How Running Changed Me – Jill Angie – runnersworld.com

How Running Changed Me – Jill Angie  runnersworld.com

Name: Age: 54
Hometown:
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Occupation:
Plus-size run coach
Time Running:
25 years
Reason for Running:
Because I can!


I started running in 1997 when I was 29 years old. Originally, I started doing it for weight loss. But after a while, I just fell in love with how it made me feel.

I was embarrassed at first to run in public, so I ran after dark, doing laps around my block. I also struggled to find running gear in my size. This was way before the body-positive movement, and I didn’t know anyone else my size who ran. Eventually, I got past my self consciousness and ran my first 5K in 1998 and was so proud of myself for finishing! After that, I was hooked.

I started training before there were smartphones or even any training plans on the internet. I made up my own run/walk combinations, although I was always trying to run without stopping. Eventually, I was able to run seven miles without walking, but I was much faster when I did run/walk (and felt a lot better), so I decided to switch back to that method for good.

In the first few years of my running journey, there weren’t a lot of races around—not like it is now—but I did do a few 5Ks and 10Ks, and even did the Broad Street Run, a 10-mile race in Philadelphia, in 2003—before it became so popular you needed to enter a lottery to get a spot! I also started doing triathlons in 2010 which was really fun, as well as obstacle/mud runs.

I did my first half marathon in 2013 at the same time I was writing my first book, , on how to become a runner in a plus-size body. That’s when I started coaching women to start running, and a couple years later, Not Your Average Runner was born. I then reissued the first book under that title: . Then, in 2018, I launched the Not Your Average Runner podcast.

I am inspired to do all this because I want to help other women feel confident and strong in their bodies, and I wanted to create the running community that didn’t exist when I started 25 years ago.

The diet industry has such a loud voice in the fitness world, and I think many women believe that they need to lose weight before they do anything athletic (or before they can consider themselves attractive or worthy). I wanted to show that the opposite is true. You can be athletic and accomplish amazing things in the body you have right now.

I also wanted to spread the message that being a slow runner is still running, or that coming in last in a race means you finished! And that run/walk is a legitimate method of running.

I’m in awe of the women I’ve helped—they are brave and fierce! I have several clients who have completed 50 mile ultramarathons, and two who are in training for 100-mile races. They don’t look like what you’d think an ultrarunner looks like, but they are powerful, strong, and determined, and they can go the distance.

Brave and fierce doesn’t necessarily mean running 50 miles or more. The thing that I love about the women I help is seeing them go from believing running is too hard for them, to going on their first run and seeing the possibilities. That exact moment, when someone goes from ‘I can’t’ to ‘oooh, maybe I can,’ is my favorite thing in the world.

I was recently diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my hip and have been working with my trainer on exercises to help compensate for that. So my current running schedule is about two to three times a week for 30 minutes at a time, while I work through physical therapy. But in general, my schedule is running three to four times a week.

Now that in-person races are back, I’m looking forward to getting a couple half marathons on my schedule for early next year and training for the 2023 Philadelphia marathon.

In July, I’m traveling to Alaska for a trail running retreat with Run Alaska Trails. They’ve designed an inclusive event with Not Your Average Runner in mind: women over 40 who might be plus-size, slower, and/or new to running, and want a way to experience Alaskan trail running that meets them at their current skill and fitness level. It’s something I’ve never seen before and I’m really excited to be part of it!

Becoming a runner has changed everything for me! It’s given me confidence, strength, and taught me I can do really hard things. It makes me feel free, powerful, and brave. And oh, the endorphins! There is nothing like the way your body feels after a run.

And to top it all off, running has given me the most rewarding career ever! I was a corporate rat for 20 years before quitting my job to become a coach. At a time in life when most folks are looking towards retirement, I’m just getting started. My goal is to help a million women start running!

For beginner runners, I recommend finding a coach (or a plan made by a coach) who reflects you. So if you’re plus-size, find someone to guide you—whether it’s an Instagram account, a podcast, a book, a training program—who has either been in your shoes or successfully coached a lot of people just like you. You want to find someone who understands the specific challenges you are working with so that you can make progress and feel empowered and confident.

If you’re a plus-size runner, it’s important for you to be seen. You never know who you might inspire. When you show up, other people realize that it’s okay for them to do it too, and the cycle continues.

Courtesy Jill Angie


These three tips have made my running journey a success:

1. Celebrate the wins

I used to feel like I wasn’t a real runner because I’m slower and do run/walk intervals. It’s easy to criticize your running practice and compare yourself to others, which takes you down a rabbit hole of discouragement. To counteract that, I take time after every run to find a win, even if it’s simply that I got out there and did it.

2. Stop fearing last place

When I first started doing races, coming in last was my biggest fear, and that kept me from doing things that I wanted to do (like entering a triathlon). Once I realized that the last-place finisher still does the whole distance and has every right to feel as proud as those in the front, I stopped being afraid of it. I’ve come in last in two races and had the biggest smile on my face crossing that finish line.

3. Incorporate strength training

Strength training is everything, especially if you’re a plus-size runner and/or over 40! It will help you prevent injuries, keep your bones strong, and improve your running form.


: I’m a 42H, and this bra allows me to run! It’s a highly rated motion control bra, is very durable and well made, has very inclusive sizing, and Enell is a woman-owned business.

: They are cute and make me feel like I’m ‘dressing up’ for my runs! Sometimes I’ll wear them out for errands too because they’re not just comfy for running—they’re great for living life. They have big pockets for your phone and other stuff, and are well made.

: The best running gloves around. It’s easy to free your fingers if you want to use your phone, or if you’re just getting a little warm on your run. They’re lightweight and well-made!

: If it’s hot out, or I’m running long and losing a lot of sweat, I feel so much better if I toss one of these tablets in my water either during the run or afterwards. They’re easy to carry and taste great too!


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Emily Shiffer is a freelance health and wellness writer living in Pennsylvania. 

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