Jennie Tillery runs Boston Marathon

Susan EspirituOur Town Neighbors

Jennie Tillery ran the 2024 Boston Marathon with over 25,000 other people but Jennie lives in Knoxville and has a story.

Jennie has loved running since she was a kid, running cross county in middle and high school. Running was her passion but playing piano was her calling, so she studied music at Belmont University in Nashville. Once she graduated with a degree in music education she taught music in multiple schools before getting married in June 2011.

Two things have remained consistent for Jennie: music and running. She is the pianist at Ridgeview Baptist Church in Knoxville and teaches private piano lessons. Running for enjoyment has continued and Jennie calls running therapeutic.

Jennie’s running increased from running in the neighborhood to running a half marathon in 2015. After running the half marathon, she was hooked on races and challenging herself to see how far she could run in one day.

Covid provided the motivation to increase her running miles from 14 to 15, then on to 20 miles. In June 2020, she ran 20 miles for the first time and she set the goal to train for a marathon to see if she could qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Jennie was so determined to train correctly for the marathon she hired an online coach from her Facebook running group and in December 2022, she ran her first marathon in Loudon County.

To her surprise Jennie placed first of the women who ran in the marathon with a time that qualified for the Boston Marathon.

It is not so easy to run the Boston Marathon even though you qualify for it and Jennie’s story took quite a few twists and turns toward completing this bucket list feat.

Jennie and her husband, Charlie, flew to Boston on their first flight ever together and Charlie’s first flight since he was a kid. After the connecting flight in Charlotte, they boarded the flight to Boston along with many others in Boston Marathon jackets from 2019, 2017 and 2023 with some from as far back as 2011. She did not wear her Boston jacket because she had not yet completed the marathon.

Many unique things occurred for the couple during the trip. The first being the gate numbers for their plane in Charlotte: 6/4/11.

June 4, 2011 is Jennie and Charlie’s anniversary so she told Charlie, ”Do you not see? Do you not see God written all over this trip? It was meant for us to be going together to Boston! God has a plan for us these next few days.”

The two had no issues with their trip and met friends from the Facebook running group they had never met in person as well as many others along the way.

Jennie had a start time of 10:50 a.m. and it was an unseasonably warm day, sunny with no cloud cover. She gravitated from the middle of the pack to the left side of the road, the side she is used to running on the roads here at home.

People were lined up thick along the whole 26.2 miles, cheering, and shouting, “Go Jesus! Yay Jesus! You got this! Run for God!” They were shouting the name of Jesus, because it was on Jennie’s shirt instead of her name and Jennie says, “that meant all the more to me!” Her friend Maureen had helped her situate the bib so they could see the name of Jesus.

Jennie finished the Boston Marathon in a faster time than she imagined. The drama wasn’t quite over. Just after finishing, she walked to get her gear bag and collapsed with a Charlie horse in her left calf. In excruciating pain, two gentlemen helped her into a wheelchair and massaged her calf until she could walk again.

Unfortunately, Jennie had given her phone to Charlie at the finish line, expecting to meet him at the family meeting area so she had to ask a one of the gentlemen to borrow a phone to call him. They finally reconnected and she found out that Charlie almost got arrested.

Charlie had seen her go to the ground in pain. Not knowing what happened, he jumped the security fence and the police threatened to arrest him if he didn’t get back over the fence. He shouted, “That’s my wife!!!” When the police moved forward to take him, he jumped back over the fence and proceeded to the medical tent where he thought Jennie was, but she wasn’t. Then he got the call from Jennie.

Jennie and Charlie got back to the hotel, finishing the night with food and relaxation. Returning home with Jennie proudly wearing her Boston Marathon jacket, this was a bucket list trip to remember.

Jennie says, “Thank you, Jesus for this experience of a lifetime for both Charlie and me! What a joy it is to run and run for the pure fun of it! (Isaiah 40:31)”

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