By Sarah Gooding • Photos by Mandy Edmonson
Once Jodi Garner discovered a passion for running, she never looked back.
“Running is true therapy for me,” she said. “The smell, the sounds, the sights and the places running can take you bring me joy. Running helps me stay grounded and centered.”
It wasn’t always this way.
Garner ran in high school but described it as, “just something to do with friends.”
She did some recreational running in college, but it wasn’t until about 5 years later, when she and her sister took on training for the Trifest for MS in Bentonville, Arkansas, that running rose to the top.
“That’s when I found my love for running,” Garner said. “I was doing all the different disciplines, and running was my favorite.”
Meeting other runners sealed the deal.
“It’s the people,” she said. “The running community, the triathlon community, everyone is so supportive. You could be first place or last place, but nobody cares. That’s what’s so special about it. It’s about challenging yourself rather than always racing against someone else.”
Over the next few years, Garner began signing up for 5k’s, then 10k’s and half-marathons.
“After accomplishing a certain distance, I wanted to push for another distance,” she said. “I just wanted to challenge myself a little bit more.”
She continued to progress in her distances, building up to 18 and 20 miles, but her first full 26.2 training run didn’t go as planned.
“The next couple days afterward, I didn’t feel very good,” she said. “I didn’t know I was pregnant when I did it. I actually found out about two days later.”
The discovery that she and her husband were expecting their first child led Garner into a new chapter of learning to give herself grace in her running.
“As runners, we are hardest on ourselves,” Garner said. “We set the largest expectations, and in our minds, we expect our bodies to perform a certain way all the time. Even throughout pregnancy, I continued to train, because I still expected my body would perform the same. I finally had to retrain how I thought, and learned to focus more on tuning into my body, my effort and how I felt.”
But less than a week after her daughter was born, Garner was ready to get back to running, and in the past 8 months, her daughter has grown accustomed to napping in the jogging stroller as she trains for her upcoming goals. Garner’s plans include a half-Ironman scheduled in June and the rescheduled Joplin Memorial Half-Marathon in December, where she hopes to set a half-marathon PR. She also is tentatively considering the Oklahoma City Marathon for her first full-marathon race.
It’s not easy, but she said the balance is worth it.
“It’s a juggle,” Garner said. “I think my training is what comes last. Family comes first, and then work and then training. I definitely don’t get in as much training as I would like or as much as I put on my schedule. I’m learning to be more flexible and how to adjust my schedule to make things work with putting her as the priority.”