The Running Journey of Jenna Kemp

“Don’t stop, get it get it!” You might here these words sung loudly if you’re running down the Riverwalk with Jenna Kemp.  This month marks Jenna’s 4 year anniversary at Big Dog Fleet Feet.  Since her first run with the Porch Dog to Big Dog program 4 years ago she has LOST 120 pounds (!!!) and has GAINED inner strength (!!!) and a loyal support system from the running community. 

Jenna is definitely one to be noticed as she walks through the doors at Big Dog 3 times per week with a smile on her face and a pep in her step ready to run.  She says it has become a habit that she looks forward to and she’s there whether it’s raining, 30 degrees or 90 degrees outside.

Sure enough the evening I ran with Jenna there had been an intense rainstorm right before the run started.  I remember thinking, “Are people still going to show up?”  Lo and behold the running group bravely showed and the sun began to shine.  The best part was as we ran down the Riverwalk we got to splash through the rain puddles like children.  Jenna said, “Running gives you an excuse to play in the rain. Little things like that give me hope.”

In January 2015 Jenna weighed 275 pounds.  Combined with high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, and being pre-diabetic, Jenna had had enough.  Her first step was she started walking on her own.  She admits that she could only walk for about 10 minutes and would hurt from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet.  Despite the struggle, she kept going and took her determination one step further by joining Max Fitness.  She took another step and started doing Zumba classes in June 2015 with Adam Bell whom she credits to convincing her to try out the Porch Dog program – which she says, “changed everything.  The program helped me realize I could do more than I thought.”

“When I first started the program there were so many days I wanted to quit because I was at the tail end.  I had a bad habit of comparing myself to other runners with thoughts like, ‘Why am I not there yet?’ But I eventually realized that this is my race, my pace.  What I do in between the start and finish is my business and no one else’s.  No matter how fast or slow I go, I’m still a runner.  I’m blessed that I can run.”

Jenna’s struggle with weight was not her only health issue that has caused obstacles in her life.  She has gone through anxiety, depression, PTSD from childhood trauma, been hospitalized, and has had a suicide attempt.  She says that despite the mental illness she still gets out and does things.  She is not ashamed to talk about her struggles and, if anything, talking about them out loud gives them less power.  Running and her support system continues to bring her out of those dark holes.  The way she sees it now is that she’s going to be struggling lying around in bed all day, so might as well get up and do something about it.  Since her running career began she is down to only one medication and alternates with essential oils as well.  Her other healing tools have been doodling, coloring, and journaling. 

“When I read my journals from years back I realize how far I’ve come.” 

 She continues to practice acknowledging her feelings and sitting with them.  She takes the negative that others have told her and turn them into a positive.

“The high I get before and after a run makes me feel better and keeps me sane.  Crossing the finish line gives me a high no matter my time.  I can forget everything else for a specific period of time. The friends I have met through running, at the gym, and at church are my family. If I can make one person smile throughout my day, I know I’ve done my job.” :)

She gives credit to her friend Kim King who would remind her to, “Don’t stop, get it, get it!”  And that she has been doing for the past four years. The first step out the door is always the hardest, but Jenna did it and continues to move forward and face new challenges for herself.  It can be easy to believe that we are alone with our struggles, doubts, and fears - but the truth is that we all carry these from time to time and we are NOT alone. These realizations are liberating as hell because they will enable us to stop making excuses, to walk out the door, and start moving forward with our heads held high.  Jenna is a prime example and reminder that we can do anything we put our minds to.

Jenna will be doing her first trail race next month – the O-Ma-Hot Trail Run at Providence Canyon.  And her biggest challenge this year will be to complete her first ever marathon, the Soldier’s Marathon, in November.  You got this girl!!  Happy 4 Year Anniversary, Jenna, and remember to don’t stop get it, get it!

To join our Porch Dog to Big Dog Program, please go to “Training Programs.”

-Charlotte Gallagher

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