Meet new Chicago Athlete Ambassador, Jen Chintala! Jen is a transplant from New Jersey that resides in Geneva with her husband and twin boys. This speedy woman has some serious miles under her belt and it sounds like nothing will get in the way of her running shoes!
- You’re a runner, correct? When did you first get involved in running?
Yes. I’ve been running since middle school. Most of my older siblings ran through high school, so when I was ready to get involved in an activity, running seemed like a natural choice. I ran cross-country through high school and in to college but, to be honest, I wasn’t very fast or competitive at the time. As an adult, I’ve learned that pace doesn’t have to be a focus but, as a high school and college athlete, it was. My running really started to pick up in my late twenties and I started getting competitive after having my twins in 2011.
- You’ve run quite a few marathons in your day. Which one would you say is your favorite and why?
There are so many great ones. I’ve enjoyed Chicago, Boston, Twin Cities and NYC the most. If I have to choose just one experience, I’d say NYC 2019. I say experience because racing is about so much more than the race. For the NYC Marathon, I raised over $15,000 for charity in honor of my niece’s son who passed away at 7 months old. Traveling back to NYC and having my NJ-based family there for the day and for the celebration after was so special. It helps that I ran a PR that day, too.
- Give us a funny story about your early endurance/running days. Everyone starts somewhere and everyone has a story that a current newbie would likely appreciate!
Not necessarily a funny story, but one that influenced my running tremendously. When I ran cross-country in college, my coach told me I wasn’t cut out for running. As I mentioned, I wasn’t the fastest person, but I did try. As an 18-year old, this devastated me. I believed him, and I gave up on running for several years, not really picking it up again until my mid-twenties. A few years back, I contacted that coach. I told him of all of the successes I’ve had with running but also mentioned how much his words affected me. I wanted him to understand that words matter, especially when you are working with young adults. Don’t let someone else tell you what you are or what you can do. Show them what you’re capable of.
- What advice would you give to someone embarking on a fitness journey who could perhaps be struggling to reach their goals? Persistence is key. Keep showing up, even when you don’t want to. It’s been said many times before in running the first mile is the hardest and I’m sure there is a similar statement that can be made regardless of the activity you are doing. To this day, I still find this to be true and have to remind myself of this nearly every run. The key is to get out there. Not every activity will feel good. You won’t hit your desired goal during every activity. But, get out there and make it happen.
- What keeps you motivated to lace up your shoes and go out for a run every day?
The way I feel when I don’t run. Running makes me happy, and when I don’t run, I just don’t feel content. So, when I don’t feel like putting on the shoes and heading out the door, I think about how I’ll feel for the rest of the day if I chose to bail.
- What is your favorite distance to race and why?
I think the half marathon, although the marathon is a VERY close second. The difference for me is the training intensity. For half-marathons, the training is more manageable given my busy schedule. The longest run in a typical half-marathon training cycle is 12-14 miles, a distance I tend to do on the weekends even when I’m not training.
- You have a husband and twin boys. How excited do they get to watch mom race?!
My family is so supportive and I am grateful for that. Marathon training is time-consuming and it’s always a challenge to leave them so often, especially when my boys were little. They come to cheer me on as much as they can. There are times when, logistically, it doesn’t make sense and I’ve traveled to races alone – which I actually enjoy! But, for local races, or races I’ve infused in to already scheduled trips, or for the big ones – like Boston 2018 or NYC 2019, they are with me. The boys get excited because, although they don’t understand exactly what it takes to run a marathon, they see me training every day. They know it is an important component of my life, one that I put a lot of time and effort in to. I hope as they get older, they find a love for running and join me!
- What races do you have on the calendar this year?
Kentucky Derby Marathon April 24th and the Fargo Marathon in September.
- Being a born runner myself, I get this question a lot. Run with or without music/headphones?
I run with headphones most of the time. It’s not that I don’t enjoy focusing feel of the run and the sounds around me, but running is something I do for me and listening to music or books is an added jolt of happy.
- After a tough workout/run, what do you crave the most?
Pizza – always pizza. But I need a few hours. I’m not one who can eat after a run, but after a few hours I love the combination of carbs and protein and deliciousness of pizza.
- Outside of your running life, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?
I love to bake. I always wanted to open a bakery, but I know it’s tremendously hard work and it was never the right time. Now, I just love baking for my family and my friends. I find it extremely relaxing and the end result isn’t too bad either.
- What is your favorite meal, breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
Tough question – probably dinner. It’s a time to relax and unwind at the end of the day.
- What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I have a bit of an addiction to all gummy candy but particularly Swedish Fish. I attribute this to my mom who always had a bowl of gummy candy in the kitchen.