developing a passion for running with Jennifer Sullivan


Going the distance, with Jennifer Sullivan, CNP

I am a passionate runner, three time Boston Marathon finisher and a women's health nurse practitioner at Allina Health. Here I share with Healthy Set Go my experience running the 2013 Boston Marathon and how I manage to log miles and balance a demanding career. 

Editor: How did you develop a passion for running?  

Sullivan: I ran track and cross country for a couple of years in high school but mostly did other sports growing up. In college, I was on the crew (rowing) team and did a lot of running for cross training, that's where I really go into running longer distances. I was hooked after running my first marathon (Grandma's Marathon) in college with a few friends!  

Sullivan running in the Twin Cities

Editor: Where are your favorite places to run in Minnesota?  

Sullivan: My favorite place to run is the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes; mainly Lake of the Isles, Calhoun and Harriet. I think Minneapolis is unique in that we have access to nature in the heart of our city. I also enjoy running at my family's cabin up north, it's quiet and peaceful.  

Editor: What is your favorite road race?  

Sullivan: Twin Cities Marathon. I love running the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes and it is so fun running a familiar course. It's also great because there is so much fan support running in your home town. I also qualified for the Boston Marathon twice on this course.

Editor: That's a great accomplishment! Have you run the Boston Marathon?  

Sullivan: Yes. I've qualified for the Boston Marathon five times and run it three. The Boston Marathon is always so exciting, the history of the race, the city, the fans—there is so much hype it's just incredible!

  • Grandma's Marathon 2006 3:26 (Boston qualifying)
  • Twin Cities Marathon 2006 3:16 (Boston qualifying)
  • Boston Marathon 2007 3:20 (Boston qualifying)
  • Boston Marathon 2010 3:35 (Boston qualifying)
  • Twin Cities Marathon 2012 3:29 (Boston qualifying)
  • Boston Marathon 2013 3:59

Sullivan running Boston

Editor: What was your experience at the 2013 Boston Marathon?

Sullivan: The morning started out great, it was cold but sunny, perfect running conditions. I ended up not running very well and having some foot problems, so was much slower than I typically would have been. I crossed the finish line in just under four hours and was at the bus getting my gear bag about a block from the finish when the first bomb went off. I could feel the ground shake and heard the bomb. 

Everyone was really confused as to what was going on. I remember thinking maybe it was fireworks for a second and then I realized it was a bomb. It was chaos; people running away from the finish, smoke and sirens. My parents and grandma are my super fans and have been there for every Boston I've ran, so they were there. Luckily, I was able to get connected with my parents by cell phone right away and we all walked back to our hotel.  

Usually the whole city is celebrating after the marathon and it's a big party, this was different, there was a very somber mood and the city basically shut down. What was amazing was the way everyone came together that day and since then, from law enforcement to the people of Boston and runners everywhere. I think people's response to the tragedy is a huge testament to the strength of humanity. The Boston Marathon has continued and isn't defined by that event but instead by the beauty of running and the camaraderie and togetherness of people from all over the world; that is the spirit of the Boston Marathon that lives on.  

Editor: What's the most rewarding part of running for you?  

Sullivan: The friendships I've developed. My friends and I like to think we have solved a lot of the world's problems on some of those long training runs! I also find it rewarding to push my physical limits.

Editor: How do you find time to run and train with a demanding career as a CNP?  

Sullivan: I make plans to run with a friend at least a couple of times per week and that holds me accountable. I've also turned my husband on to running so we run together sometimes too. Running turns into a social time and that makes the time pass quickly. In the summer I'll run before work (early!). If I do it first thing in the morning then there isn't anything that can get in the way of my run.   

Editor: What keeps you motivated?  

Sullivan: Staying in shape and keeping my mind and body balanced and healthy. I'm always happier when I'm running! The running community is very active and keeps me inspired too.  

Editor: What's your biggest hurdle to training?  

Sullivan: Minnesota winters, hands down. I much prefer to run outside than on the treadmill but the winter snow, ice and cold can be prohibitive.  

Editor: Describe your workout routine.  

Sullivan: I'm not training for anything now so I'm running about four to five times per week, anywhere from three to eight miles. I mix in yoga too. As the weather warms up I hope to get out on my road bike as well.  

Editor: Any plans for races in 2015?  

Sullivan: I'm planning on running the Endless Summer Trail Run Series. It's a trail running series of five races over the course of the summer at local city parks. Hopefully, I'll run the TC 10 Mile this fall, that's one of my favorite races and distances.  

Editor: What advice would you give to a first time marathoner or someone just starting out?  

Sullivan: Take it slow and make it fun. Join a running group or find a buddy to run with. A group of people will help keep you committed and motivated. Slowly work your way up, start with a walk/run if you need to. Sign up for a race, whether it be a 5k or a marathon. A race gives you a goal and a focus; it's the prize at the end, a culmination of hard work. I've always found races inspiring, there's something about a group of people all out there for the same purpose.  


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