Running on a dream

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer
Megan Walchuk
Editor/Staff Writer

Jenks took part in the 126th Boston Marathon last month, finishing with a time of 4:42:59. But for Jenks, who just turned 60, her placement wasn’t as important as seeing the finish line.

“My goal was to finish,” she said. “The big thing with Boston is getting into the Boston Marathon.”

Each of the roughly 30,000 participants in the race had earned their spot at the starting line by surpassing qualifying times at smaller marathons. This year, Jenks made the cut. She fell just short in 2013, at her first marathon. But it was close enough to ignite the dream. “I thought, ’oh, this is possible,’” she said.

Jenks isn’t new to running. She can usually be seen biking to work at the clinic or hospital, or out training on area roadways. She had been a runner on and off since her university days, but rarely more than 5 miles at a time. She didn’t take the sport seriously until 2011, when she saw Jackie Lampi-Hughes’ running club, out of Energy Fitness.

“I used to see them running around on Saturday. And I thought, ‘Oh, that looks fun. I’d like to do that.’ So 2011 was when I actually did my first race. I signed up for a 10k race, and that kind of got me going. That was really fun,” she said.

She started joining races with a colleague from work, increasing distances from a 10 mile to a half marathon, before taking on her first full marathon.

Since taking up running, she’s competed in cities like Fargo and Chicago, in her lead-up to Boston, and now trains year-round.

“I really quite like the training. A lot of people don’t like training, but I like the training,” she said. “You have to train. And so, that makes you get up and go.”

For Jenks, training is a time to enjoy nature, and quietly reflect on life, or chat with the friends she’s training with.

Training for Boston was challenging, due to the region’s flat terrain; Boston is known for its hills. She would often run on Reef Point Road, to take advantage of the hills, “but that’s hard to do in the winter.”

Winter training was a must, to stay conditioned for the early spring marathon. She used layers to stay warm, and although she typically doesn’t run in -30 degree weather, our long, harsh winter forced her to bend that rule.

“Some of the days, particularly because it stayed so cold this winter, I was having to do long runs when the wind was cooled to minus 30,” she said.

There were days when she used her treadmill; at the coldest point of winter, she completed nearly a half marathon on her treadmill. But she vastly prefers the fresh air and outdoors for distance training.

“Running on a treadmill for long distances is really quite horrible. It gets monotonous for sure,” she said. “I felt motion sick when I got off.”

Arriving at the Boston Marathon was an exciting experience for Jenks. She was impressed by the level of organization and support for the participants, and the beauty of the region.

“It’s very well run. Boston’s an amazing city. It’s the first time I’d really travelled to Boston,” she said. “The trail goes from a little town called Hopkinton, and you run into Boston. All the towns there are small, very beautiful little New England towns.”

Reaching the Boston Marathon isn’t the end of the road for Jenks’ running career. Training is a way of life for her, with the goal of maintaining her physical and mental fitness. And as a physician, she feels others could benefit from adding exercise to their daily life.

“It doesn’t matter what disease you name, the number one prevention is exercise. If you’re worried about cancer, heart disease, diabetes, whatever you want to think about. Your number one prevention is exercise,” she said. “We don’t do enough exercise.”

There are lots of ways people can fit more activity into their days, including walking or biking to work when the weather is nice, she said.

“I think that people need to be less afraid of exercising,” she said. “Just start with baby steps. Start doing Walk Run. There’s lots of programs out there to get people started. All you need to pair running shoes. You don’t need anything else.”

For Jenks, staying active has also helped her mental health.

“Last year, particularly,” she said. “My friends that I run with, we were all so thankful that we have running because we had something we could do during COVID that was still social.”

For anyone looking to follow in her running shoes, Jenks recommends starting small.

“Your ultimate goal could be to run a marathon, but your first race should probably be a 5k or a 10k race,” she said. “A 10k race is still a good accomplishment.”