Bemidji runners preparing for marathons with Sanford Sports Performance

Personalized running plans help athletes become faster, stronger and smarter. And that is what the Sanford Run Project strives to accomplish for Sanford Health employees who want to complete a half or full marathon.

The program allows participants to learn and train with the running experts at Sanford Sports Performance while offering them access to running-specific services. Meet two runners from Bemidji participating in the Sanford Run Project.

Jen Pirkl

Hello! I’m Jen, and I’m a licensed clinical social worker specializing in mental health at Sanford Health. I’m training for the Bemidji Blue Ox Half Marathon, but I’m not new to half marathons. I’m an “old” runner, having run various distances most of my life. I’ve completed four previous Blue Ox half marathons (and one Lake Loop), but I haven’t been able to complete the Blue Ox in five years.

I applied for this program because running is something I’ve always known, and I want to learn how to keep running as a sustainable part of my leisure activities as I grow older. Running has been an essential part of my own mental health over the years. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to struggle more with injuries that sideline me from staying in my “groove.” Considering my age and physical fitness, I knew I needed help to train differently.

I connected with the Sanford Sports Performance team for a run analysis, a running program and a strength training program. The trainers were aware of my previous injuries and guided me to still reach my goal of completing distance races even as I approach my 50s. My brain thinks I’m 35 years old, but my body knows differently.

My training program is realistic and considers my unique needs. My goal is to keep running, and so far, I’m doing that!

This time around, I’m doing more strength training. My past injuries have taught me that overuse or muscle weaknesses are my demise. Now I feel I’m set up for success because I have this team guiding me.

My strength training workouts challenge me in new ways, and I’m loving these challenges. My long runs through the lake country of northern Minnesota have been more enjoyable without the aches and pains to distract me.

Jeremy Swan Jr.

My name is Jeremy, and I work as a behavioral health rehabilitation assistant at Sanford Health. I ran my first Fargo Marathon in May 2023 and will participate in the Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon in October 2023. After I finished that first race, I knew I needed to do more, and I set a goal to run one marathon a month in 2024. Why set such a goal? I run because it challenges me. Growth does not come from comfortability.

I applied to the program because my peers thought it would be beneficial for me to have professional support in reaching my goals. Once selected, I shared my goal of becoming the first White Earth Nation member to compete and complete the Boston Marathon.

The training I’ve received so far has taught me how to train, when to train, when to rest, to be conscious of how I run and to keep pushing myself further beyond the bounds of what I thought I was capable of. I would recommend this program to anyone looking to push themselves further, both physically and mentally!


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