Inspirational Athlete Spotlight: Iron Will Iron Jill
Inspiration comes in many forms. Some examples include being brave, honest, humble, optimistic, and always hungry to pursue more personal and fitness goals. Awe-inspiring people seem to exhibit these characteristics. Positive mindsets can seem challenging to uphold when personal responsibilities are thrown into the mix like raising a family, one of the most complicated yet rewarding life relationships we can take part in, too, most undoubtedly, living with a systemic disease which can wreak havoc on even the simplest daily activities. Then, let alone, training for the infamous Ironman Triathlon, all at the same time. Well if just one these seem overwhelmingly galvanic, imagine if they ALL were the cornerstones of your make up. Iron Will Iron Jill, also known as Jill Kuhn, understands these attributes all too well and handles what life throws her way with amazing ability. Working together with her family, dealing with obstacles, and seeking aspirational endurance goals while making them seemingly look almost easy, are reasons why we are celebrating this inspirational athlete!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am 43 years old next month. I have been married 17 years and we have four little boys ages 12, 11, 8, and 6 1/2. I was a therapist for children with autism and then a teacher before staying at home with our boys. I am a marathoner, an ultra runner, a triathlete, and an Ironman.
When did you first get into running?
After our fourth was born I found little time for myself, as you can imagine, and running provided that and so much more for me. Eventually running led to triathlon. And now I have the joy of three sports!
Your Instagram and Facebook pages are popular as an amateur runner. Could you give us perspective how that came to be?
I’m still wondering that myself! I began my Instagram and Facebook pages to first document my journey to become an Ironman, but it quickly became so much more than that. I started meeting amazing people and being offered incredible opportunities. I joined some pretty awesome teams such as Zoot, Orange Mud, and Finis Swim to name a few. The social media influence became so much more than I could have ever expected. The inspiration and motivation I receive daily from others keep me going on days when I feel like it’s next to impossible. I’m most grateful for that!
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You had a traumatic brain injury in your youth. Could you give us background on that and how this did not deter you from sports in the future?
When I was 12 I joined the track team and was going to do long distance running. Our first meet didn’t have a long distance event, so I was spectating. While I was spectating during the shot put event, an athlete released the shot put into the spectator’s area and it hit me in the head. It crushed my skull and I developed a blood clot on my brain, resulting in two brain surgeries. That was my last track meet. To be honest, it did deter me for many years but I’m so very grateful to have found my way back.
You also live with rheumatoid arthritis and publicly describe the symptoms of this autoimmune disease on your social media accounts. How have you prevailed over your disease?
This is something I continue to struggle with every day. Some days are more challenging than others. Some days it takes all the strength I have just to get out of bed, but I do it. I figure I have a choice – I can lay around and wallow in pain or I can choose to get up and fight. And I’m a fighter!
You’ve completed a full Ironman Triathlon with a tattoo to prove! Can you give us a recollection of your most trying part of that journey and also your most rewarding?
Just getting to the start line was so rewarding. I broke my foot at the start of training and training at this volume was extremely difficult on my body with RA. I was sick a lot with chronic UTI’s, bronchitis and pneumonia. I took antibiotics daily for months. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it thru the training to the start. It was a very emotional week leading up to race day. I was overwhelmed with gratitude just for the opportunity to race. And there is nothing like running down that red carpet to the finish of an Ironman knowing all the time, sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears put into getting there.
As if completing an Ironman wasn’t enough, you recently finished your first ultra race. What made you decide to get into ultras?
My first love has always been trail running. After the Ironman, I was excited to get back to my first love. I’m always looking for the next challenge, so ultras seemed the next logical step for me. And I love them!
What are your upcoming goals?
I am running a 25k race in the mountains. Then I have the Chicago Marathon in October. And finally, I’m going for a 100 mile ultra in December.
What advice would you give to someone fearful of their physical limitations who, ultimately, would like to participate in endurance sports?
If you want it bad enough you can do it. At the very least it’s worth going for it and trying!! You may have to make modifications to your training, you may have to go into it with different goals than others, you may have to accept it’s going to be really, really hard, but never let your limitations keep you from your dreams! The fight is worth it because there is no better feeling than winning! Even when you come in last place!