Jennifer Michelle used to think running was a grind.
But as the registered dietitian for a long-term acute care hospital, Jennifer saw patients every day who were suffering from osteoporosis and other debilitating physical conditions. She knew what well-being and longevity looked like, and she had the knowledge and tools to prioritize her own.
So Jennifer started eating well and hitting the treadmill hard and fast six days a week, feeling something akin to grim determination.
“Then, somewhere along the way, running became less about speed and more about distance,” Jennifer says. “That’s when I started to fall in love with it.”
How did Jennifer hit her stride and start conquering marathons? With Marco Polo in her back pocket.
A lone wolf finds her pack
Initially self-conscious, Jennifer ran alone and inside before gradually warming to the idea of sharing her progress with others. She began posting her workouts on social media, took her boyfriend’s advice to move from the treadmill to the great outdoors, and joined a Friday evening running club. As her confidence and endurance grew, Jennifer set her sights on a real race, the Long Beach Half Marathon.
She had a blast. During that race, several subsequent half marathons and eventually, the full Long Beach Marathon, Jennifer got in the habit of texting progress reports to her main support system, her family. Their encouragement acted as fuel that helped eat up the miles.
But Jennifer also found that text messages didn’t adequately convey the excitement, emotion, and local color that she always experienced along her routes. So when a family member suggested switching to Marco Polo, her desire to better stay in touch with her support system outweighed her initial shyness about being on video.
Next-level race updates
Soon, group Polos replaced text exchanges. With a quick camera flip, Jennifer could record a first-person view of her surroundings. In return, she got to see family members across the country cheering her on face-to-face.
“Sending Polos from the race made me feel like my family was actually there with me,” she says. “That’s not something I could ever get from a text or social media post.”
The big one
Jennifer’s first marathon success fanned a minor obsession to run one more. This was her bucket list race, the event she’d been watching on TV since she was little. The LA Marathon.
In 2019, after training for months, Jennifer felt confident and ready to go for it. She shared the spectacle over Marco Polo.
“I Polo’d as I ran past dragon dances in Chinatown or people in crazy costumes. At one point I pulled out my phone and sent a Polo saying, ‘Oh no, you guys! There’s a giant teddy bear behind me, and it’s gaining on me!’ My little niece in North Carolina thought that was the best.”
After crossing the finish line, crying tears of joy and triumph, Jennifer hobbled on blistered feet to the bluff by the Santa Monica Pier. She took a picture with her medal, went down to the beach, put her feet in the water, and rested. Her family saw it all, soaking up inspiration over Marco Polo.
“The LA Marathon was incredible not just because I got to run it, but because I got to share it on Marco Polo,” Jennifer reflects. “There are so many people out there of different ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities who are overcoming obstacles for the love of running, including people in my own family. If seeing me run motivates them, then I’m going to continue doing it, and sharing it, for as long as I can.”