New Jersey freelance writer Jen Miller last appeared on Lake Effect in a Fit For You segment tackling the myth of the “runner’s body.” Her New York Times article, Crossing the Finish Line 25 Pounds Lighter, addressed Miller’s journey through weight gain and loss while competing in marathons.
Miller recently took a break from her usual freelance article format to take on her own story in a witty and candid account of her lifelong relationship with running. Running: A Love Story explores the many ups and downs of Miller's personal life while her relationship with running changed from something she hated into a path to empowerment.
"I never liked to run for the sake of running because it just felt boring, and it was hard!," Miller recalls. When she was younger, running served as punishment whether for mistakes during sports practice or forced conditioning runs around the block.
Miller decided to give up running once in college and didn't return to it until paid to train and complete a 5K race for an article.
At the time of her first 5K, online running coaches were the latest thing to explore. It was in her training that Miller learned how to run and "started to appreciate what this great thing is."
Miller soon added more races to her calendar and used running as an element in her life that she could control, especially while her personal life was greatly affected by abusive relationships; and family and financial troubles.
"Running was something that I first used to get past something, and continued to in the instances in this book," says Miller. "But eventually I came to realize that the constant was running, that it was always going to be there even when everything else was sort of falling apart."
While revisiting these tumultuous times in Miller's life was a challenge, it was an even bigger test for her writing skills. Compared to article or travel guides, writing a personal story at length "was a lesson of memory being faulty and how much work goes into a book like this," Miller says.
In addition to putting down her physical and emotional struggles on paper, it was an even more intimidating aspect to share her story with not just the public, but family and friends who did not know the full extent of some of her hardest times.
"If you think it's too hard, do it," Miller states. "I was scared to write this book because it's obviously incredibly personal...but I'm glad I did...It's just been a positive thing, and I think that's the case with running too. I didn't want to run a marathon because it scared me, and now I've run six."
Miller hopes that her book can show what people can accomplish, no matter the circumstances.
"I've gotten emails from people who read my book and signed up for their first race, so if that's the kind of response this book is getting that's great," Miller says. "I'm glad that I took the risk and I'll keep taking those risks until somebody says 'no.'"