Races and birthdays often go hand-in-hand, at least for runners. Whether it’s a challenging goal race, a favorite event or a run with friends, the energy and camaraderie of race day lends itself to celebration. Plus, races aren’t cheap, making them a nice treat (chafing, blisters and exhaustion included!) for your special day. In honor of her 40th birthday on Aug. 23, Jenna Powers decided to run 40 races throughout the year. But Powers wanted this celebration to be larger than her, and she wanted to help others. That is why the Seattle resident is also sponsoring race entries for 40 other runners.
“Racing has changed my life,” says Powers who turned to running when going through a divorce just before she turned 30. “Anyone can run any distance because all you need is a pair of sneakers. But racing can be expensive. I want people to know what it feels like to stand on a start line and cross a finish line.”
On top of Powers’ self challenge to run 40 races this year, this is also the third year she is participating in the Run The Year challenge sponsored by Run the Edge, meaning she plans to run at least 2,017 miles as well. She posted a message on the program’s Facebook page to offer the free race entries. So far, the 39-year-old has sponsored 20 runners. To apply, people send their stories to Powers. She then chooses those that are most compelling to her and registers the entrants for their race. While she isn’t personally meeting the entry recipients, she does ask them for race photos to share on her blog.
Powers is more than halfway through her own 40-race goal after recently finishing Badwater Salton Sea. She claims her goal feels aggressive in a good way.
“Since 2014, when I ran my first marathon, I feel as though my life really changed for the better,” says Powers, who works for Amazon. “I did a 100-miler last year, and wondered what could I possibly do that’s bigger. Forty races seemed pretty significant and daunting since I have to race pretty much every weekend.”
Powers travels frequently for work. She already had some events on her calendar, meaning scheduling races to meet her goal has taken thoughtful planning. She kicked the year off by running the four-race Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World with some friends. A long-term dream is to run Western States Endurance Run, so she ran the Black Canyon 100K as a qualifier. Convenience is also a factor. When a business trip took her to Dubai, she was able to run the Dubai Marathon. A trip to Europe coincided with the Manchester 50K in England.
The Badwater Salton Sea was the last big event on her calendar. Now that it’s over, Powers is cutting back to three races per month, instead of five. She’s also filling out the rest of her race calendar for the year. Race 40 will be the Runner’s World Half Marathon in October. Powers says that several of her girl friends are running with her. Her mom is even running the 5K. Her husband, who isn’t a runner, cheers from home.
“He is very proud of me, but thinks I’m nuts,” says Powers. “He was there for my first marathon and my first 100-miler.”
A challenge with running any race, much less 40 of them, is managing training and recovery. Powers has been in marathon training mode for the past three years, so she is used to the miles and has a solid base. For this challenge, she works races into her training plan. She is forcing herself to look at every race as a training run and admits PR’s aren’t the goal (although her current marathon PR is 4:13), at least for this year.
Powers works with a trainer twice a week for weight sessions. Otherwise, she does all of her training on her own and is good about listening to her body and adapting when necessary. She runs six days per week, usually in the morning, averaging 40 to 50 miles weekly. Stretching and massaging are not a part of Power’s training plan, but she does make it to yoga about once a month. Given her solo training style, Powers thinks that being with other people may be one of the reasons she enjoys racing so much.
Powers is already planning her future goals and has some big ideas in mind. Running the Western States Endurance Run and qualifying for the Boston Marathon are at the top of her list.
“Qualifying for Boston is a big, crazy goal. But I’m putting in the miles and getting faster.”