We are proud to introduce you to Jessie. And we asked her to tell us a little bit about her:
I am the founder and coach of Girls Run NYC, a women's running collective in New York City. Girls Run NYC is centered around empowering women through community and sport while providing a foundation for distance running through track based training. I began marathoning as an adult after approaching distance running with the New York City Bridgerunners in 2005. I also co-founded a members only running group the Black Roses in 2012 with a focus on training adult runners (both new and experienced) for goal races from one mile to ultra-marathons. I am an Art Therapist with youth and young adults and enjoys cycling, painting and photography when I am not running.
Who or what encouraged you to run?
I first ran in junior high school and ran the 100 meters. I had no idea that I was fast until I ran on the track, and the feeling of almost flying was incredible-- I can still imagine it all these years later. Later when I got into distance running it was the feeling of breaking barriers that I had created for myself that made me feel encouraged and addicted to running.
How do you use running in your life?
I made running an integral part of my lifestyle. I do it for therapuetic benefits, to find creativity, to build community and encourage other women to be BOLD. I coach Girls Run NYC a weekly open workout for women that is track based. I support community running efforts and have been creating running events and activations for a long time in New York City. I stay fit and balanced through running.
What is the most empowering thing about being you?
Women have thanked me for "inspiring" them, and when I ask why I might be an inspiration to them I often hear them say that me telling my stories of my training and running journey encourages them because it seems do-able, accessible and relatable. If I am making endurance running accessible to people--then I feel really proud of that! I try to be open, I try to be authentic. I hope that my sharing of my life can encourage other women to make choices (and feel that they have choices) to be the best version of themselves.
Tell us about your first meeting with Kathrine Switzer.
I waited patiently for the Amtrak train to Boston on a Saturday afternoon in late summer. I was packed and ready and feeling nervous and excited. I was on my way to meet Kathrine Switzer in person for the first time. I knew that I had a million questions to ask. It was Kathrine who inspired me years back to talk to a group of about 200 women about women’s running. I remembered telling her story, which I had read about on her website (an excerpt from her memoir Marathon Woman). I would not have imagined on that day that I would be meeting her in person, and beginning to forge a friendship through running.
When I arrived in Boston I slowly made my way to Boylston St. It was Saturday night and people were dressed to go out. I looked down and casually see the Boston Marathon finish line, no pomp and circumstance there as it lives it’s every day existence before and after race day. I thought about meeting Kathrine and I snapped a quick photo. I remembered how this past Spring I crossed that same finish line, a few moments behind her.
I made my way to the hotel and checked in. Sitting on the side of the bed, I wondered what the next 24 hours would entail. The phone rang. A kind voice on the other end. It’s Kathrine. I could hardly believe that I was speaking to my running hero. She asked me was I hungry, could we meet for a cup of milk in the lobby and talk about the next day? We met in the lobby and talked for hours about running, women’s running in particular and everything from that first Boston marathon she ran, to running 800s now in preparation for the New York City Marathon this year. We talked about the power of running as a transformative tool for women—all types of women everywhere—and how we have experienced and witnessed it in our own lives and the lives of those around us. Over that next day we discussed everything about life, love, goals, successes, challenges and running. I was overwhelmed by how kind and giving Kathrine is. I also felt a real kindred spirit in spending time with her, and felt so honored to share the gift of running with one of the great pioneers and champions of our sport.
Name: Jessica Zapotechne aka Jessie Zapo
Occupation: Creative Arts Therapist and Level I USATF Coach // Global Ambassador for Adidas Women // Run Coach for Adidas Runners NYC
Location: New York City