It seems like Jessica Marlier set a personal record in just about every road race she entered in 2013.
Perhaps her most impressive performance of the year came at the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in November when she finished third overall with a blistering time of two hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds, knocking more than 10 minutes off her previous best at that distance.
Jessica is a 28-year-old bundle of energy who makes running really fast look really easy.
Her first marathon took place in 2006 when she ran at Disneyworld, finishing with a remarkable time of 3:33 for a first-timer.
"I was a freshman in college and pretty naïve about marathons in those days," she explained.
Her previous marathon PR before Chickamauga came at Boston last spring when she posted a time of 3:03, finishing almost an hour before that horrible bombing took place at the finish line.
She's heading back to Boston next week where she has several challenging -- yet feasible -- goals in mind. It will be her 16th race at that distance. She's been averaging 60-70 miles a week since the beginning of the year, so she's ready for another breakout race.
"I definitely hope to break three hours again and would love to get under 2:55. A race like Boston is special because of the event it is and the history behind it, but my race just needs to be about the experience," she suggested Thursday afternoon in the lobby of the downtown YMCA.
Marlier -- pronounced Mar-lee-aay -- grew up in Florida before moving to Chattanooga in 2005 as she enrolled at Southern Adventist University. She was a basketball player first and foremost in high school and basically started running as a seventh grader "to get in shape for basketball."
All it took for her to be hooked was winning a few races.
"I ran track and cross country when I was in junior high, but running took some getting used to as it was hot in Florida at the time," she continued.
She was fast at the beginning and she's continued to get faster. She graduated from Southern in 2010 with a degree in Health and Physical Education. She's currently an interim PE teacher at Daisy Elementary, but she's looking forward to spring break next week as she tapers for one of the world's oldest and most famous marathons.
"I ran 3:03 something last year at Boston and was finished about 45 minutes ahead of the explosion. I was about four blocks away at the time and heard it, thinking it may have been someone shooting fireworks," she recalled one of the darkest days in American marathon history.
"I just want to embrace how special a race it is, but I also want to do well there. I'm sure it will be an emotional experience to be there a year later. I was battling a nagging injury last year and still got a PR. Another one this year would be nice. It's good to have goals, but you have to realize that you don't always reach them," the twin sister of Jennifer nodded.
She ran quite a few of the Chattanooga Track Club races last year and won most of them, including PRs at the Joe Johnson, Raccoon Mountain and Signal Mountain Pie Run 10Ks within a month of each other.
As a result of her outstanding fall, she earned the Overall Female Runner of the Year in the Chattanooga Track Club.
On the day she posted a time of 37:24 on a tough Signal Mountain course, she also won a 5K in Collegedale called the Southern Shuffle. You probably shouldn't be surprised, but It too came with a personal record time of 17:50.
She also won the FCA 5K on Labor Day and was the first female CTC finisher at the Wauhatchie Trail Run where she was fourth overall in 38:22. But it's safe to say that her performance at Chickamauga in mid-November was a race for the memory bank.
"I had so many good weeks of training before Chickamauga as everything just seemed to unfold perfectly that day," she remembered.
So what is her favorite race in Chattanooga?
"All of these races have their own special memories, but I'd have to say Raccoon Mountain in that downpouring rain. That was the first time where I wasn't worried about my time, but it seems like I always race better when I'm not thinking about it," she offered.
And what about goals for the remainder of the year once Boston is out of the way?
"I'm planning to focus on shorter distances, but I'm hoping to qualify for the women's Olympic Marathon Trials, which will be in Los Angeles. A time of 2:43 is the 'B' standard and I'm hoping to get there. What I need to do is find a marathon with a competitive women's field. Right now, I'm considering Rocket City in Huntsville, Houston or maybe Mercedes in Birmingham," she admitted.
While Marlier has made a name for herself in local running circles, what else does she enjoy doing?
"What else is there to do besides run?" she joked when asked that question.
"I'm also a basketball referee and I also officiate volleyball and softball. I also enjoy reading and I really like to cook. I make some black bean brownies that are just awesome," she confessed.
She's been a CTC member for a year now, but she's already involved in club activities as she's on the Board of Directors.
"I love it here in Chattanooga. The wonderful running community is reason enough to live here, but I'm honored to be able to give something back to such a wonderful organization as the Chattanooga Track Club," she concluded.
It's real obvious that Jessica Marlier has found her niche here in Chattanooga and she's also found a sport where she can really excel.
And you can tell that she's having fun in the process as she always has a smile on her face.
After all, isn't that what life's about?
(This is the eighth in a series of runners in the Chattanooga area. If you have someone who you think would make an interesting feature, email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)