October 6, 2023

MCM Diplomat, Jessica Hood: Embracing Long Distance Running

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My running journey started when I was 17. I had been a competitive dancer growing up and played golf competitively in high school, but as I saw those sports coming to a close, I looked for something new that I could take into college as a hobby. It was funny that I chose running, because truly, you couldn’t pay me to run a mile for fun anytime before the age of 17. I remember when I was on the cheerleading team in middle school, we had to run a mile in under 10 minutes. I barely made it with a 9:48. Somehow, I still decided to give running a fair shot as I transitioned into the college environment. 

Not only did I need a hobby that would keep off the freshman 15, but I needed something that would work as a stress reliever and give me time away from the busyness of school. Running started as a solo hobby for me – I don’t think I ran with anyone else until at least 3 years into the sport, which is crazy, considering my love for the running community today. With classes, studying, social events and extracurriculars filling my schedule, I made time almost every day for a run where I could distance myself from reality. Soon, the 3 mile runs became 6 miles, then 9 miles, and eventually I built up the confidence to sign up for a half marathon.

I ran my first half marathon the fall of my sophomore year in 2018. I thought my running journey would level out there and I would continue to run as a hobby, but nothing more. I’m not sure how I ended up signing up for my first marathon in 2020, but I guess one day I clicked register and that was the end of running being just a hobby. As you might have already guessed, that marathon was canceled given that it was supposed to occur at the height of the pandemic. I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to put all of my training to use during a race, but that didn’t stop me from using running as a hobby during the pandemic. I was home in Pittsburgh for the summer and my mom would bike next to me as I ran miles upon miles along the three rivers. It became my escape from a world of sustained uncertainty as 2020 came to a close.

In the spring of 2021, I re-signed up for the marathon that I was supposed to conquer 1 year prior. Covid-19 restrictions were still in place, so the race was small with sparse crowds, but that didn’t stop me from crossing the finish line. I had my closest college friends and my mom there supporting me when I finally earned the title “marathoner” that day. Even though the race day energy was probably the lowest I’ll ever experience being part of the running community, the exhilaration of finishing my first marathon was unforgettable.

I crossed the finish line that day unsure of whether I would continue to run marathons. Half marathons, sure that seemed doable, but the amount of time that went into training for a marathon was so intense that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fit it into my schedule once I started my full time job in Washington, DC later that year. I moved to DC in August of 2021 and started my 9-5 as a business analyst. I loved my job, but I needed something to keep me busy and healthy outside of work, so I started increasing my mileage. Soon enough, I found myself signed up for another marathon, this time in the city that I grew up in: Pittsburgh. 

I didn’t even look at the course map (hello hills) or event details before signing up, but I knew my parents and some of my extended family would be there to support me and that was all I needed to hit register. I started running all over DC, slowly increasing my mileage from a casual 5 miles to as long as 20 miles. This was around the same time that I started posting on social media. 

People often ask me how I got into social media as a side hustle, and my answer is always – it kind of just happened. I was posting videos not to go viral or to gain a following, but to document my marathon training journey and to motivate myself to try new and fun places in DC. I was still new to the city, so exploring the city through running combined with having friends that were always down to try a new restaurant gave me a lot of content to make.

I hit 10k followers on TikTok in March of 2022, just 2 months after I had started posting on TikTok. Then, when I ran the Pittsburgh marathon, one of my videos went viral, and for good reason. You may have already seen this video without even knowing that it was me (ESPN and Shaq reposted it!) but I’m sure you got a laugh or two. My mom was in charge of my race day fuel for this race, and she made a valiant attempt at the handoff, but it wasn’t exactly successful. With her loving mother’s energy, she tried to throw me a Cliff block thinking that I could reach down and grab it, but instead she almost whacked me in the head. My dad captured this moment on video and to this day, every time I watch it, I crack up and also smile at how much love my parents have for me. I also forgot to mention – this entire marathon was done in the pouring rain – after that, I felt unstoppable and that I could conquer anything.

After the Pittsburgh marathon, I continued to post running and DC content for the audience that had chosen to stick around. I started meeting people in DC on the streets that followed me and had been inspired by my videos. It happens at least a few times a week these days, and I’m always so happy to meet people in person. If you want to make my day, tell me that one of my videos inspired you to do something, and I’ll use that as motivation to keep going when it gets tough.

Over the past year, I’ve continued to engage with the running community in DC in many different ways. I started attending run clubs and even hosting my own. I met so many cool people through the running community and have developed relationships that go beyond the miles we’ll ever run together. I’ve run races in DC and have shared my favorite routes to run because, as someone who was previously new to DC, I had no idea where to go for the best running views. 

Then in April of this year, I ran the Big Sur Marathon which was absolutely iconic. I struggled with a few injuries throughout that training cycle, so I never ran more than 13 miles prior to race day. I gave it my all on race day despite the challenges of hills and wind and simply enjoyed the beautiful views of the ocean. For the first time ever, I broke my rule of not walking during a race. I learned that there are times when you should continue to push yourself, and other times when it’s okay to just enjoy the moment and not worry about your finish time.

Now, I am training for the Marine Corps Marathon and I am so excited to be running a marathon in the city that I call home today. I’ve run shorter races here, but I’ve never experienced the joy of running a marathon and having so many friends here locally to cheer me on. My plan is to map it out before and have friends stationed all over the course – I’ll definitely need the encouragement! I truly believe that DC is one of the best cities to run in and I am so pumped to take on the challenge of the MCM. 

The most important part of my running journey is that it doesn’t stop with the races I’m running, nor is it really even about me. It’s about the running community that I’m building in DC and online. I post my runs online to inspire others to try out running, whether they are seasoned ultra marathoners or just lacing up their shoes for their first run since high school gym class. Every time that I get a message or someone tells me in person that I encouraged them to run, it makes my heart so full. I myself am not a very fast runner – and I’m trying to break that stereotype that you have to be fast to consider yourself a runner. Your pace does not define your running journey. While I run a lot of miles, I want to continue to be relatable and approach running from a relaxed, fun perspective. That could mean doing crazy running challenges to get through your long runs, or it could mean swapping a happy hour meetup for a run with friends. Because that is truly why I run – not only for my own health, but to be a part of a growing, ambitious community that doesn’t take running *too* seriously.

If you see me running the Marine Corps Marathon this year – along the course, at the starting line, or (hopefully) crossing the finish line – say hey! I would love to meet you. And while I love racing myself, I also thrive off of race day energy and cheering others on. This year, I’ll be spectating the Chicago, New York, and Philly Marathons – so once again, come up to me and introduce yourself! I am so grateful for how my running journey has evolved over the years and I’m even more excited to see how it continues to grow. See you at MCM 2023!

Jessica Hood is a MCM Diplomat. She is an avid runner and content creator based in Washington, DC. She has run 2 marathons and hopes to complete two more (including MCM!) in 2023. When she isn’t running, working her full time job in finance, or creating content, she loves trying new restaurants and activities in DC with friends and playing tennis and golf. You can follow her on Instagram @jessrhood and TikTok @jessicarosehood.

Register for the Marine Corps Marathon Weekend

Recognized for impeccable organization on an iconic course managed by the US Marines in Arlington, VA and the nation’s capital, the Marine Corps Marathon is one of the largest marathons in the US and the world. Known as ‘the best marathon for beginners,’ the MCM is the largest marathon in the world that doesn’t offer prize money, earning its nickname, “The People’s Marathon.” The weekend also offers the MCM10K and MCM50K.