Sisters Jenifer Noga and Juliette McNiven-Perry live more than 200 miles apart, running and racing in their respective cities—Springboro, Ohio for Jeni, and Berkley, Mich. for Juliette—but they don’t let the distance get in the way of their support for the other’s athletic pursuits. Jeni and Juli, who grew up in Dearborn, are there for each other throughout trainings, cheering the other on from afar, and they’ve also met up to run a race together, the Columbus Half Marathon in 2012.

While having best running friends close by is so helpful in keeping us accountable and motivated, it can be just as rewarding to have far-flung friends who understand our active lifestyle and help push us toward becoming the very best version of ourselves. Jenifer and Juliette clearly do this for each other. “We provide a lot support to each other,” says Jeni, who has three kids ages 12, 10, and 7 with husband Marc. “I took over 8 years off to have kids, and looking back, I should have kept running. But keeping up with Juli and hearing about her races kept the ‘fire’ burning … We are different from each other – and have different lives and goals. But racing keeps the bond between us. It’s a way to connect with each other.” Jeni, a Half Ironman finisher, also helped Juli, a two-time Boston qualifier who lives with her husband Adam and their pooch Vito, prepare for her first triathlon earlier this year.

Juli at this fall's inaugural Detroit Women's Half Marathon.
Juli at this fall’s inaugural Detroit Women’s Half Marathon.

A memorable run:

Jeni: Recently I did a beautiful 10K trail run near Springboro, the Dirty Dude Girl 5K/10K. The race is memorable because it’s meant to encourage women of every age, shape and size to run. The atmosphere is very energetic and supportive. The race benefits Girls on the Run, an introductory running program for girls in third to eighth grade.

Juli: All of them! Seriously, I learn, grow and take away/give to so much for each of my runs. I have run one race/month since March this year (why start in January? March has the Detroit Corktown Race!) However, my most recent race on Sept. 22 has only further instilled my love for half-marathons. I ran a smarter race than I did last October during my second half marathon (a previous PR), and then I started to run more 5K and 10Ks to switch things up. I PR’d this past Sunday on beautiful Belle Isle for the first ever Detroit Women’s Half Marathon with a 1:34.08 (1st in my age group and 6th out of about 797). I PR’d my 5K in May; finally getting below 21 mins (20:58), and that was inspiring for me at 40 (my first 5K in my 20s was around 24-something). During this race, I felt so free, and relaxed, and on top of the world—enjoying every minute of the Detroit Women’s Half. It was really one of those moments in running

Jeni, running with the American Flag at the USAT Mideast Regional Championships near Chelsea, MI on June 30, 2013.
Jeni, running with the American Flag at the USAT Mideast Regional Championships near Chelsea, MI on June 30, 2013.

Favorite Michigan race:

Jeni: USA Triathlon Mideast Regional Championships. This is a race to qualify triathletes from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky for the Age Group National Championships held in August each summer. It’s an incredible venue with a swim in Portage Lake Beach in the Waterloo Recreation Area. The water is so clear (compared to Ohio!). The bike course is beautiful and passes historical and natural attractions – I even got a glimpse of a Sandhill crane! And most of the run is off-road and finishes on a trail. They also gave you the opportunity to run across the finish line holding an American Flag in honor of our troops and Independence Day.

Juli: This is one out of tradition: the Turkey Trot in downtown Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. I first ran it in November 2004, so this year will be my 10th year in a row, and since ’04 it has grown from around 4,000 participants to over 20,000-something, I think. I just love that feeling of running in this beloved city; so many memories encompass me each time I race past the people-mover (where my grandparents first took me on a ride in 1997), running briskley down Woodward where my mom took me to my one and only Turkey Day parade in ’84, and simply witnessing the adoration of a people for the city that they have in common as they await the annual parade—whether any of us live within its borders or not. I adore that race. It was also the first race after a difficult divorce, as running became a constant for me–something I did that I was good at. And, it helped me to realize, in so many different ways, all that I am. Running does that to all of us, I think.

Juli, before the (sweltering!) 2012 Boston Marathon.
Juli, before the (sweltering!) 2012 Boston Marathon.

Best Mitten State place to run:

Jeni: Traverse City, hands down. Where else can you pass through forests, along beaches, through downtown, neighborhoods, by historical markers and over trails all in the same run? To top it off, my amazing mother-in-law (who lives in TC) usually has breakfast waiting for me afterward!

Juli: I really enjoy running Stony Creek Metropark. It’s where I really began my devoted training back in ’09 with my one of best friends, Margaret. We ran there before our first half (Brooksie Way) that year. We continued the next summer for our first marathon, the Detroit Free Press Marathon, where I qualified for Boston. I find that Stoney is calm, hilly, rolling, peaceful, and it always seems cooler out there—what a fabulous breeze! I feel like I’m up north without the long car ride! The past couple years, I’ll swim there after a run, too. So refreshing!

Favorite race distance:

Jeni: Anything from 10K – 13.1 miles.

Juli: My new favorite race distance is the half marathon. I feel like you have time to settle in, observe, strategize, and really honor the run. I find the training, experience, and finish is more rewarding than a 5K or 10K because there’s so much more time, growth, and moments to enjoy along the journey!

Your running, in three words:  

Jeni: Determined, focused, blessed. 

Juli: Blissful, growth, and moments.

What running and the endurance sports lifestyle means for you:

Jeni: This is a tough question. Sometimes it changes. But mostly it is a way to challenge myself and to escape from the “routine” parts of life. It also allows you to meet people with similar interests and goals, and offer support to each other. I have made some amazing life-long friends through racing.

Juli: Endurance running means that I can be me. No matter how the day went at work, or what else may be going on in my life or in the world—whether they be positive, not-so-positive, or somewhat neutral events—I can still be me. It’s a consistency like none other, between me, my feet striding beneath me, the music (or no music at all) surrounding my ears, and breathing in another mile of something I’m always so glad, proud, and lucky to do…a run, while just being me.

About the Columbus race last year …

Jeni: The Columbus race was probably the most memorable race for us to do together. Not only is it fun to “road trip” to a race, but we were looking forward to the time together without distraction. Most important was we had learned about the tragic accident of a former high school friend a month before the race. She was badly hurt while training for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and almost died. Running in support of our friend Amy Gluck’s honor was very special to both of us.

Juli: Running Columbus together was so much fun! More than I imagined it ever would be, simply because it’s just not something we were able to schedule before. This was important to me because I always, always, always want more time with my big sister. And anything at all that we’re doing together is special to me. Plus, it was right after I turned 40! Jeni says that she’d like us to do a triathlon together sometime, and I wouldn’t rule that out (mostly so that I could just spend time with her), but tri’s just aren’t really my cup of tea…it’s the biking that I really just don’t care for, but I wish I did! Perhaps it’ll grow on me as an acquired taste. I really and truly hope that we can lock in another race together within the next 6 months or so…and it’s not so much about the run as it is doing the run together. Like I’ve kept mentioning, the run to me is about he moments.

Upcoming Race Schedule:

Jeni: This month I am looking forward to the “off-season” for triathlon and participating in trail running races. After January, I will start training for another Half Ironman (I did one in Muncie IN in July) and would like to qualify for the 2015 World International Triathlon Union Championships in Chicago (I just missed qualifying for 2014 this year).

Juli: I am running another half October 5, the inaugural run of Heroes on Hines in Wayne County. And I will continue to run one race per month through March of 2014, and then I’ll fulfill my goal of one race per month! (Although I’m sure I’ll continue a race every month or so!)



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