Runner Profile – Jen Nichols

I met with Jen and we talked cheating on your running shoes, mommy guilt, and injury recovery.

I first became acquainted with Jen through the Run856 Facebook group, of which she is a moderator. I’ve met Jen a few times, usually doing 5@5, running in West Deptford or Woodbury in the wee hours of the morning. We had planned to get together for a short run and interview, but here in New Jersey in January we got dumped on with snow, and then the temps dropped to snot freezing level. Since Jen is on the mend from a stress fracture, rather than risk further injury or frozen boogers, we met for a nice chat over coffee instead.

Jen first started running in 2013 to aid in weight loss. She had been doing classes and other things, and eventually a friend convinced her to “download the couch to 5k and just go running — it’s free!” We had a nice laugh over running being “free.” That first year, Jen did seven 5k races, and after doing the Broad Street run in 2014, she got talked into signing up for her first half marathon. She says she was nervous, but her aunt agreed to run with her at her pace, and she finished the Wild Half as her first half marathon. Later that year, Jen took the leap and ran her first full. She was inspired by her aunt and her grandfather who was runner. Jen said, “My grandfather was a marathon runner and I set out on a mission to do all of his,” but on the heels of her injury, she has modified that goal.

Her first full marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015, which she was inspired to do because it was her grandfather’s favorite race. She loved the race, opening ceremonies, and atmosphere, but says it was really hot and struggled at the end with muscle cramps. “I think in hindsight, I didn’t really drink enough,” she said. At parts of the race, the crowds were very thin and she struggled with feeling lonely and bored at times, but she persevered. With only about a mile and a half to finish, she started having really painful calf spasms, and wanted to quit, but with a pep talk from the friend she was running with, kept going and finished the race.

Jen’s stress fracture came on just before the Philly marathon in 2016. It started as foot pain during a training run, and she forged ahead with the marathon anyway. She struggled with the last miles of the run, but finished. Now, Jen says she wishes she had taken it easier, although she suspects that the injury was already there and it probably didn’t make a difference. The main prescription for recovery was that four letter word that no runner ever wants to hear: rest. Fortunately, Jen has an orthopedic specialist who is also a runner, so he has been able to help her develop a plan to get back into running and avoid further injury. He evaluated her gait and gave recommendations for strengthening other areas. Jen says if you’re dealing with injury, “As hard as it is to listen to the doctor, listen to the doctor.” She says she has wanted to ignore him and his training recommendations several times just to go for a long run, but keeps talking herself into being patient and slowly working her mileage back up.

Jen likes running with music and instead of using her phone, she got an inexpensive iPod shuffle just for running. She listens to a mix of tunes when running, including America, Billy Joel, and other classics. She says she doesn’t worry about trying to have the right beats-per-minute and just listens to music she enjoys.

Jen is a race ambassador for CGI Racing, and started out as a Perfect 10 ambassador. Currently, she is helping promote the Love Run. The Philly Love Run is a half marathon and Jen says it is probably one of her favorite races she has ever done. You can use her code, JENLOVE, to save $5 on race registration.

Asked about gear, Jen loves her Brooks Glycerin sneakers. She noted that the color choice for the Brooks shoes tends to be a little disappointing, so she once tried to cheat on her Glycerins with a different brand of shoe and brought them back to the South Jersey Running Co. the next day. Recently, she came across a new Glycerin color offering and was able to stalk them down with help from the Running Co. She showed off her new kicks to me, and I have to admit, they’re a pretty fun color.

We also talked about nutrition during runs, and Jen says on her long runs, she uses Huma packets, which she discovered from a Stride Box. Huma gel packets are a more natural alternative that Jen says tend to taste more like actual food. The apple and cinnamon flavor tastes almost like applesauce. She alternates between a caffeinated and a caffeine free packet while on the run.

Jen says the best thing about running for her is “the friendships I’ve made.” Jen started out running with people from the Road Runners Club of Woodbury, and eventually picked up some other runners from Run856, and now has a small crew of friends who refer to themselves as “The Batshit Crazies.” You know, the kind of friends who say: that sounds like a terrible idea, let’s do it! Out of that core of friends, she says in particular that Becky Cunningham and Bob Law have been inspirational to her. Becky is also currently on the mend from an injury. Bob has been running twelve marathons in twelve months to fund raise for the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation in honor of a young girl named Annie who is living with OI. Jen says seeing him work on that has been particularly inspirational.

This year, Jen is signed up for the San Francisco marathon in July, and the Chicago marathon in October. She says she entered the lottery for Chicago on a whim. “I’m going to throw crap at the wall,” she says of entering the lottery, “and then I kind of forgot about it, because I thought I would never get in because it’s huge.” Then she got in, and as of now, Jen says it will be her last full marathon. She is nervous about it because, “I’ll have no support in Chicago in terms of my friends.” She is used to doing most of her training with her group of Crazies.

Asked the worst thing about running, Jen answered without hesitation: “Chafing.” I have to say I agree.


3 thoughts on “Runner Profile – Jen Nichols

  1. Pingback: Runner Profile – Rachel Kane | Run856

  2. Pingback: Runner Profile – Joan Tapken | Run856

  3. Pingback: Race Report – Philly Love Run 2017 | Run856

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