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Jessica Provencher: Promoting Body Positivity, One Marathon at a Time

When Jessica Provencher, a 34-year-old from Canada, started running on the treadmill in 2012, she never thought she would one day go outside for a run. 

A self-proclaimed “big girl”—Provencher’s weight has fluctuated between 160 and 240 pounds—she started running to lose weight. But the reason she stuck with the sport has nothing to do with numbers on a scale. 

In 2013, Provencher left the comfort of the treadmill at her women-only gym and ran outdoors for the first time. Her self-conscious feelings about running in public slowly faded, and four to five days a week, she made it a point to run 9K (about 5.5 miles)—simply because she enjoyed the feeling of running in nature. 

The following year, after gaining confidence in her running, Provencher signed up for her first race—a half-marathon in Montreal. “As I got ready for the race, I was doing long runs over the half-marathon distance nearly two months out,” she says. It was then she changed her registration, electing the full marathon as her very first race.

After finishing her second marathon in 2015, Provencher entered the lottery for the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon, got a spot, and will run her third 26.2-miler on November 6. “My goal is to run one marathon per year for as long as I can,” she says.

Her motivation? “I really admire people who are in their 60s and 70s and still running,” says Provencher. “If I want to be one of those people, I have to ask myself, how do I get there?”

Though growing up, her identity revolved around her body image, exercise has changed her perspective: Today, her focus is on “being healthy, being fit, and being the best woman and runner I can be.”

Provencher has even started a blog, Marathonea, to keep a log of her running and inspire friends and acquaintances with her love for the sport. “I’m really focusing on progress in my running,” she says.

To prepare for her 26.2-mile journey through New York City’s five boroughs, Provencher has been including a lot of resistance training in her plan. “I’m learning to really love hills,” she says, adding that her strong legs give her an edge while running the inclines that surround her home in Ottawa.

While the starting line at her first marathon once felt foreign and out of reach, Provencher feels confident going into the TCS New York City Marathon. In May, she ran a half-marathon in under two and a half hours, a PR that has her pumped up for November 6.

“I love using marathons as something I can be proud of,” says Provencher. “What I want people to see is that you can be big and overweight and still be physically active and healthy.”

By Dronile Hiraldo

GET YOUR STORIES ON. Read more inspiring stories from runners chronicling their journeys to the TCS New York City Marathon starting line.

TUNE IN. The 2016 TCS New York City Marathon will be televised live on Sunday, November 6, on WABC-TV, Channel 7 in the New York tri-state area from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET, and for the rest of the nation on ESPN2 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.