Never before did I think that I’d be running marathons—and guiding. Marathoner and running coach Jennifer Chu is talking about a chance meeting that now has her leading the blind and visually impaired in marathons and half-marathons.
Chu, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was vacationing on Prince Edward Island when she noticed a vacationer in a Boston Marathon jacket from 2017—one just like hers. Its owner, Ary Tsotras of London, Ontario, had lost much of his sight beginning in his thirties. Chu and Tsotras kept in touch, and he invited her to guide him in last April’s Boston Marathon, even though it would be her first time guiding.
She loves the role.
At the 2018 California International Marathon, Chu guided an athlete who beat her personal record by four minutes.
She was thrilled, which made me incredibly happy. Guiding has been so much fun because I have the opportunity to run with a buddy and help them accomplish their goals. It’s inspiring to run with somebody unable to see. They’re trusting you to guide them, and crossing the finish line together is exhilarating.
How she started
A high school athlete who stayed active in college, Chu began running regularly in 2011. At the time, her career was in environmental science. Running was my outlet for a long day. I joined the social runs at a local Fleet Feet store as a way to meet new friends. On the weekends, I challenged myself to run longer distances, and I realized that I really enjoyed it.
So much so, Chu changed careers to pursue her passion for running. These days, Chu guides, competes, and coaches a running group at Fleet Feet Carrboro & Durham, where she works. I love the community and the lifestyle. Everybody is very supportive and encouraging, and it’s an amazing environment to be part of.
She ran the New York City Marathon last fall, and she is headed back to Boston this spring.
How about pressure?
Chu was anxious about her first time guiding, and the pressure increased when Boston delivered up frigid temperatures, brisk wind, and a downpour on race day. I was afraid of failing, but Ary was reassuring. He trusted me. I took a deep breath at the start line, told myself that we’re just going on a really long run together, and we tackled the race one mile at a time.
About wearing compression
I won my first pair of CEP compression socks at a trivia night. They’re very versatile. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to wear them; they provide great support if you’re on your feet all day. I love wearing CEP compression when I travel, for workouts, and during competition.