Saturday Spotlight – Jenna Gray (8/22/20)

Saturday Spotlight:

Name: Jenna Gray

Age: 35

Marital Status: Single (Think 27 Dresses, See also: Occupation for a laugh)

Pets: Calvin (6 yrs old Shih Tzu Rescue)

Occupation: Marketing & Project Management, Event/Wedding Planning

Hobbies: Yoga, Gardening, Travel, Beach & Boating, Concerts/Live Music, Skiing, pretty much anything outside (I am not an indoor cat), Cooking (ok, really it’s Eating), Reading (Articles about anything, I love learning new stuff), Travel, Party Planning

Hometown: Sayville

Current Town: Patchogue

College: Sacred Heart University

Favorite Race: SRC 10M Run to the Blue Point Brewery

Frequent Running Spots: Running late, Running my mouth, Patchogue, Bayport, Bluepoint, the Hills of course, newly loving Sunken Meadow

Hey Warriors! First I want to give a huge thanks to Lou for welcoming me to such an amazing community & asking me to be WOTW. To be honest, I was surprised and uneasy about accepting the honor. I’m fairly new to running and certainly a “newbie” to the hills. I even said to a few people “I’m not interesting enough & don’t have enough under my belt to warrant this.” But with some encouragement I realized it’s an absolutely perfect time for me to share my story… as I’m currently in a place of reflection, defining, and redefining myself.

Ok, So where do I start? I never really liked running. Actually, that’s an understatement, I swore I’d never do it. I’ve always been an athlete but really couldn’t understand the whole “running for fun” thing. I played soccer from a young age (Bayman!!) and helped start the first girl’s lacrosse team in Sayville (Thank you Gary Jensen, best coach ever!), both of which I played all through school. So yea I “ran” but not without a play in mind, a ball at my feet, or a lax stick in my hand. I also danced competitively my entire life, right into college where I fell in love with dance as a “sport”. I made the National Competition Dance Team at SHU as a freshman and became captain my senior year in which we took 10th place Nationally in Division 1A (as the smallest school in the division)! I gained so much more than bragging rights & new moves in this time though. I learned about the importance of mentors, my leadership abilities, and the importance of setting your goals high (cause yes, you can).

After college I returned to my childhood dance studio to keep up with classes for fun and even coached the Arrowette Kickline Team at Seneca Middle School for 2 seasons. This was the extent of my physical activity post-college aside from a gym membership I rarely used. I became a work-a-holic, working in a restaurant on the weekends (Kingstons Clam Bar & La Tavola Trattoria) and my “day job” in marketing at CA Technologies (Most LI’ers know as Computer Associates). Fast forward a few years (and a major relationship), in 2013 I was going through burnout, a major breakup, and needed an outlet. I started dabbling with running just to quiet my mind. It was the only thing [healthy] that worked. A lot of the years in-between then and now are honestly a blur. I traveled a lot, worked a lot, got into group fitness classes, and ran a mile here or there. It wasn’t until 2017 I ran my first 5k; which at the time was a big deal for me, probably the farthest I’d ever ran. It was the Run for the Bay 5k in Sayville – my hometown. I felt so accomplished (I trained for this!?) and was proud to “check it off the list.” Honestly, I never had a desire to run anything more or again – Ha. Enter my sister’s obsession w/ running (I bet you wondered when the heck she was going to enter this story). Ah yes, Tara Dungate, my irish twin – the one I did all the sports, dancing, and hair-pulling with – got into racing. I LOVED cheering her on though. I’ll never forget how excited (and teary-eyed) I was when she finished her first half (Suffolk) and then first marathon (NYC). I was there with giant signs, and, pom poms, & bells (literally). But yep, still no desire to do it myself. For the first time in my life I was happy being one of the FANS (Former Athlete Now Spectator LOL).

Clearly, that didn’t last forever… I picked up running “for real” in the Spring/Summer of 2018. We’re talking 3 miles maybe 2/3 times a week. My sister sneakily signed me up for the BluePoint Brewery 10 miler as what I’ll call a “challenge,” to which I said “Yea sure I’ll show her, I’m totally doing this.” As to not spoil stories for later in the week… let’s just leave it as – I didn’t. I nursed some cranky knees all winter and picked it up, yet again, in Spring 2019. I signed up for the NYS Parks Summer running series with Tara & Veronica and WOW I was starting to get it. The “runners high” got me and I’ve been at it ever since. And thank goodness because 2018/19 handed me the most rotten lemons to which I’ve still been scrambling to make lemonade with – another major breakup (absolute chaos), getting laid off from my job of 10 years at CA after they were acquired, loss of family members, and a year full of “you can’t make this stuff up, you have to laugh”. Running has kept me [relatively] sane throughout (In addition to discovering hot yoga – which I highly recommend). Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without it.

Ok so to wrap it up… I ran the Hills for the first time at the NYE run 12/31/19 as kind of an endurance test for my first big race… yes, I DID finally complete the Bluepoint 10M this year! Riding on those coattails I signed up for the May 2020 Popular Brooklyn Half (yea I actually got in!) which was going to be my first half-marathon and well we all know what happens next… TBC (To be Completed!).

I couldn’t be more thankful I’ve found running at this time and this incredible SHW community. Running has honestly been the first thing I can remember that does NOT come easily to me. I have to work my a$$ off for small gains but wow am I learning a lot about myself and really life in the process. If there is anything I’ve learned so far from this year & running (and from you all) its that we’re ALWAYS learning (and if you’re not, you’re missing the point), we’re really stronger than we think, and resilience is a virtue.

On that note – Can’t wait to share more stories & get to know you all too throughout the week. And don’t forget to get those #MilesforJules in this weekend!