A sergeant first class in the Army Reserve for 13 years, Jennifer Racine has given much of her life to serving her country. Now, she has the opportunity to achieve one of her biggest goals in life — running the Boston Marathon — as a representative on Team USO.
Selected as one of four runners to represent the organization at the April 18 event, Racine is tasked with raising $20,000 toward the organization’s $100,000 goal to help service members stay connected to their family, home and country while deployed. Since 2018, finance company John Hancock has gifted four invitational entries for the marathon to the USO — spots which runners would otherwise have to qualify and pay for.
“I always wanted to run the Boston Marathon, but I haven’t been fast enough,” Racine said. “You have to have a qualifying time in another marathon race, and my times aren’t fast enough. So this was my opportunity to fulfill my goal of running the Boston Marathon and to help raise $20,000 for the USO.”
Qualifying times are capped at five hours and 20 minutes, depending on age and gender.
‘I just find it peaceful’
Although the course will be tough, the New Bedford, Massachusetts, native is no stranger to physical fitness or hard work.
A high school physical education teacher, varsity girls soccer and track coach and master fitness trainer in the Army, Racine says she has been running for forever. In high school, she played soccer, basketball and softball and, as an adult, began running for fun — participating in road races including 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, a marathon and Spartan course races.
“[Running’s] part of my exercise routine,” Racine said. “I usually do it three to four times a week.”
Despite her passion and endurance for running, she doesn’t consider herself an “elite runner.” For her, it’s more about the mental clarity it brings.
“I just find it peaceful. It’s my time to myself,” she said. “I try not to focus on the running because, sometimes, depending on how far it is, it becomes work. But it gives me time to work things out in my head, relax and stay fit.”
Reservist presence important to Team USO
When Racine heard about the opportunity to run as a member of Team USO — doing something she loves while supporting her fellow service members — applying was a no-brainer. For the USO, adding Racine to the team also made sense.
“She’s a physical education teacher, a track and soccer coach and does so many other things, but she has also spent 13 years of her life serving as a reservist,” said Rebecca Parkes, president of the Northeast Region for the USO. “Being able to tell that story, I think, also [highlights] an angle of the USO support that we don’t always get to tell or that people don’t realize is a big piece of our mission. So, it was important for us to have someone represent the reservist community — a community that we not only support but that we actually want to do more with.”
Racine received word that she was selected for Team USO in early March — an opportunity she is incredibly grateful for — and has been training ever since. Her routine incorporates not just different speed intervals, elevations and distances, but also time for rest.
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“Monday, Wednesday and Friday are tempo runs. It’s not about the distance; it’s about speed intervals and pace. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a strength training program I follow. Saturdays are my long run days, which vary by distance,” Racine said. “And Sundays I take off. I usually do a lot of stretching and yoga on Sundays.”
She’s dedicating time to fundraising as well, posting to social media every time she completes a long run.
“I’ll post a video and put my link up there, and that’s usually when people donate, when they see that I’m running,” she said.
In addition to asking each Team USO runner to attempt to raise $20,000, the USO has partnered with corporations — including ES Veterans Association Inc., Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Delta, Colliers, Easy Entertaining, Apogee IT Services and Nussbaum Law Group, P.C. — to achieve its fundraising goal.
“That takes some of the pressure off of the runners,” Parkes said.
As race day draws near, Parks says she is looking forward to cheering on Racine and the other runners. Racine, for her part, says she is proud to represent the USO and Army Reserve. In addition to beating her personal best time, she said she is looking forward to “crossing the finish line and getting that prestigious Boston Marathon medal.”
Perhaps more than that, though, Racine looks forward to serving as a positive example for her fellow service members, as well as the children she teaches and coaches.
“Having the opportunity to be this type of a role model on this big of a stage is rewarding,” she said.