Learn how this speedy Illinois runner got started and what goals she hopes to tackle down the road.
You don’t have to look much further than Jill Czarnik’s address to understand her commitment to running: Her apartment is just a couple of blocks from Fleet Feet’s Old Town location.
“That was by design,” she says with a laugh that suggests she’s not kidding around.
The 25-year-old who works in finance has been running with the Fleet Feet Sports running team since she was in college—which is unusual since she was going to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, two hours south of Chicago.
“I liked coming to Chicago to train on the weekends, and that’s when I was introduced to Fleet Feet,” she says. “I found it to be a good group of girls and ended up racing with them.”
Czarnik grew up in Orland Park, Ill., and ran cross country and track at Carl Sandburg High School, but she says she was never fast enough to consider running in college.
“That just wasn’t ever on my radar,” she says. “I was never even a varsity athlete. I loved running, and I still considered myself an athlete in college, but I wasn’t at that level.”
But her commitment to the sport and consistent training has brought her to a level she refers to as “competitive” even though most people would see her as just plain fast. Czarnik has a 1:22:57 PR in the half marathon, and you can generally find her near the top of the leader board at local races all year. She most recently won the women’s division of the New Year’s Day 5K (and finished ninth overall in 22:18) amid brutal winter conditions in Chicago.
“I think it ended up being slower than my marathon pace,” she says. “I guess I was the fastest one crazy enough to show up.”
She’s training for the Illinois Marathon on April 26 in her old college stomping grounds of Champaign and is planning on making the half marathon the focus of her training this summer. She’s also involved with the American Liver Foundation’s marathon training team, which is an official charity for the 2014 Chicago Marathon.
“My father passed away of cirrhosis of the liver when I was 13,” she says. “I ran my first Boston Marathon in his honor and raised money for ALF. I’m working with the Great Lakes division to rebuild our Chicago Marathon team for this year.”
Czarnik also will continue to race with her Fleet Feet teammates. “They’re all people I’ve really gotten to know,” she says. “They’re more than my teammates now; they’re all my friends. They’re the people I talk to every day.”
Here Are A Few Of Her Favorite Things
Favorite Place to Run: The Chicago Lakefront Trail, specifically between North Avenue and Navy Pier.
Favorite Way to Cross-Train: Cycling.
Favorite Piece of Running Advice: “If you want immediate results, you picked the wrong sport.”
Favorite Event: The Hood to Coast Relay on August 22–23 in Oregon.
Favorite Chicago-Area Race: Magnificent Mile Chicago Women’s Half Marathon & 5K on Aug. 31 in Chicago.
“This is one of the best all-women races in the country.”
Favorite Workout: 800-meter repeats.
“It is a love/hate relationship.”
Favorite Post-Run Indulgence: Brunch with teammates or training partners.
“I’ll likely get french toast and assorted fruit. If it’s winter, I will probably sneak a Baileys into my coffee.”
Favorite Way to Unwind: Yoga.
Favorite Restaurant: Vivo, 838 W. Randolph St., Chicago. vivo-chicago.com
Favorite Shoe: Nike Flyknit Trainer+