Love Running? A Coach's 5 Mile-Tested Tips to Run Happy

Do you love running?

Maybe it’s your way to stay in shape.

Maybe you like the social aspect of running and racing with friends.

Or maybe you love running, because it’s your happy place to think and recharge.

  • If you love running, what’s the thing that motivates you to keep going?
Coach Jess Hofheimer wasn’t always a runner. She played sports and liked being active, but running wasn’t on her list of priorities. She smoked cigarettes, stayed out late almost every night, and liked partying with friends.

And then she reached one of those crossroads where everything changes.

Here’s what happened...

The Accidental Path to Love Running

“After college, one of my close friends died,” says Jess. “I wasn’t prepared to handle that kind of tragedy, and I didn’t have the tools to deal with it. I started falling into a deep depression and wasn’t coping with it in healthy ways.”

She was supposed to be living the good life.

Fresh out of college with a good job in Washington D.C., but the party lifestyle left her feeling empty, unfulfilled, and unhappy. 

🙄She knew she needed to make a change, but she needed some source of motivation, lifeline, or example to pull her out of that place.

And then it happened...

“I was thinking a lot about making some changes to get healthy again,” says Jess. “But I wasn’t sure where to start. Then I heard about a high school friend who was never really super athletic training to run a marathon. And she inspired me. If she can run a marathon, maybe that’s something I can do, too.”

The young Jess Hofheimer decided to run a marathon to break some bad habits and improve her life more than 20 years ago.

Run a Marathon to Change Your Life

Jess jumped into training for her first 26.2-mile marathon. 

She didn’t know a lot about what it takes to go the distance. She really didn’t even know if she could do it, but she was determined to try.

Twenty-plus years ago, marathon running wasn’t a well-known sport like it is today.

  • The Internet was in its infancy
  • Social media didn’t even exist
  • Runners didn’t have GPS watches and smartphones
  • And she didn’t know many marathon runners in her area
So how was she supposed to figure out how to prepare to run 26.2 miles in Philadelphia?

She bought the book How to Train and Run Your Best Marathon, laced up a pair of running shoes and set out to change her life.

“I quit smoking cold turkey,” says Jess. “I was ready to replace those unhealthy habits with good habits and set some goals. I knew it was going to require dedication. But I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.”

🏃‍♀️For the next few months, Jess followed a training plan from the book created by elite marathoner Gordon Bloch. 

  • She huffed and puffed her way through those early training runs, even though she felt tired and out of shape. 
  • She gradually increased her running time to prepare for the marathon
  • And then stepped up to the starting line.
“I crossed the finish line in a little over five and a half hours and finished the Philadelphia Marathon in November that year,” says Jess.

That was more than 20 years ago. 

Since then, she’s finished 20-plus marathons and several ultramarathons. And she’s helped hundreds of runners chase their running goals and reach the finish line.

“I was desperate to change my life,” says Jess. “When I look back, I think I was kind of naive about what it takes to train for a marathon. It was such a daunting thing to do for me at the time. I never thought it would lead to where I am now.”

Jess ran the Philadelphia Marathon more than 20 years ago, finishing in about five-and-a-half hours. Today, her marathon PR is 3:11.

Coaching Success

After that first marathon finish, Jess started to develop her own training plans to improve strength, speed and performance. And she cut her marathon PR down to 3:11, fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

She learned a lot. And when you love running like this, you want to help other people.

As a Road Runners Club of America certified running coach, she launched her coaching business, Pace of Me, to help train and inspire other runners to chase their goals.

Getting a runner to the finish line....

One of her clients was struggling with Crohn’s disease, and set a goal to run a marathon.

“Trying to be an endurance athlete with Crohn’s disease is really hard to manage,” says Jess. “She really had to learn how to support herself, especially how to manage what to eat and drink on long runs.”

When the Berlin Marathon got cancelled during COVID-19 shutdowns last year, her client could have given up on the goal to go 26.2 miles, but she didn’t. She found the Wineglass Marathon happening in New York just a week later and stepped up to the starting line.

“She ran a 25-minute PR after not running a marathon in over two years because of COVID,” says Jess. “She ran the final miles faster than the first miles, and came really close to breaking four hours, which was one of her goals. That accomplishment really helped her see the sky’s the limit if she keeps training and working hard.”

Q: What do you like about coaching?

Jess: “It’s such an honor to be part of the process with someone. Every runner I work with has bigger reasons to run than just checking off a race or distance on a bucket list.

Q: What’s your coaching process look like?

Jess: I like getting to know every runner, find out what their goals are and what their biggest obstacles are. Then I can create a training plan designed to help them see what they're made of. It’s part science, art, and cheerleader, and it brings me a lot of joy.

Q: What’s it feel like when you see runner’s achieve their goals?

Jess: It’s like I get a front-row seat to someone’s moments of self discovery. I get to see and help people really learn to love and accept who they are, and go after big goals.

Jess Hofheimer launched her coaching business, Pace of Me, to help runners build strength and endurance and finish races.

Advice from Coach Jess: 5 Tips to Be a Better Runner

Want to be a better runner? Train for your first marathon? Or learn to love running more? Here’s some advice from Coach Jess.

1. Honor the Effort

If you don’t set a PR or hit your goal time when you cross the finish line, it isn’t a failure.

“I spend a lot of time telling runners to honor the effort over pace or finish times,” says Jess.

"I spend a lot of time telling runners to honor the effort over pace or finish times"

—Coach Jess

2. Practice Race-Day Patience

Ever charge across the starting line running all-out like you’re trying to beat Usain Bolt? That might work for sprinting 100 meters. But if you’re training to run your first 5K, marathon, or set a PR, that might not be the best strategy.

“There’s nothing wrong with going out fast,” says Jess. “But for the marathon, especially, most runners need to learn to be patient and intentional about running. That puts you in control of your race. Then you can get brave and bold and put the hammer down when it’s time.”

3. Take Time to Recover

Ever feel like you need to sign up for more races as soon as you cross the finish line? There’s nothing wrong with that, but rest is just as important as training.

“I’m constantly telling people to take time off to recover,” says Jess. “The magic happens in the spaces between the harder efforts. That’s when those adaptations actually happen to help you get stronger and faster.”

“The magic happens in the spaces between the harder efforts. That’s when those adaptations actually happen to help you get stronger and faster.”

—Coach Jess

4. More Isn’t Always Better

Ever feel like you have to run all the miles, train every day, or maybe stick to the same high-mileage running plan week after week?

“More isn’t always better,” says Jess. “Just because you used to run 50 miles a week 10 years ago, doesn’t mean that’s what you should do now. You’re a different runner and different person than you were back then. Chances are pretty good you have different stressors and life circumstances. You have to allow yourself to evolve and change.”

5. Enjoy the Process

Ever get fixated on a specific finish time, PR, or distance? 

And that’s all you think about when you train? 

Aiming for 100 percent improvement or a perfect performance is a recipe for failure when you’re trying to juggle life, family, work, and everything else.

“Do your best every day,” says Jess. “Avoid getting stuck on a specific date or time to achieve a running goal. Instead, set achievable goals, work hard, and take care of yourself. It’s a lot more fun that way.”

“Do your best every day. Avoid getting stuck on a specific date or time to achieve a running goal. Instead, set achievable goals, work hard, and take care of yourself. It’s a lot more fun that way.”

—Coach Jess
Jess Hofheimer made a lot of mistakes a runner. But she's learned a lot over 20-plus years of running marathons to help others.

Fun Facts About Coach Jess

Toughest marathon
They’re all hard in their own way. It’s hard when you’re new and inexperienced. But it’s hard when you’re chasing a PR, too, and really pushing the limits.

Race distances
I’ve ran lots of 5K, 10Ks, and half marathons. I’ve finished more than 20 marathons, and I’ve ran two ultramarathons, including a 50-miler.

Last book I read
The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Training/race fuel
UCAN Energy gels

Favorite races
Favorite distance
I love racing the 10 mile or the half-marathon distance. Those are the best, because it's a mix of running comfortably for a while and running fast. And it’s over quicker.

Favorite running shoe
I have a shoe obsession. I have a lot of shoes. Right now I am really loving the New Balance FuelCell Rebel. It’s a great shoe for any kind of run. But I couldn’t pick just one shoe. They’re all awesome.

We Run on Art
I create portraits of runners to capture their favorite race moments. Last year, I set a goal to create a piece of art related to running every day for 100 days. It combines my passion for art and running in a really cool way.

Best piece of advice
I just love the running community and this sport. It’s for everybody. You’re never too old to start running or take a shot at your dreams. No dream is silly, just be prepared to fail a lot.

👉Do you love running? Tell us about it in the comments.

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Evan Jensen 252
SANDY, Oregon
1 Following

I help RUNNERS reduce injuries, fix running form, run longer & faster by strength training without running ragged. I'm a NASM-certified personal trainer, and hold the record for the most finishes at the Mountain Lakes 100-Mile Ultra in Oregon.


Rob Myers Nice job capturing this Rundown! Read it three times…

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