Photo: Jill Plamondon celebrates her finish at last weekend’s Ragnar Relay in the nation’s capital.

Jill Plamondon, who lives and runs in Suttons Bay, Mich., is commemorating her 40th year in a BIG way: she’s making it a year-long celebration (nice thinking, Jill!). This northern Michigan runner took on her first ultra this year–the North Country Trail Run–and she also just returned from a weekend in Washington D.C. where she participated in a Ragnar Relay as a member of the Ultimate Mother Runner Showdown’s Team SBS. [Check out the full race recap of this event over at Another Mother Runner this Thursday] Read on to learn how Jill, who started running five years ago, has gone from short distances to longer ones, and why this weekend’s Lighthouse Half on Old Mission Peninsula will be a special race.

Running strong.
Running strong.

Tell us about your running journey: when did you start running and why? 

Five years ago I started walking and then running short distances to change my veered-off sedative life path of sitting on my can—I was focused on work ambitions and had the mother-load of weight gain from two pregnancies. My mind and body ached and I was missing the joy and life of the person that was stuck in a very large wrapper of kyptonite. I can’t tell you what is going on in pop culture, but I can tell you about the best pumping tunes and running experiences to make my heart go boom and keep my feet moving.

Bayshore finishers!
Bayshore finishers!

What do you like most about this sport?

There are so many things that it’s hard to pick one. I love that I get outside year round for the most part, and it can be done at about any time of the day. I don’t need to depend on a gym membership or anyone else. It’s mostly a solo sport, but I sure enjoy my runs with people as well.

Favorite place to run in Michigan? 

My favorite route goes through Northport and past Peterson Park. It’s beautiful, hilly and not much traffic.

Best Mitten State race?

North Country Trail Run is number one for me. The scenery changes and the trail is challenging. It keeps my eyes and mind so busy that time moves swiftly. It’s like running from one buffet to the next with a spread of fresh fruit, soup, sandwiches and the normal sports drinks and GU. The people running that race are friendly and the volunteers are extremely supportive.

Running the North Country Trail.
Running the North Country Trail.

Why did you want to participate in the Ragnar Relay? What was it like to be chosen to run with Team Sarah, and how’d it go?

I have never ran a relay and went into this adventure a little naïve. I also turned 40 this year and decided that I was going to Rock 40 all year long with my races and take on new challenges. When the opportunity came up that they were running a contest to win a spot on their team, I jumped on it.

I had been buying their books (and gifting them), following their blog and FB tribe, and listening to podcasts for the last four years. Women that know Another Mother Runner have an invaluable spark in common. They are part of a positive, encouraging community built by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell.

When I found out my entry won I was excited that this would follow a month after my first ultra. Really, how could my year get any better? Another first experience for me. Maybe the only chance for me to be on a team of 12 mother runners in 2 vans, running 200 miles in 30+ hours. Sound like fun yet?

Jill (wearing black tank in the middle) with some of her Ragnar team members. (That's Sarah, co-author of Run Like A Mother and Train Like a Mother, to the far right)
Jill (wearing black tank in the middle) with some of her Ragnar team members. (That’s Sarah, co-author of Run Like A Mother and Train Like a Mother, to the far right)

The icing on my cake was that I was in Van 1 with Sarah, but meeting all these ladies was wonderful. I loved every minute, hill, story and hardy laugh that came my way and I put my trust into my Badass Mother Runner Team. We all went into this with the same light spirit and inner competitive glow. It was never about competing against anybody else, but ourselves. We took care of each other after each hot mess run. It was in the mid 80s and very humid when we ran this race last weekend.

I was also lucky to get the hardest leg of the race which had a special prize at the end—a Ragnar belt buckle. The leg entailed a 1,200 foot climb for over 7.8 miles. The downhill was quick and the gravel a little dangerous since I was trying to make up time. HILLarious indeed. I did manage to take one wrong turn, but backtracked quick enough to still pass two people and come in 7 minutes under my expected Ragnar time. Sarah wasn’t ready for me so that was a whole other event for her to jump out at the exchange just in time.

My other two legs were easier, with one at about 11 p.m. and the other hot in the sun. I floored it the best I could and lived in the moment.

At the Ragnar Relay
At the Ragnar Relay

So what is next for you?

My next race is actually this weekend where I will run the Traverse City Lighthouse Half Marathon with my husband and best run buddy. It will be my husband’s first.

I am already planning next year’s list with another ultra and maybe two. I have to admit that a 100-miler intrigues, me but I am talking myself down off that temptation for next year.

The Ragnar ladies I met are already looking at another race as a Ragnar team. How cool is that!

Read more about Jill and her running on her blog Focused Drive. Check out her design business here »

What’s your Michigan Running Story? MRG highlights Michigan runners on a periodic basis, and we’d love to hear about your running journey! Contact Heather at michiganrunnergirl {at} gmail {dot} com and let us know why you run.

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2 Responses to “My Michigan Running Story: Jill Plamondon tackles ultras, an epic Ragnar Relay + this weekend’s Lighthouse Half Marathon in Traverse City”

  1. That is so cool that a local was on Sarah’s team! I’m looking forward to reading the recap. Jill – I bet we could get a BAMR northern Michigan group to do a Ragnar :) It is SO on my list!

    • Hey Holly! I would love to run another. It was so much fun and a completely different experience than any other race. I wish they would put a Ragnar together in Michigan! Thanks for writing in. I still have to recap on my blog and regroup—fabulous experience being on Team Sarah with 11 cool BAMRs. Team Dimity took 3rd place!

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