
GCR:What are some of your favorite stamina and tempo sessions and do you usually do them on the road or track?
JFI’m a big track junkie as I really like the rhythm of the track and having that constant check of my pace. So I typically do much of my marathon hard training on the track. I will do three or four times two miles before a marathon. In this last segment I did two workouts of repeat 5ks – three the first time and four the next. The four by 5k was at marathon pace with a kilometer at 6:30 or 6:35 pace in between. It was a rest, but not a jogging rest – a fair clip that gave me a lot of strength and confidence.
GCR:When I interviewed Desiree Davila she talked of running six repeat 2-miles faster than her marathon pace by about ten to twenty seconds per mile. Do you think in your next buildup you may incorporate something like this?
JFThe four by 2-mile workout in the buildup for Twin Cities were at about a 5:30 or 5:32 average so it is similar to what Desi does, just not as many and not as fast. We may add more in the future
GCR:To keep top end speed and efficiency do you incorporate speed sessions and hill repeats in your training regimen on a regular basis and, if so, what are some of your ’bread and butter’ workouts?
JFI haven’t done 200s in a long time. To be honest I’ve just jumped into the workouts of faster runners as speed is so much harder to run on my own. When I trained for the 10k this past spring I was doing some workouts with Carrie Dunlop who competed in the steeplechase at the Olympic Trials. We would normally start with a tempo run and then break it down to mile repeats or 800s. For me the important thing is to have that fast person to do the workout with. At one point this past spring when I was in Grand Rapids for the 25k race I did a workout with one of the Grand Valley State girls and an assistant coach. She is a 15:50 5k runner and we did cut downs of 1,600 meters, 1,200 meters and 800 meters with short recovery in between. I just sat on the back of those two the whole time and held on as it’s hard to get through those on my own. I don’t do any short hill repeats. I do like hills but generally for strength rather than for speed.
GCR:What will be your focus in 2013 in terms of improvement and how many marathons do you expect to put on your racing schedule?
JFI have not decided anything for sure. For the next few months I believe I will go back to a faster-paced focus. It would be awesome to improve my 5k PR of 16:06 and to see a ‘15’ at the beginning of my PR. I’m hoping to do one or two competitive 5k indoor races. I’m not sure if that will lead into a season that is focused on a spring marathon or if it will lead into a focus on a 25k and half marathon in the spring followed by a fall marathon. I could see it going both ways, but I think it will most likely be a progression from a winter 5k focus to the 25k in the spring and maybe a fall marathon, though there is still time to change and run a spring and fall marathon.
GCR:There is a World Championships in 2013. What if you are asked to be a part of the United States team?
JFIf I get that call I will say ‘yes’ to anything. That is another concern about aiming for a spring marathon as I am not even sure what the selection process will be for the marathon team at Worlds. If I have a chance to run a fast marathon in the spring to qualify for the team, that certainly will be on my mind.
GCR:You weren’t always a road runner, but raced cross country and on the track at 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters in high school. How did you get started running?
JFI got started running by playing soccer. My family is not a terribly athletic family and I got roped into playing soccer by one of my friends. I wanted to hang out with her more and I wanted to try it. I loved soccer and it was so much fun. What’s funny is that we always did a 2-mile time trial at the beginning of the soccer season and I would annihilate the rest of the team. So I started thinking that I was pretty good at running. Since I wasn’t very good at basketball as a sport that practiced starting in the fall I figured I would give cross country a shot. I had no idea I would end up as good as I was.
GCR:What are some of your high school highlights?
JFMy memory of high school running is constantly being beaten by the whole Rockford team. Their women’s team was amazing and they would put five or six runners ahead of me. It seemed like I was always trying to catch the fifth Rockford girl. They were in a different division so I didn’t have to deal with them at State. I did make All-State twice and switched high schools before my senior year which was a bit of an adjustment though my coaches at the new school were very good and knew what they were doing. I continued to see improvements my senior year. I was good, but not outstanding.
GCR:At Grand Valley State you were a solid runner with best times of 17:36 for 5,000 meters and 36:39 for 10,000 meters. Were you finding in college that longer distances suited you better and how had your training changed since high school?
JFI wasn’t sure if I would run in college, but when I visited Grand Valley State it was the right fit for photography which was the type of program I wanted and I decided to run cross country as the coach was very energetic and got my excited about competing for the Lakers. I didn’t select Grand Valley State based on the cross country team. I was mainly focused on academics, but my program wasn’t rigorous so I felt that I could put everything I needed into running as well. It was challenging as a distance runner as we had three competitive seasons and were always in season. I found a comfortable balance. I enjoyed the 10k especially and wished that our cross country racing distance was 10k. I was envious of the men since they raced longer. I knew it was easier for me to go longer than faster.
GCR:Upon graduation did you believe that your serious running was basically over and during the next few years were you just staying fit as you ran and entered your first few marathons?
JFI always knew that when I graduated and my competitive days were over that I would keep running because I enjoy running. I figured I would do local 5ks and that I would never stop running. I remember looking at the Hanson’s team requirements for women when I graduated – not as a next step, but out of curiosity. At the time I thought I would never make it on that team. I was interested in continuing to run, but didn’t think I would be competitive.
GCR:When you look back, do you wish you had stepped up your training after college or were you not ready and everything played out the way it was supposed to?
JFI’m pretty happy with how it played out as I’ve never felt burned out or overwhelmed with the training. I have had the good fortune of few injuries which are the most frustrating part of our sport. I am happy with how things progressed. Also, over the years I have become more fit. I grew up with some terrible eating habits. When I was in college I wasn’t overweight, but I was a good 15 pounds heavier than today which wasn’t helping my times at all. Slowly developing better eating habits has helped me out.
GCR:How did each of your coaches from high school to college and now post-collegiately contribute to your success and what would you say are the major points you learned from each of them that helped you with the physical and mental aspects of training and racing?
JFAt my second high school I had two coaches, Brad Portis and Tom Bezault, and their training system involved a lot of repeat 400s and mile time trials. We had a good team. The two things I learned were the importance of 400s and to run even pacing. At Grand Valley State my coach was Jerry Baltes and it was pretty fun running for Jerry. He was only 25 years old when I was a freshman and it was his second season coaching so he was very young and very energetic. Jerry and the assistant coaches and staff made it fun – at times maybe too much fun. But he did a good job of turning the program quickly into a top one in the conference. The team hasn’t lost a conference championship since I’ve been there so it is a long streak. Jerry had us do a lot of hill running and hill repeats and I love that aspect of training. He always had us shoot for a big improvement. Jerry had more confidence in us and more in me than I had in myself. He could see big breakthroughs coming for me when I couldn’t see them. My coach now is Terry Shea with the Boston Athletic Association and it has been awesome working with Terry. When I started with him he had just come on board as the women’s coach so he was finding his way in that position. For the first few years he mainly provided our Wednesday night workouts and helped with the mental part of racing. But he didn’t have much influence on training as a whole. When I moved away from Boston to Portland he took a bigger role with weekly mileage goals, guidance on easy runs and more direction with my entire training.
GCR:Just as your coaches help with your success as a runner, how important is it to be part of the training group of high-level runners?
JFSometimes it is extremely beneficial. When I was in Boston I was very fortunate to have so many women to draw from. We weren’t always doing the same thing as some of us were training for 5ks or 10ks or marathons or on different schedules, but there was always somebody who was willing to do your workout or something very similar with you. In Portland it was a different story as I had to ask a lot of guys to run with me as there weren’t many top women in the area to coordinate with. Carrie Dunlop and I did do five or six workouts together last spring, but she was a 3k/5k runner and I was a 5k/10k runner taking a break from the marathon so our focus wasn’t the same. I feel I am better working out on my own than most people and that I can get through it by myself. It isn’t ideal, but not a deal-breaker.
GCR:Four-time Olympian George Young told me that he liked to run on his own as other runners can either limit you or pull you along faster than you should be running. What are your thoughts on this negative aspect of running with others?
JFI think he is right as Terry can give me a workout and I can do it exactly as it feels right for me. I’m pretty good at hitting the paces as planned so I don’t get pulled out by other runners or run too slowly. I’ve had success running on my own, but with the very fast workouts I do benefit from chasing other runners.
GCR:In high school and college you raced track and cross country and now you race primarily on the roads – which is your favorite?
JFDefinitely not cross country. I didn’t do well as maybe I wasn’t tough enough for the terrain. It’s fun, but just not for me. I really do like the track but I feel I’m better on the roads.
GCR:Who are some of your favorite competitors at the professional level and looking back to your collegiate or high school days for their success, toughness, or ability to push you to another level?
JFStarting now I have a lot of respect for Wendy Thomas because we both arrived on the competitive running scene late in the game. She was out of Colorado and runs for the Boulder Running Company and is with the American Distance Project and Scott Simmons. Also, she had a couple of kids and didn’t think she would be competing at a high level and we see each other at quite a few races. Of course I want to beat her, but I want her to do well as we are in similar situations. So she is one of my favorite competitors. I have always had a lot of respect for Zoila Gomez, who ran for Adams State, on the professional competitive scene and at the Olympic Trials. She just dominated the college scene and was amazing in the 5k and 10k. I didn’t compete with her back then and was nowhere near her level. But I’ve started to see her at races and to compete against her and its very cool for me to finally be at a level like hers. I’m still a little in awe of Zoila.
GCR:Many athletes who excel come from families where much is expected and their family offers great encouragement. How did your upbringing form your character and make you into the woman you are today?
JFIf nothing else what I learned from my upbringing is dependence on myself. I’m the youngest of five kids and we lived in a modest household. There were high expectations for college, but we knew that to go to college we had to pay for it ourselves. When I was in high school I knew that was looming and was the financial situation and was wondering how I would get through college on my own. I feel that helped me to be pretty strong and independent. This carries over into when I am working out on my own and I know that is how it will be in a race as I am out there alone.
GCR:You have improved considerably in the marathon and at other racing distances the past few years. What are your future competitive goals and for how long do you expect to compete?
JFI have been thinking about that and, to be honest, I won’t consider quitting this until my times aren’t improving and probably for a year or so after that. I really enjoy running and see a lot of improvement ahead for me in the future. I feel like I have great role models for this as well such as Sherry Peters who I run against. I have much respect for her and she just ran a marathon PR at age 41. I don’t know if I’ll still be running PRs at 41 – probably not – but I feel that there isn’t an end in sight right now and I’ll keep going until I see an end in sight. I know it won’t always be easy and I won’t always be running PRs.
GCR:So you don’t think you’ll be 41 years old and I’ll be interviewing you about your 28th consecutive marathon PR?
JF(Laughing) No, then there would be talk of drugs or something! But, seriously, I know there will be an end, but I haven’t looked ahead to that and won’t until things change.
GCR:After you gear down from competitive racing, where do you see running as a continuing part of your life?
JFIt is hard to tell as I know I want running to be a component of my life, probably for my entire life. I have given quite a bit of thought to coaching and don’t think I would fit into the college scene because it’s a little too political for me. I think I would enjoy coaching adults at different levels so that is something that I hope to see on my radar. I’ve been careful not to coach while I am still running as I would get too involved in my athletes’ running. I’ll have to find a balance down the road.
GCR:What advice do you have for younger runners to improve consistency, minimize injuries and reach their potential?
JFFor younger runners I would say that they should believe in themselves. There was a time when I didn’t believe in myself. But just because you don’t run as fast as you hope, things can always change just like they did for me after college. Also, enjoy running - to stick with it you have to enjoy it. To avoid injuries be honest with yourself and if something is hurting don’t try to run through it. I’m a believer in taking days off when necessary and running slowly for recovery. I’ve never been someone who hammers all of the time or feels that I must run a certain number of miles each week. One thing became clear after Twin Cities. I was thinking of how none of the workouts in this training segment were phenomenal. In fact my last long run at marathon pace was very difficult, but in the race it felt great. So, runners should realize that races can go very well off of a less than perfect buildup.
GCR:Are there any major lessons you have learned during your life from working to achieve academically and athletically, the discipline of running, the patience of training many years with a goal and recent racing success that you would like to share with my readers?
JFI have a few short words of advice. Enjoy what you are doing. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Running should be fun. Never take yourself too seriously. Finally, don’t be afraid of failure.
 Inside Stuff
Hobbies/InterestsPhotography is my major hobby as it was my career for a while. I love running photography and have a great lens for that. I do quite a bit of reading and spend time at the library. Beer drinking is right up there – it’s part of keeping things on the lighter side and not taking myself too seriously
NicknamesSome of my friends call my ‘Jay,’ just to shorten my long name. In high school I had the nickname, ‘The Wildebeest.’ We had a silly high school team and we all had nicknames of large animals
Favorite movies‘A League of Their Own’ is one of my favorites as it really resonates with female athletes. A second is ‘Good Will Hunting’
Favorite TV showsRight now I really like ‘Madmen’ and ‘The Colbert Report’
TV Reality Show ContestantI definitely would not want to be on any singing or performance show as I’m very awkward in front of people. Maybe ‘Survivor’ for the whole travel aspect, but I don’t know if I could deal with insects and starving. I guess I wouldn’t be very good on Reality television
Favorite musicI don’t think I have a favorite song. I do like Paul Simon, Bill Withers and Pink Martini and these are my favorite singers and bands. Pink Martini is an eclectic band that is big in Portland and the Pacific Northwest
Favorite books‘The Color Purple’ by Alice Walker. Another which I read recently and loved is ‘A Fine Balance’ by Rohinton Mistry
First carIt was a 1986 Ford Escort and I loved that car. Essentially it was like a big toy as it was so simple with no bells or whistles. I called it ‘Little Lucas’ because one of my teammates had the same make and model car and his name was Lucas
Current carI haven’t owned a car for the past five years. It’s been kind of fun. I might buy one soon
First JobMy first job was at the concession stand in a local movie theater. A lot of my friends worked there so it was kind of like social hour
Favorite Halloween CostumeA couple of years ago I went to a Halloween party dressed up as one of the baseball players from ‘A League of Their Own,’ so that was pretty cool. It was a costume that I pulled together from thrift stores
FamilyI’m the youngest of five kids and am very close with my sisters. My brothers kind of do their own thing. My brothers and sisters all live in Michigan
PetsI have two dogs. One is an 11 year old Jindo, which is kind of like a Husky, named Bongo. I also have a one year old Chihuahua and French bulldog mix named Iggy who is a lot of fun
Favorite breakfastWhere I live in Portland there is a diner, ‘Nancy’s,’ about four blocks away and my really close friend, Michelle, and I go there about once a week. We always order the same thing. They don’t even ask us anymore what we want. We get the cinnamon roll French toast with Americanos and it is a complete sugar high. It is awesome
Favorite mealA standard cheeseburger and fries are hard to pass up
Favorite beveragesI feel like all I ever drink is coffee, beer and water. I like almost every single kind of beer. I really like ales and am not a big lager fan. I don’t like scotch ales too much, but love wheat beers and Belgian beers. I really like red ales, oatmeal stouts and milk stouts. I do like a lot of beer variety (interviewer’s note – if you didn’t figure it out yet, Jeannette likes beer!)
First running memoryWhen we were in fifth grade there was Presidential fitness testing and they set up a loop on the playing fields at school. We had to run a half mile and I ran 3:18. It was the fastest time in our school and I just barely beat the one guy who was the typical jock. I was very proud of that
Running heroesWhen I was younger I remember watching Deena Kastor and Paula Radcliffe while I was in college. Right now Des Davila and Kim Conley are kind of my heroes because they are the underdogs who have succeeded and I like seeing that
Greatest running momentProbably the Twin Cities Marathon win because it was the perfect race, I felt so good at the end and winning was fun
Worst running momentNot too many come to mind, except the Peyton Jordan 10,000 meters this year where I was trying to make the Olympic Trials standard of 32:45 and was completely off. It wasn’t a smart race for me and I ran around 33:55. I felt terrible because my coach had flown in to watch a couple of us run and I was bummed that I ran like crap
Childhood dreams I don’t remember anything specific except knowing that I wanted to travel a lot and have fun
Favorite places to travelI have some good experiences. I spent three weeks in South Africa in 2005. It was phenomenal as I travelled all over South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho. I’ve also been to Portugal with one of my best friends and we had three crazy days there. I’m glad that no one had a video camera on us! Sometimes your travelling companions make the experience
Funny memoriesHere is one where at least I laughed. During the Twin Cities Marathon after about 19 and a half miles someone had hung up a sign and the first thing I saw on it was ‘Paul Ryan.’ So I thought it was funny that they were campaigning at the marathon. Then I noticed that it said, ‘Paul Ryan Finish Line,’ and I laughed out loud. It was probably there because he had said a while ago that he ran a marathon in under three hours when really he ran just under four hours. While I was starting to hurt a bit at that point in the race, I thought that sign was hilarious
Embarrassing momentEmbarrassing moment: When I was in high school I was leading a race, took a wrong turn and ended up finishing second. I was really upset and probably cried. It’s a little silly and dumb, but my most embarrassing moment