Getting Started: Jenny Hadfield of Chicago Endurance Sports

Like much of the Door Peninsula in summer, the Door County Half Marathon will have a decidedly Chicago flavor this year. More than 75 members of Chicago Endurance Sports (CES) will be joining hundreds of other runners in pounding the Peninsula State Park pavement May 2.

The runners have been training for the event since January under the tutelage of one of the nation’s most respected ambassadors for endurance sports, Jenny Hadfield.

Hadfield co-founded CES nine years ago with Madison native Mike Norman, and together they’ve grown the club into the city’s largest multi-sport training company. She earned her undergraduate degree at UW-Whitewater in exercise physiology, and her graduate degree at Western Michigan in exercise science.

The three-time competitor in New Zealand’s Eco-Challenge and veteran of 30 marathons has written three books (Marathoning for Mortals, Running for Mortals, and Training for Mortals) and is a columnist for Health Magazine and blogger for

Myles Dannhausen (MD): How’d you get started in running?

Jenny Hadfield (JH): When I graduated from college I was about 35 pounds overweight. My co-workers challenged me to do a 5K, and I did it. When I finished, it changed my life. I fell in love with it.

MD: So how’d you get yourself off the couch and motivated to run?

JH: Well, I was always active, but it was always in team sports. I just couldn’t figure out how to do the running thing. I always saw it as punishment. Every sport I played, you ran when you made a mistake.

In my internship at GE Medical systems, all my co-workers were runners, so when they challenged me, I had to do it. I trained with a small group of people. That support and camaraderie was huge.

MD: There’s never one catch-all factor in any endeavor, but what do you feel is the most important step to getting started in running?

JH: To have a goal, and then accomplishing it with people is huge. I started with the 5K, then set a goal of a 10K. So I’d say 1) Have a goal. I think we’re a goal-oriented society – it ties into our culture. 2) Find a group to run and train with. 3) Get on a good training program. Most people, when they get started, they do too much too soon.

MD: You travel the world for races, so what drew your attention to a new race in Door County?

JH: We had a member [John McGivern, who has a home in Door County] go up and run the race on his own last year, and when he came back he said, “You’ve got to do this one!” He raved about the course and the organization.

But it’s also economical. In the city, we sometimes forget about what we can do and explore in our own backyard in the Midwest. I feel like I found my spirit for adventure when I went to Whitewater.

Then the fact that it’s a closed course, and it’s smaller, what we call a “boutique race,” which is 2,500 runners or less. We know it’s not going to be overcrowded and we don’t have to worry about cars and traffic. When we train along the lake in the summer in Chicago, there’s thousands of people training for the Chicago Marathon, so it’s great to find a race like this.

MD: How many people have come through your training programs?

JH: We have about 2,800 people come through the program each year, and we’ve been doing this for nine years. I’ve been lucky enough to make a career out of this. We never had a business plan, we’ve just done what we loved doing.

Bio: Jenny Hadfield

• Co-founder, Chicago Endurance Sports

• Author of three books, (Marathoning for Mortals, Running for Mortals, Training for Mortals), and contributor to numerous national and regional publications, including Health Magazine, Runner’s World, and the Chicago Tribune.

• Veteran of three Eco-Challenges (16th in 2002) and 30 marathons. Qualified for Boston Marathon twice. Has completed numerous adventure races.