Jill Corbett used to be a competitive swimmer, but after having kids, she thought her competitive days were over.
“I always stayed fit and rode a stationary bike for exercise,” said Corbett, who didn’t begin running until 2013, “But I never thought I could run.”
Five years ago, her daughter’s soccer coach suggested the team participate in a local 5K series to stay in shape during the summer and Corbett decided to jump in too.
“After one race, I got hooked back into competitive sports,” she said.
In that first race, Corbett, 51, won her age group and relit the competitive fire that has been there since she was a kid. However, Corbett didn’t know how to train for running. She started by running just one day a week, but then increased both her mileage and intensity too quickly and became injured. Now, she has a coach who keeps her on a plan that works for her: she runs about 35 miles a week over four days, cross-trains two days, and includes strength and flexibility exercises.
“I progressed slowly,” admits Corbett, who was out for about seven months in 2016 with lateral recess stenosis, which is a narrowing of the space within the spinal canal that compresses the nerve and causes back pain. “Then I found trail running and I began to feel better. My back stopped hurting and I loved it so much more than running on the road.”
In 2017, Corbett thrived on both the trails and consistent training and was set to go to the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in Utah in September.
Then Hurricane Irma hit.
Corbett, who lives in Lakeland, Florida, had to cancel her plans to run at Ogden.
“We were so lucky our house was OK,” said Corbett. “We didn’t lose our roof and the trees narrowly missed falling on our house. But my parents are in Winter Haven and there was just so much to clean up. I didn’t feel like I could leave.”
Now, almost a year later, the blue tarps are disappearing from the roofs they covered after Irma’s devastation. And Corbett is training once again to run in the mountains at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship. Her husband, son, 12, and daughter, 15, are going to join her and watch their mom crush it at altitude.
“My training is going well,” said Jill. “I love running the trails at Holloway Park because it’s so quiet and green. Running is my therapy. I’m totally focused on what I’m doing and I feel a sense of peace. It’s so nice to clear my head and enjoy the solitude.”
Corbett doesn’t listen to music and she usually runs alone, which turns her workout into a meditation.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that just because she is calm and soft-spoken that she isn’t also fierce and focused on being the best she can be. In last weekend’s XTERRA Claw Run 10-miler Corbett finished second, even after suffering through cramps and running an extra half mile when she went off course during the challenging race. In March, she was fourth at the XTERRA Trout Creek 15K.
“When I race I get such a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. Even though I was a swimmer for years, I never thought I could run this far. And that’s the challenge of it – to keep trying to go farther.”
Photo courtesy of Stephen John Photography.