The Time I Accidentally Inspired Other People

I am participating in a sponsored campaign hosted by Advil®, as a part of the Advil® Relief in Action campaign. I received compensation for this post. While all opinions stated are my own, I make no claims about Advil® as a product or its effectiveness.


I never meant to inspire anybody with my running.

I just wanted to run. Or, really, I just wanted to move again, to feel my body and all of its parts working together for good after nearly two years of pain, both physical and emotional. A back injury that left me nearly unable to walk almost decimated my belief in myself, in my abilities, in my personhood. So when the doctors fixed me up and sent me on my way, I started putting one foot in front of the other again.

I kept on putting one foot in front of the other. Over and over. Slowly at first and for short amounts of time, I’d hit the road in my neighborhood or a local trail. I’d gain a little distance, lose a little speed and then gain a little speed and lose a little distance. I kept on going, kept on lacing up my shoes, kept on moving my body. Some days hurt as the pain in my back sorted itself out, worked its way back out of my body as I began to use muscles that I hadn’t used in quite some time. I pushed on, through the pain and, mostly, through the self-doubt.


12. 12 miles. Ah ha ha. #PicTapGo


And of course, because we live in this technological, share-it-all age, I tweeted. I updated my Facebook with monthly run totals. I shared photos of runs achieved — and runs failed — on Instagram. I blogged. I talked about it during weekly coffee meetings with close friends. They all encouraged me, cheered me on. I was the one being inspired by the love and encouragement of my friends, online and off.

Then, less than a year after my return to running, I ran my first half marathon. I felt pretty good about myself, inside and out. I felt new. I felt whole. I shared.


Love. #clemarathon #runjennarun



And then people shared with me.

“Your running has inspired me. If you can do it, I can do it. I’m going to run a 5K.” “You’ve inspired me to train for a half marathon.” “I’m going to start running because of your journey.” Multiple messages rolled into my inbox, all sharing this same theme. What I believed to be the simple — though difficult — act of running back to myself through residual physical pain and emotional barriers was inspiring others to do the same, to do more.

I blinked at my computer screen.

Me. Inspiring others. To go and do something more, to be more, to feel more. Me.

I haven’t always felt like the kind of person who inspires, who pushes people to do good, to be and do more. I’ve been the girl who looked to others. Even through this journey, I looked to the words and actions and sharings of others to find my inspiration: fast runners, accomplished runners, real runners. I wasn’t fast or accomplished and, most days, I didn’t feel real — despite having run 13.1 miles. And yet, here were others telling me that they had been looking to me, from the days when I started walking the neighborhood all the way through my training plan. Some weren’t planning on running — just moving more, just being more active, just getting up and going out.

I chased my boys through the yard a few evenings ago — something I wasn’t physically able to do in the midst of my worst days. Giggles pouring forth, I stopped and caught my breath, a smile on my face. Inspired to run or not, I hope that people understand that the point of my journey was more about this — being active with my family and being happy while doing it — was what inspired me most, was what became my relief in action on those days that I just didn’t want to get up and lace up and go out and run and run and run.


52 Weeks, Week 19


All of that said, it took inspiring others with my mere acts of getting up and running to remember the joy of helping and serving others. Or, maybe it was the day I was out running and my sons held up signs as I passed the driveway over and over — the joy on their faces evident. Now that I feel like me — inside and out again — I am reminded of the need to get out and help others feel like themselves again, and not just by posting running updates online.

One of our local pregnancy resource centers was destroyed in a storm last year. As you know, helping moms — young or old — be the best moms they can be remains a passion of mine due to my experience with my daughter, adoption and a system that doesn’t always work as it could or even should. As I thought about what my daughter might think someday, knowing that her birth mother runs half marathons, I made some calls to get myself back on the lists as a resource for mothers — pre-birth or postpartum — who are dealing with situations that often involve a lack of support, living below the poverty line, and sometimes scary domestic issues. If my simple act of running can inspire people to get up and go, then sharing my story, putting my arm around the shoulder of an expectant mom who feels alone and saying, “I’m here for you; this is my story,” can surely inspire as well.

The Advil® Relief in Action campaign honors and supports people who don’t let pain get in the way of helping others. You can Follow @ReliefinAction on Twitter and Instagram. Share how you see Relief in Action by posting a photo with the hashtag #ReliefinAction on Instagram and Twitter. Visit to learn more.



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9 Replies to “The Time I Accidentally Inspired Other People”

  1. I am among those inspired. Reading your I Run For Boston post did me in. My first 5K is this weekend.

    Thank you.

  2. You have absolutely inspired me to get running, my goal for 2014 is to run a half, spending the rest of 2013 just getting into the groove.

  3. We were driving to Chicagoland and looking for our exit. I commented that the number of miles between the exit we just passed and our exit was how many miles you run in a half-marathon. Lee paused, thought about it and then said, “That’s insane. And awesome.” ;-)

  4. Count me in among those inspired – and not just from all of the running! These virtual villages and communities, they’re really something else. Thanks for taking the time to share your journey with us!

  5. You’ve been a huge inspiration to me, too! So thank you. I was so happy when I saw this post. Don’t know why, but I was. Thank you. ;)

    1. PS – I suppose it’s also fitting that your blog is filed under my “Inspiration” folder in my feed reader. I have a handful of blogs in that folder and you’re one of them. Just realized this after I commented. So, it’s TRUE, lady!

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