Since the age of five, Jessica Trengove has had “an innate belief that we could all be whatever we wanted to be if we put our minds to it.” Her goals at the time were to be a ballerina, a gymnast, and a veterinarian. Instead she became a two-time Olympian, a physiotherapist and coach, and an entrepreneur. Running has been a constant in her life since childhood, but events in recent years have given her a new perspective on the sport.
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Jess loved growing up in the small, close-knit Australian town of Naracoorte. Her parents never put limits on her dreams, and she thinks that growing up in a country town helped her too. “We really did just have a go at everything and it seemed like the sky was the limit,” she recalls.
“I’ve always been driven to get the most out of myself and just to keep trying to progress and that’s still what drives me today. And that’s why I love the sport of running so much as well, because you can measure your progress so easily. Yeah, I love that feeling.”
Her drive earned her a spot on the Australian Olympic team. She ran her second-ever marathon at the London Olympic Games in 2012, and represented her country in the marathon again four years later at the Rio Games.
Equally important was a race in 2014. Adelaide’s City-Bay Fun Run is the city’s key running event of the year. At an after-party, Jess met another runner, Dylan Stenson. “I had never seen him in my life and he just was really smiley and friendly,” she says. “It was really cool getting to know someone at the after-party of a race who I’ve never met before because Adelaide is not a huge city; you generally know every other runner around the place.”
They became a couple, and after the 2016 Olympics, Jess’s career continued to climb. She set a new PB at the London Marathon the following year, and followed that up with the London World Championships a few months later. “I had an uninterrupted preparation and really enjoyed that World Champs in 2017 because I was just racing free and with this sort of confidence,” she remembers. “So naturally the Commonwealth Games being in Australia in 2018, I thought, ‘Okay, well, you know, better target that next.’ I love representing Australia and on home soil, I knew it would be an opportunity for people who I’ve worked with over the years to be there at that race, and that was an amazing experience.”
After the Gold Coast Marathon in July, she and Dylan decided to step away from racing for a few months and go to Europe to plan their future “without all of the noise.” Jess was training for the Toronto Marathon while they were there, and realized that she was reaching her mental limit. “ I had the most stunning trails in the Netherlands,” she says, “and when I wasn’t able to keep myself motivated easily with that sort of scenery, I knew that it was time to have a rest from running.”
That decision freed her to run another personal best. “I almost just felt at peace because I knew that after this marathon I was going to have a rest and that we were going to try for a baby,” she says. “I ended up just going in thinking, let’s have a bit of fun with it. And I remember thinking in the latest stages, like, give this everything you’ve got because I’m not going to be doing one for a while, if all goes to plan.”
Dylan and Jess were married in 2019 and welcomed their son, Billy, in November. Being a mother has revitalized Jess as a runner. “Parenthood has just brought in these new feelings and this new energy for running. I didn’t even realize how much running meant to me until I didn’t have it for a while.”
Her dad’s diagnosis of cancer also made her realize how important running was to help her get through that difficult time, which also gave her “a broader perspective on life.” If she has a big goal and something changes, “it just doesn’t bother me,” she says, “like it perhaps would have three or four years ago.”
That new mindset allowed her to persevere despite a stress fracture and races canceled due to Covid. She ran the Perth Marathon in October 2021, where she achieved a new personal best. “That ended up being such an amazing race experience. And I would never have had that if it hadn’t been for those setbacks. So often, you know, something happens and you look back at the series of events that led to that and you think, ‘Well, it all sort of happened for a reason and this was a great outcome.’”
Jess and Dylan have wanted to give back to the running world, and to that end they and her brother started Rundies, an underwear company specifically for runners. They’ve been able to donate products to charities and help support local athletes. They’re still figuring out what Rundies’ direction will be in the future, but she says, “it’s been fun.”
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“Thank you” to Jess. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.