The Catholic University of America

Jess Ford

Marathon Runner Excels in Academics

On Oct. 28, senior Jess Ford crossed the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Va., after running 26.2 miles through the landmark districts of Washington, D.C. It’s not the first time Ford has achieved such a milestone. The marathon was her fourth, not to mention two half marathons, during her time at CUA. 

“It takes about 16 weeks to fully prepare for a marathon…You have to make time for it like it’s a class,” she says. “But I love it, I’m obsessed. I want to keep getting better.”

Ford ran her first marathon the summer after her freshman year in June 2010. A member of the CUA women’s basketball team during her freshman and sophomore years, she trained during the off-season.

Marathon training involves running in increments according to a strict schedule, Ford says. On some days she runs 18 miles, and on others, only six. For the long runs, she finds different routes that take her through scenic Rock Creek Park or up and down North Capitol Street between the CUA campus and the U.S. Capitol building.

“D.C. is perfect for marathon training,” she says. “First I’m at the Washington Monument, then I’m running by Abe Lincoln. It’s so fun.”

Ford hopes to run her fifth marathon this summer after Commencement in May. In the meantime, she will be running two half marathons this spring in the Washington, D.C. area. Her long-term goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and to beat the record time of her father, an avid marathon runner.

Throughout her years as a psychology major at CUA, Ford has applied a similar drive towards her academics. She hopes to earn a Ph.D. in sport and exercise psychology. Her research interests include exercise adherence and mental skills training.

“It’s cool to use what you learn about on yourself, accepting that you’re going to be in pain and pushing yourself further, not judging your experience, controlling your breath and things like that,” she says of her own research, which has in part focused on applications of sport psychology programs to runners.

Her research interests are due, she says, to her experience for the past five semesters as a research assistant. She was selected by Carol Glass, professor of clinical psychology and undergraduate program director, and Keith Kaufman, lecturer and research associate, from a pool of undergraduate applicants for a research apprenticeship her sophomore year with the sport psychology research team in the Anxiety, Mindfulness, and Psychotherapy Integration Lab.

“Jessica is a really hard worker and has shown a lot of initiative in our lab, and we have all benefitted from having her as a part of our research team,” Glass said. She said she has been impressed with Ford’s “genuine interest and enthusiasm for psychological research…Her work has always been top-notch.”

In October, Ford gave a poster presentation of her own applied research at a conference sponsored by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology in Atlanta based on data from a study conducted in the lab. The research explored the relationship between the state experienced by long-distance runners known as flow by psychologists (or being “in the zone”), mindfulness, and body image.

Ford has the distinction of being the only senior in the department this year to conduct a senior thesis, an option Glass says is only available to a limited number of “outstanding students with earlier in-depth research experience.”

During Ford’s junior year, she began volunteering with the national non-profit organization Back on My Feet. The program works with homeless shelters nationally to promote independence and self-esteem through running.

Ford volunteered with the Blair Transitional Rehabilitation Program in Washington, D.C., leading morning runs for residents of the shelter multiple times a week. She hopes to become involved with the project again in the coming spring semester.

“It gave me a glimpse of what I could be doing more of once I’m in graduate school, using interventions through running to promote healthy behaviors,” she says. “There are so many great things that can come out of that commitment to running and bettering yourself.”

During her time at CUA, Ford has also been able to cultivate her musical talents. A singer and guitar player, Ford has been a member of the student group Redline A Cappella since her junior year. She has performed solo at monthly Open Mic Nights sponsored by CUA Program Board and during the Office of Campus Activities’ Lunchtime Performance Series.

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Jess Ford

Hometown: Tinton Falls, N.J.

Major: Psychology

Favorite class: Sport Psychology with Keith Kaufman, lecturer

Favorite spot on campus: Columbus School of Law Lawn. “I love to sit on the law school lawn and play guitar.”

Favorite place to run: Rock Creek Park