Dr. Jessica Jones has run a long way from her hometown of Sulphur Springs, Indiana (population 374), and next week she will be running around the globe.
Jones’ journey has taken her to a variety of locations and planned career paths, but running has always come naturally for her.
Coming from such a small town in Indiana, she knows how unlikely her life story has been.
“As a young 17-year-old, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted — a degree in marine biology, to go to a smaller school, somewhere where it was warm and somewhere I could walk onto the cross country team,” Jones said. “It just so happens those factors liked up for me at TROY.”
A phone conversation with then-cross country coach (and Troy University Athletics Hall of Famer) Bob Lambert convinced Jones that TROY was the right destination for her.
She ran track and competed in cross country for two years at TROY, finding the University to be a home away from home.
“I loved it, I really did,” she said. “It was the perfect fit for me. TROY has grown a lot since I was there, but it was exactly what I was looking for — it wasn’t overwhelming to me, coming from a small town, and I was really happy to be a Trojan athlete.”
Jones stopped running in order to focus on her studies, and she later switched tracks, earning a Ph.D. in microbiology from South Alabama.
While she kept running to stay in shape, a national tragedy inspired her to enter the world of marathons.
“I started marathoning after the Boston Marathon bombing (in 2013),” Jones said. “I was already into running again pretty seriously at that point – 5k, 10k and half marathons. After the bombing, there was a big sense of community, and the runners all pulled together. It reminded me that’s where I felt happy was in the runner community at TROY. That motivated me to go for a marathon.”
Now, the person who didn’t want to be overwhelmed in college is preparing to compete in Antarctica, among other exotic locales.
“I’ve been thinking about this for four or five years,” said Jones, who works as a supervisory microbiologist at the Food and Drug Administration Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory on Dauphin Island. “A friend of mine at work, his niece ran this event either the first or second time it happened. I said, ‘Wow, that’s incredible, I can’t imagine doing that.’ Then I started thinking that maybe I can imagine it. She set the world record, and I said, ‘I’ve got to do that.’”
While Jones has traveled to Europe and South America before, this daunting challenge will be an entirely new experience.
“Nobody travels this much — seven continents in seven days,” she said. “It will definitely be an adventure.”
She’s excited about the challenge, about the travel, and also about representing the Trojans.
“I enjoyed the support of the whole community when I was there, and I’m looking forward to the same support for this,” she said. “I loved competing for TROY and being a Trojan.”
The World Marathon Challenge officially begins Feb. 6 in Antarctica.