Phit's Interview with Jenn Berry – January 2014

Jenn Berry, Physical Therapist and Marathoner (among other things)

Phit spent some time this month talking to Jenn Berry about her running history and philosophy. If you have ever thought about running a marathon (or 1/2 marathon, 10K, etc.), you should read Jenn’s interview and then register for that race!

How long have you been a runner?
I started running in high school. In middle school I played basketball and wasn’t very good but I was fast. My coach suggested I try cross country. I loved it and was hooked and I have been running ever since.
How many marathons have you run?
This fall I finished my 3rd marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC.  About 2 weeks before the race, the race organizers announced that there was a possibility that the race would be cancelled due to the government shutdown because much of the course is on national monument roads.  I have never paid such close attention to a budget deal in Congress in my life!
Why do you run marathons?
This is a tough question for me because there are a lot of reasons. Since I LOVE to talk about running, I’ll give you all of them!

  • As a life long runner, running a marathon was on my bucket list.  After my first marathon, I was hooked.  I love the training as much as the racing.
  • Many runners describe the feeling of a ‘runners high”.  It is that feeling you get where all of a sudden well into your run (for me, often 8-10 miles in), the running becomes effortless and euphoric.  It is an amazing feeling and it is totally addictive.
  • As an organized person, I love the structure of a training program. It is so clear to see what you need to put in to your workouts and the race results you get out of your training. Sure there are many nuances and little complexities of different training philosophies, but it is also so simple and easy. I love that balance and contrast.
  • The thrill and sense of achievement of completing a marathon is amazing. But there are so many small victories along the way; getting out for my daily run, finishing a workout strong and feeling good, completing each run for the week and meeting my mileage goal.  Every workout, every week, every training cycle puts me one step closer to my goals.
  • Some days I head out for a run and it makes me so happy and I feel so fortunate to be alive.  Running helps me to appreciate the simple things in life like a beautiful sunrise, the crunch of snow under foot, the first signs of spring, and warm summer evenings. I feel so lucky to live in a country where I can go out for a run alone and be safe.  I feel blessed to be surrounded by friends and family who support me and my passion for training and racing.

How did this marathon compare to others you have run?
We had perfect weather at Marine Corps this fall.  It was chilly in the morning but that is good for running since it keeps your core temperature down for a longer period of time. My first marathon was in Sacramento, California in December 2012. They usually have great weather but that year it was pouring rain with 50mph wind gusts. It was mentally and physically very challenging.  After that experience, every race seems easier.
How do you use your physical therapy knowledge to train?
As a physical therapist, I am constantly teaching others to be more aware of their bodies and movements. As a runner, a heightened awareness of my body’s subtle signals help me detect potential injuries early.  Of course training and racing hurt, but if you know the difference between ‘normal” and ‘abnormal’ pain you can detect a potential injury early and address it before it forces you to modify your training plan.  Many runners, including myself, keep a training log where we record how we feel during and after each run. This helps to detect patterns of unusual pain and catch issues early. It will also help you to reflect back on where you went wrong if you do end up injured.
What songs do you have on your playlist when you run?
I don’t listen to music when I run. I tried years ago when iPods first came out but I found the music to be distracting. I like to use the time while I am running to think and reflect on my day, my work or my training. My thoughts become much clearer while I run and it is often easier to think through big decisions or tough situations. People always ask me if I get bored. Sometimes the time does drag a little but then all of a sudden 2 hours have gone by and I have no clue what was going through my head.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to run their first marathon?
Start slow and be consistent. Your body needs time build strength and adjust to the stresses of running. Your cardiovascular system gets stronger and more efficient and your muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments get stronger too. Overuse injuries occur when we place repeated high levels of stress on a muscle or joint that is not accustom to being stressed.  If you build slowly, your body has a chance to adapt to the new stress and get stronger.  Runners often follow the 10% rule.  Increase your weekly mileage or total running time by no more than 10% each week.  It may seem slow initially but it is much better than being forced to take time off later due to an injury.


PTIS has expertise in treating runner injuries and helping runners achieve their potential. Make an appointment today and find out how physical therapy can help.