She once quit track because she was too slow; now she’s running the Marine Corps Marathon

Jessica Escobar, of Springfield, Virginia, never planned to be a runner. In fact, she hated running.

Standing at the entrance to a trail in Springfield that she likes to run on, Escobar said that in high school “I self-eliminated myself from track because I was one of the slowest people.” She added with a laugh, “I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m just not a runner.’”

About three years ago, she walked into a gym and got on the treadmill because “I didn’t know what else to do,” she said. “At the time, it was really just to get more fit and to be happier with my weight and that sort of thing.”

But something changed: “Every time I tell people this they get surprised, but I fell in love with running on the treadmill.”

Springfield, Virginia's Jessica Escobar talks to WTOP's John Domen ahead of running this year's virtual Marine Corps Marathon.

Within a few months she started taking her runs outdoors, and before she knew it she was running in races.

She started with 5Ks and moved up to 10Ks. “Every time I was like, ‘Well, I did this distance; I wonder if I can do a longer distance?’ And so then that’s how I ended up wanting to do a marathon.”

Escobar said running has taught her a lot about motivation and self-discipline, and what she’s capable of. She said she’s healthier not just physically, but mentally.

Jessica Escobar at the Baltimore Running Festival earlier this month. (Courtesy Jessica Escobar)

As a therapist, she finds running helps her clear her own mind and relax — both when she’s having a good day and when she needs to work out some stress.

She also likes the example it sets for her 12-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, the latter of whom used to find himself tagging along in the seat of his stroller when he was a toddler.

“Every day when I get up he’s like ‘Mommy, how many miles today?’,” she said. “And sometimes he’ll negotiate with me. I’m like ‘Well, just three’ and he’s like ‘No, do four!’ So he’s very involved and he watches everything I do.”

Her daughter brags about her mom’s first virtual marathon last year and promises to turn out for her again this year.

Escobar said marathon training is an incremental process.

“Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think ‘I’m going to go out and run a marathon.’ But … every Saturday I might just do one more mile than the one before. In the grand scheme of things it’s a lot, but if you just take it a little bit at a time it doesn’t feel overwhelming.”

“I went from barely able to run a mile or two on the treadmill to now pushing myself to do 26.2,” she added. “If you keep working toward your goals, it does get easier.”

That thinking is rubbing off on her kids, she said: “I do think that they are taking that from this, because they see how much work I put into it and that it’s made a difference.”

Last year, she ran a half-marathon before signing up and running the virtual Marine Corps Marathon. This year she’ll run the virtual event again.

The plan is to tackle it on what was supposed to be the actual race day, Oct. 31, with a group of at least 70 other runners she sometimes trains with. They’ll start at the Iwo Jima Memorial and run a pair of 13.1-mile loops that takes them past the monuments in D.C.

“I believe in myself more,” she said. “Something that I thought was impossible for me now is something I really love.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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