The 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon was full of surprises on February 3, 2024. One of them was the superb 4th place finish by Jess McClain, who had recently taken a two year break from racing. Jess McClain scored a 4 minute PB in Orlando, and recently signed a sponsorship deal with Brooks Running. From 2014-2018, Jess had run from the Brooks Beasts TC.

We reached out to Jess McClain through Megan Stills, at Brooks communications with 8 questions. We thank Jess for her time and answers and Megan for putting this opportunity together. 

RunBlogRun, # 1. Tell us about your race in Orlando. What went according to plan, and what surprised you?

Jess McClain: The race in Orlando is undoubtedly my most cherished race memory—I had so much fun. The plan was to put myself in the race from the start and find a good place in the lead pack for the first 13.1 miles. I did this for the first three miles until I realized we were running well under 5:30, which was too quick for me.

I made the call to back off and work in the second pack of awesome women through about 10 miles and then started to work my way back up to the women who were falling off the first pack. I ran by myself until about mile 14/15 and then slowly worked to catch some of the women before me. I kept moving up throughout the rest of the race and realized I was in fourth place with about 800m to go, a little too late to catch third. But I was so happy with my performance—nearly a four-minute personal best!

Jess McClain signs sponsorship with Brooks, photos by Brooks Running

RunBlogRun, # 2. How do you feel about being a professional runner with a sponsor, Brooks?

Jess McClain: I am so excited to be a Brooks athlete again. I spent time at the Brooks Hyperion house in Orlando, and it felt like a sense of home to be around the brand, old teammates, and Brooks employees again. I feel very fortunate to be supported by Brooks at this stage in life—married, working in the nonprofit sector, and living in Arizona full-time. I am so excited to join a brand at the forefront of our sport for so many years. It feels great to be back!

Jess McClain, photo by Brooks Running

RunBlogRun, # 3. How is your recovery going?

Jess McClain: Recovery is going great, and I am three weeks back into training! After my last two marathons, I found taking complete time off and then a few weeks of easy running beneficial. I went to Cabo with my family to hit the reset button and have been diligent about bodywork (massage and bodywork) since early March, so my body is feeling good! I am excited to hit the roads and track for some racing soon, which is a good sign that I’m fully mentally and physically recovered after the Marathon Trials in Orlando.

RunBlogRun, # 4. What was your first experience in our sport?

Jess McClain: My first true running memory was when my elementary school PE teacher encouraged me to try an after-school track program after watching me run the mile in PE class and beat all the boys. I was also playing soccer then but went to a few after-school practices for track and absolutely LOVED it. Fun fact: I got so nervous before one of my first club track meets that my dad took me for ice cream instead of making me race. The next time, I was less anxious and remembered having a lot of fun.

 

Jess McClain, photo by Brooks Running

RunBlogRun, # 5. What was the biggest lesson that you learned in running in high school?

Jess McClain: I think high school taught me how to be disciplined and manage my time. Growing up in Arizona, we practiced at 5 in the morning, which meant many early bedtimes and many early alarms. I never saw the end of one high school football game, but it was worth it when I performed well at state in cross country and track & field and ultimately gained admittance into Stanford University as a student-athlete. Ultimately, I learned what it meant to work hard and invest in a goal—and to keep it fun along the way!

Jess McClain, 2023 Crown City Classic winner, Coronado, CA, photo by Dan Cruz Photo

RunBlogRun, # 6. What is was your biggest lesson from running in college?

Jess McClain: The biggest lesson I learned at Stanford was from Coach Chris Miltenberg—to be present and enjoy/trust the process. As a Stanford student-athlete, I quickly got caught up in the intensity and high demands of our academics and athletics. He always reminded us to be present while at practice (try not to think about school), be present while in class (try not to think about running), and fully enjoy the moment with our friends. This is still a mindset I practice today.

RunBlogRun, # 7. Why did you decide to take a break from running?

Jess McClain: I didn’t stop running altogether, as getting in five steady runs per week kept me mentally sane through the pandemic. I did, however, take about a two-year break from racing, which turned out to be one of the best things I could have done for myself. My last race before the pandemic was in February 2020, and I raced my first marathon in February 2022.

Jess McClain signs with Brooks Running, photo by Brooks Running

It was tough to stay motivated to race with no starting line in sight during the pandemic. I saw an opportunity to invest in my marketing career with a really amazing startup and enjoyed the wedding planning process with my now husband, Connor, throughout 2021. Taking a step away from racing made me realize how much I love it and the opportunity it affords me to challenge myself.

 

RunBlogRun, # 8. What do you love about the sport of running?

Jess McClain: I love that you almost have no choice but to be unplugged and in the moment while on the run. Of course, I listen to my curated playlists and the occasional podcast when I’m running alone here and there, but when I’m running with my training partners or friends, I spend anywhere from an hour to two and a half hours with them with no distractions. Running has brought some of my closest and most cherished friendships into my life.

Running has also gotten me through the ups and downs of life. I can’t wait to get out for some celebratory miles when celebrating a life milestone. When I’m coping with grief, I go for a run. When I need to clear my head, a run is almost always there to help. This is one of the main reasons I am making sure to take care of my body and stay healthy—running keeps me sane, and I love it so much!

Jess McClain, photo by Brooks Running

​ 

By