Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Alison Wade
Jessica Hoefert’s mother coaches her through the final miles of her first marathon from more than 300 miles away.
When Jessica Hoefert, 24, reached the 19-mile mark of the St. Jude Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 30, she knew that the last seven miles were really going to hurt. Though Hoefert ran 34:36 for 10,000 meters while at St. Louis University and qualified for the NCAA Championships twice, she said her first marathon was “harder than any race I’ve ever done.”
To make matters more challenging, Hoefert, who would ultimately finish sixth in the women’s race and 33rd overall in 3:11:34, had few competitors around her in the final miles. She ran with a female competitor from miles 21 to 24, but with about two miles left in the race, she was all alone, with few spectators on the course.
Hoefert knew she needed something to get her through to the finish, so she did what many people do in times of need: She contacted her mom. She knew that her mother, Jeanne Hoefert, was tracking her and was with her phone back home in Illinois, because Jessica had been receiving group texts from family members, including her four siblings, as Jeanne kept them all abreast of Jessica’s progress.
Without stopping to walk, Jessica FaceTimed her mom.
“I said, ‘Mom, I have two miles to go and I don’t know how I’m going to do it. My legs, I feel like they’re going to shut down and I don’t know if I can finish the race,’” Jessica said.
Jeanne says she was not concerned when she saw her daughter calling mid-race, because she knew exactly where she was on the course and that she didn’t have far to go.
“I said, ‘Oh my gosh, am I in the race?’” Jeanne Hoefert told Runner’s World by phone. “The strange thing for me is that there really weren’t any other runners around her. It was like she was on this solitary run.”
Jessica didn’t have the energy to hold the phone up to her face, but she did occasionally turn her phone around to show her mother some of the sights, including a hill she had to climb.
“She said, ‘Oh my gosh, Mom, this last stretch is uphill,’” Jeanne said. “I said, ‘You’ve got this! Hills are your favorite.’”
Jeanne—who has run a couple half marathons but says there’s no comparison between Jessica’s level of running and hers—helped Jessica count down the distance to the finish and provided general encouragement.
“I don’t even remember our exact conversation or what we talked about for 15 minutes, but just hearing her talk to me really helped,” Jessica said.
Jessica kept the call going all the way through the finish line.
“[My mom] was joking afterward and she said, ‘I’ve never run a marathon before, but I just crossed the finish line of a marathon the easy way,’” Jessica said. “She was definitely what got me through those last two miles, [which were] probably the two hardest miles of my life.”
Hoefert’s parents were disappointed that they couldn’t be at the race to watch their daughter run in person, so Jeanne said the call was the next best thing.
“It was just really fun that she wanted to share it with me. I couldn’t get over that,” Jeanne said. “She has people who really understand what she was doing that she could have called, but that was a very special moment for me, for sure.”
Hoefert is relatively new to the sport, having only started at age 19, and she’s already looking forward to running her next marathon. She played soccer through her sophomore year of college, before discovering her running talent when she ran 1:06:01 for 10 miles in her first-ever race off of only soccer training.
Hoefert, whose story was recently featured by The Telegraph, will soon begin her second year in the physician assistant program at Midwestern University. Since graduating from St. Louis University a year ago, she has continued to run consistently, but not as intensely as she did during college. She signed up for the Nashville race because four of her former college teammates were running it.
Hoefert was thrilled to qualify for the 2017 Boston Marathon in her first marathon, but she hopes to run a fall marathon before then—something flatter than the Nashville course.
Jeanne says she’d like to watch Jessica’s next marathon in person, if possible, but if she can’t, Jessica said she hasn’t ruled out future mid-race FaceTime calls.
“The next marathon I run, if she’s not there, I might do it again, just to keep the tradition,” Jessica said.