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Meet the Girls on the Run Coach Running the World's Most Iconic Road Race

Posted on 3/19/2018 |


Jackie Baker is a veteran Girls on the Run coach and fourth grade teacher whose classroom motto is “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” She was recently selected to run the Boston Marathon as part of an all-teacher team sponsored by the race’s Official Cramp Relief Sponsor, Hyland’s. Check out the video and interview below to find out why Jackie was chosen for this honor from a field of more than 1,600 applicants nationwide.

You are clearly an incredible role model to your kids and students. Is there anyone that really stands out as a positive influence in your young life? How did they help to shape you into the person you are today?

My dad is and will forever be my best friend. Despite living 3,000 miles away from each other, we talk every day—sometimes multiple times a day! I grew up knowing there was something special about his ability to make others feel good about themselves. He always has a smile on his face and finds the positive in everything. My dad taught me to be kind to people and to be empathetic. To have a strong work ethic, because good things will come through hard work and dedication. He also led by example with his own running endeavors; making the time for it each day. That repetition and discipline stuck with me and it seemed very natural to me that I followed in his footsteps… except, I’m faster than him now! He’s run many marathons in his career, including the Boston Marathon in the late 1970s before I was born and he’ll be back this year in Boston, as a spectator, cheering his baby on.


You’ve mentioned struggling with body image as a young girl. Can you share how you were able to meet and overcome that struggle, and how it influences your work as a GOTR coach?

I knew growing up I wasn’t a small, petite girl, and I was often frustrated that the clothes my friends were wearing didn’t fit me or look right on me. I was making poor eating choices and wasn’t active enough. I gained weight and pretended to be ok with it, even though deep down I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. Body image issues are not something that just magically go away. To this day, I still have to take control of the negative thoughts that will pass through my head, particularly about my body. The difference is now I’ve learned how to manage my emotions and overcome them. It took me hitting some low points in my early 20s and realizing I needed to make a change for myself. 

Since I first learned about GOTR, I’ve been saying, “Where was this program when I was growing up?” Because I sure could have used it. As a coach, my hope is that I can lead by example and tell my story to my girls that may be internalizing issues and help give them the support to get through difficult times. 

How long have you been running? How many races have you completed? 

I've been running for about 15 years now. It was after I graduated college and retired from the swimming pool that I was looking for a form of exercise that I could enjoy daily. Running has never been easy for me, but I stayed with it because I loved the way it made me feel. I began craving my daily jogs and felt completely off if I didn't get out that day. I still feel that way today. I soon learned that running was becoming a huge part of who I was.

I've completed 12 half-marathons, and this will be my first marathon. As my coach keeps telling me: "You get to PR at BOSTON!" 


What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon?

I still can’t wrap my head around it.  I’m surrounded by a team of incredible educators who are all juggling teaching, family life, coaching, and intensely training for the Boston Marathon right at this very moment. To be given this opportunity—to run the world’s most famous foot race—with such a dedicated group of individuals is an honor that I will never forget. My students have also enjoyed counting down the days and making signs to show their support. 


What’s the most important lesson that GOTR imparts to its members? Do any of the lessons play a role in your personal training?

There is one GOTR lesson in particular that I feel is very important for the girls to understand.  It’s called “BeYOUtiful” and the strong message behind the lesson is that it’s the qualities on the inside of a person that make them beautiful and to be proud of the BeYOUtiful person you are. With marathon training, it can be difficult to avoid comparing yourself to others or questioning your abilities. Through my coach’s guidance, I’ve learned to be confident in my individual successes and appreciate what I bring to the team.

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