Running is a remarkably positive part of so many runners' lives. The fitness benefits are many. It can help people lose a bunch of weight, or be a great stress-reliever.
But for Jessica Otto -- who captained the cross-country and indoor and outdoor track teams at Division I Western Michigan University earlier this decade -- running became a remarkably negative part of her life.
"As a Division I athlete, the focus was on results; run faster, set records, win races and do what you need to do to have your team win," recalls Otto, now 29 and a resident of Denver. "People I trusted told me to lose weight to run faster, push harder to win a race and do more for just that one extra point. It was never enough."
So after graduating in 2002, she took a bold stance on running: She gave it up. And in the past eight years, Otto has not pounded much pavement with much passion.
Which is why, then, that it's so interesting she wound up in a job that celebrates running.
Read on to learn more about Jessica Otto, who has been program director for Girls on the Run of Charlotte since December. (The New Balance Girls on the Run 5K is set for 9 a.m. this Saturday at Independence Park. Details are at the end of the interview.)
Saturday's New Balance Girls on the Run 5K is a noncompetitive event for "all runners, joggers, and walkers." See the website for registration fees; proceeds from this event will benefit Girls on the Run of Charlotte "so that all girls that want to participate in our program can have the opportunity." Start time is 9 a.m. in Independence Park, situated between the Elizabeth and Piedmont Park neighborhoods.