In honor of Veteran’s Day, our customer profile features Jen St. Amand, an ultra-marathon runner who joined the army when she was 17 years old. Initially, Jen wanted to earn enough money to attend college, but she fell in love with the military and stayed with it. When she first joined the military, she scored so high on the mechanics portion of the required aptitude test that she became one of the first female tank mechanics in the Army to serve with a front line unit and the only female mechanic in her unit. But this didn’t bother Jen at all.
“I was full of fire and vinegar back then,” she says.
Jen has been stationed in Bosnia, Germany, Colorado, California, and Texas. She took 15 years away from the military so that she could spend time with her four children. Jen went back to school and got her degree in social work and has worked as a social worker for the past nine years in Rochester. This year, she rejoined the military as a recruiter for the National Guard.
What motivated you to start running?
I started running when I joined the Army. The first time I took the physical fitness test, I wasn’t even really trying to win, and I ended up staying ahead of everyone. I thought to myself, ‘I am good at something. I am good at running!’ I never thought that I would excel at something physical like that because I am short and small. But that lit the fire in me, and I just kept getting faster and faster.
What has been your favorite event so far?
The Superior 100 Mile Fall Trail Race. The event was wonderful, but I enjoyed the training leading it up to it even more. The people I train with make it so much fun. We talk about all kinds of philosophical topics, but we always come to the conclusion that in the end nothing really matters! We all just forget about the training we are really doing because it is so much fun.
What shoes are you digging right now?
I love Altra and Topo shoes. They have a zero/low drop and I have had zero injuries since I started wearing them. I do 100-mile ultra-marathons in these shoes. A few years ago I was running a lot of road marathons competitively, and I noticed that my body was breaking down. I felt my time was limited. But I learned that on the trails, my body wasn’t breaking down as much. Road miles are so hard on the body, and the trail miles were actually saving my health.
Where do you see your future self in terms of fitness and health?
When I am 50, I just hope to be able to keep doing my 100-mile ultra-marathons and keep doing more of the scenic trails. At that point it will be time to just enjoy the scenery and not worry so much about time.
What is your biggest challenge right now?
Time is my challenge. I am good about making time to train, but I need to make time quality time with my family and to be present with them.
Final Thoughts on Veteran’s Day
I really hope that people want to serve in the military. It’s the perfect way to invest in your community and in your country. You don’t have to be the most patriotic person to do this, either. Serving in the military is about caring for others in your community. We all need to contribute to the well-being of the people around us.