Just a few years ago, running any kind of marathon wasn’t even on Jennifer George’s radar. But once the 47-year-old Sandy resident picked up the sport of running, she put the New York Marathon on her bucket list.
She realized that goal Nov. 2 when she finally competed in the 26.2 mile race through the five boroughs of New York City.
“It was an amazing place to race,” George said. “To see all the people running the race and all the fans who came out to cheer made it a very special day.”
What made it more special to George was the support of her father, John. He ran his first New York Marathon when he was 43, and ended up running the race six consecutive years – one for each of his children – between 1983 and 1988.
“He was my inspiration,” George said. “I loved seeing his medals from those races.”
George at first hadn’t followed in her father’s footsteps in becoming a runner.
“I wasn’t doing much, in the form of exercising,” she said.
But her husband, Scott George, was running and entering races. He decided to sign her up for a marathon relay race that had her run a five-mile leg of the race. He then signed her up for a half marathon. The races got her hooked and pretty soon she was running more half marathons, then added full marathons.
“My first marathon was four years ago,” George said. “I had signed up for a half marathon that day, then decided to try to run the full distance.”
She didn’t tell anyone of her plans to run the distance, and once she had completed her first marathon, she wanted to share the news with her dad.
“I called him as soon as I finished the race,” she said. “He was very excited that I had done it.”
As she continued in her new love of running, she began to think about doing what her father had done and run in New York. When her father, now 76, was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, she knew she had to do it, partly to honor him and also so he could see her run, as he lives in New York City.
“His cancer was diagnosed early, so now he is doing better,” George said.
But because of the popularity of the New York Marathon, runners have to qualify to be able to take part in the race. Over 50,000 runners competed this year alone. George had to finish a half marathon with a time of one hour, 42 minutes to qualify for the race.
“I am not a real fast runner,” she said. “But I completed a marathon in Sandy with one minute to spare to qualify.”
Running the New York marathon was unlike any of her previous marathons here in Utah.
“Many marathons in Utah are run in very scenic areas, so it makes it fun to see the area surrounding you,” George said. “But we don’t draw a lot of spectators for our races. In New York there were people lined up on both sides of the street the full distance. You can’t believe the energy you get from strangers cheering you on the entire way. It was a cold and windy day, but the crowd, and knowing my father, husband and son were at the finish line, helped me to keep going.”
George said she came over one bridge and turned the corner to find bands playing and even more spectators cheering.
“That moment felt just like I was running in the Olympics,” she said.
George has now completed 14 marathons in the last four years, including five this year alone. She isn’t ready to slow down and has a half marathon planned for the end of November.
“Even if you haven’t run before, it is an easy sport to get into and has great health benefits,” she said. “We have a lot of running groups in Utah, and they are designed to help people get started. Even if you can only run a half mile at first, people are there to encourage you and help you to run further. All you have to do is take that first step. There is such a camaraderie with runners, and it is easy in Utah to meet up with others that can help you along the way.”