SHEFIT: Why don’t you start with an introduction; who you are, where you live, and what you love to do.
Jessica: I’m Jessica. I am 36 years old, proud mummy to my two kids, and a wife. I live in Melbourne, Australia. A few years ago, I declared to anyone reading on my Instagram page @thelongweighdownwithjess that I was going to run a marathon. I’m definitely not your typical athlete, yet it’s been a blast breaking down those stereotypes. I’ve been fortunate that my yarns have been so well-received that I almost feel like I have a 24/7 cheer squad thanks to my followers. I find writing cathartic and it’s a blessing to go on these running adventures and share them with the world. I’m now a sponsored athlete and I pinch myself when I get opportunities to be an ambassador for amazing brands and events. I love what I’m aiming towards and I’m thrilled to take so many people along for the ride with my stories.
SF: With all the choices of activities, why does running feel right for you?
JS: If you had asked me 2.5 years ago to try running, I would of flat out said, "That’s a no from me.” However, I was lost. I was drowning in a spiral of weight gain and low thoughts. So I went to my first parkrun, a free weekly timed 5km event. I survived! I went back the week after and improved my time. The spark was back. I wanted to keep showing up every week trying to improve. I was incredibly inspired by runners and their aspirations. I finally understood ‘marathon dreams.’ It was then that I audaciously declared that one day, some how, I am going to run a full marathon! Since that day, that’s been the goal that has driven me. Through every hard run, through the pain and ups and downs, the dream of crossing that marathon finish line motivates me every day, hour, minute and second!
SF: When you started your first steps into the race world, were you overwhelmed with the choices of gear? How important is the gear to help you get across the finish line?
JS: Finding appropriate activewear wasn’t easy at first. I was able to find some, but it wasn’t overly comfortable and would cause me some misery by the end. As time passed, I started asking more about what people were wearing or what they recommended. I was blessed when SHEFIT reached out to me to trial The Ultimate Sports Bra. It was an instant game changer and has been since that day. I now own multiple and preach them to anyone that I can. That goes for any good quality all-inclusive activewear brands. The companies that have introduced extended sizes to their brands will do wonders for world-wide health. Proper fitting activewear does wonders for your confidence and experience. Kudos to those that allow someone like me to show up and represent my size just like everyone else who’s there.
SF: How has being more active affected other areas of your life?
JS: Marie Kondo ain’t got nothing on the sparks of joy that I feel thanks to being more active. I was caught in a storm of negativity. I was easily angered and full of excuses. Now, I appreciate any opportunity to make positive memories. I am proud that I’m showing up instead of waiting and wishing for another time. I’m happy, I’m focused, I’m achieving more than I ever thought possible, and I’m living. It’s nice to reflect on what I’ve accomplished and it’s exciting to look forward to what is coming next.
SF: You are always smiling on your social channels. When you cross the finish lines, you are absolutely beaming. Can you explain the the mentality behind your big smile despite having just finished a race?
JS: In all honestly it’s just pure happiness that I’m finishing. I’m genuinely happy I didn’t give up. It’s now a rule to myself. No matter what happened out there on the course, in those last few minutes I let myself celebrate what I’ve just achieved. It could be my slowest time, a personal best, or a complete head-doer, yet I made the decision to show up, compete, and it really is a euphoric feeling achieving something that you once thought was impossible.
SF: What is your support network like? And how important is it to surround yourself with that positivity?
JS: I’m fortunate to have a husband that supports me and my aspirations. I’ve met some amazing people through parkrun and running events who blow me away with kindness and encouragement. Whether it’s joining me at the back of the pack, coming back for me, driving me to events or checking in on me after a tough outing, I know they have my back. I can’t imagine my life without these people and friendships now.
SF: You’ve been asked to be an ambassador for the Body Positive Stomp. Why don’t you tell us about the event and why you are so passionate to be a part of it.
JS: For so long I told myself not to go to ‘running’ events because they are for ‘fit’ people. Copious events later, I now see there’s literally room for all of us. Every BODY should have the opportunity to take part in these events and feel that sense of pride once they cross that finish line. Being asked to be an ambassador for the Body Positive Stomp at the Warburton Trail Fest embodies everything that I am working for. To show those watching that we can show up NOW, we don’t have to wait. So what if we are slower? We still covered the same distance as every other competitor.
SF: What are your goals for 2019, Jess? Besides physically training, how do you mentally prepare to tackle a new challenge?
JS: I make sure I always have an event to work towards. This year, it’s just about getting stronger, pushing myself to my limitations, and working towards a faster pace while also extending my distances. I think I’ll always be nervous in the lead-up to an event. In a way, it keeps me on my toes and I never take the opportunity for granted. I remind myself that I’m choosing to do this because I’m trying to live my life instead of settling for an early death. It’s still a constant battle, but I'm showing up and setting goals, so I know I'm heading in the right direction.
SF: Your journey has inspired many around the globe. With the platform you now have, what words of encouragement would you like to leave with readers?
JS: Whatever it is your wishing you could do, you can! You can do it your way. You don’t have to keep up with everyone else. You just have to do it within your limitations. Show up when you can, because you can. I hope I can continue creating a positive ripple in this world and more and more people catch the wave.
"I abused my body into a state of obesity ruins. I did that. Now. Now I’ll push my body into a state of redemption. I’ll push through the pain because it’s there no matter what. So I may as well try get further away from it. I’ll push my self through all the self doubt that I can’t do it. Because I’m doing it. I’ve done it. I’ll keep doing it! Pain sucks. Hurting sucks. Redemption will be sweet. Health will be rewarding." Jessica Hay