I’m just an ordinary 43-year-old wife and mother of 3 who did something extraordinary. I ran the Chevron Houston Marathon. But I got so much more out of it than running 26.2 miles.
Rewind to 2012. I joined a running club in my town of Cypress, Texas because I needed a hobby. I needed something to do other than being a wife, mom and elementary school art teacher. I needed something for me. I joined the local running club’s Facebook page first, and lurked. To my surprise, there were short, fat, tall, skinny, fast, slow and everyone in between that belonged to this club. I thought that I just might find a place to fit in here! They had a “No More Excuses to 5k” training plan, and I was interested. I’m not a runner. Runners are fast, and I am not fast.
When I joined this club and started running with the “No More Excusers”, I was quickly welcomed into the running club and was told, “You are a runner. You run, therefore, you are a runner.” I still had a hard time accepting that title. I met my first running club friend Jenna. She and I were about the same pace and we became “running buddies.” We set up times to meet and train for our 5K run. We ended up “graduating” early and started running races together and had the best time! There was always an adventure at a race with her from tripping over cones to accidentally splashing the water volunteers at the aid stations. Eventually, I had run my first 10K! I almost ran the whole thing, and I was proud. That was 6.2 miles and my furthest distance. I felt like a real “runner”.
Fast forward to May 2013. Jenna had found a new job in Dallas. I hadn’t really run with anyone else. I didn’t know that many people in the club, and I had this fear that the club was a cliquey club. You know, the fast long distance people are only friends with the fast long distance people and the slow people…you get the gist. She arranged her going away party and invited many of the club members to see her off. Lots of runners were there, even the really fast people. A few beers, a plank challenge, and meeting lots of great people who somehow talked me into registering for the 2014 Chevron Houston Marathon. Um, that’s 26.2 miles!!! I had only ran 6.2 miles to date. Holy cow.
I found out in June that I was…in. Yikes. I had some training to do! But with whom and where and how far and…oh my. What did I get myself into? I am going to die. Marathon was on the brain all the time. I started a facebook page “Diary of a Marathon Virgin” because my non-running facebook friends would get tired of me babbling on about running. I bought “Marathon” deodorant because it had the word “Marathon” on it. When they showed a “Marathon” running of Jersey Shore, did they show 26.2 episodes? I was consumed. Marathon everything. If you and I had a conversation, it would generally start out with, “Did you know I’m training for a Marathon?”
During my training I met some of the greatest people I know. They were my training buddies and best of friends. It’s amazing how close you can be with someone when you go for a long run of up to 18 miles at a time. Your family history all in 7 miles, especially if it’s a dysfunctional one. It was a tough time. It wasn’t easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it. My mom said I shouldn’t run, “We have bad knees.” We do, and I quickly found out that I had a bad knee, too. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I’m kind of stubborn like that. Really stubborn, that part is genetic too.
The entire training from July until January I was riddled with knee problems. From cortisone shots and knee braces to gel shots to cushion the bone on bone. I had no cartilage left. Doc said, not due to running, but from genetics. I ran 20 races in 2013. I ran most of them as part of the training “long runs” just for a change of scenery. I’m not fast. I knew I’d never podium or even get a top 10 in my age group. I did however run all of those races in lipstick and pearls. That sort of became the thing that I became known for. I just wanted to have my lips on in race pictures!
Well, I ran that Chevron Houston Marathon on January 19, 2014. It was slow, it was with the greatest of people, the best of fans,  my family and my Cypress Running Club. I took a selfie at every mile marker because I knew I would NEVER do this again and I wanted to remember each painstaking mile. The first two miles were fabulous! The rest of the 24.2 was pure HELL as my knee was in excruciating pain. Two huge blisters on the balls of my feet. Note to self, leave on the hard earned calluses when getting a pedi. There were times when my running buddies had their hands behind my waist literally pulling me forward. I applied lipstick twice on the route, the last at mile 25. I wanted to look good for the finish line…if there was anyone left. I crossed that finish line RUNNING! I did it…Wow. That hurt, but it hurt so good! I wanted to die.
That was my last race. 
It’s that time of year again and the Chevron Houston Marathon is next month. I love running and all that I’ve learned from it. The friendships I’ve made are forever and priceless. I’m one of the biggest “cheerleaders” for my running club. What I have learned is that all you can take with you is that of which you’ve given away. This running club had given me such much during a time when I needed it most. Now it’s my time to give back and cheer on my fellow runners.
Fast forward to today. I took up cycling. I had to find something to keep me active and out of trouble. Hundreds of miles cycled and a partial knee replacement over Thanksgiving.

This is my journey. Where I’m going, not sure. Running? Maybe, but after several months of physical therapy. Cycling, yes. I do know that 2015 will involve lipstick, pearls, humor and a few miles. Come join me. 

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Jennifer Johnson

Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, now transplanted in Cypress, Texas. I'm a Wife, Mom of 3 teenagers, Elementary Art Teacher, former runner, turned cyclist. With every activity I do, I always wear lipstick and pearls. I may not be fast, but I'm going to look good at whatever I'm doing!