Meet Jessica Croisant of SugarStride and Eat Clean, Run Dirty
by Noor Hindi
During her first 100-mile run, Jessica Croisant’s legs were giving out, her feet were blistered, her body was dehydrated and she felt delirious from lack of sleep. But Jessica pushed her body to new limits, finishing the race in 28.5 hours and proving to herself that she could do anything.
“In that course of 100 miles, you have runner’s high, you have calorie crashes, you’re crying. But when you cross that finish line, it’s everything.”
Years before running her first ultramarathon, Jessica struggled with depression and low self-esteem. She had just moved from Northern Wisconsin to Stow with her husband. She hated Northeast Ohio until she started doing mixed martial arts and exploring the metro parks.
After completing the color run, her first 5K, Jessica started running regularly and signing herself and her husband up for races around Akron. Soon after, she fell in love with the trail running community in Akron, which she describes as supportive and accepting.
“There’s so many trail running groups in this area, it’s crazy. This is like a hotbed of ultra trail running.”
Since her first 100-mile race, Jessica has completed a second run, with a third coming up on February 8. Jessica enjoys the intensity of the races, which are physically and emotionally demanding. Many of the runs are done in the mountains at high altitudes, making it harder to breathe. Because of the long distances, runners are oftentimes spread apart, forcing the athletes to run alone. Aside from this, some of the trails are remote, making them difficult for paramedics to reach athletes in the case of an emergency.
“You don’t get more vulnerable and raw and real than doing 100 miles in the mountains,” she says. “One of the cool things about these races is sometimes you encounter another person and you band together for survival and conquer it together. Complete strangers become like your brother. It’s amazing.”
Oddly enough, something what helps Jessica and other ultra-runners is grilled cheese sandwiches and beer. Grilled cheese sandwiches have the perfect amount of fat and calories, and beer has calories and carbohydrates. During Jessica’s race in Chattanooga, she credits both food items for helping her finish the race when she almost gave up after a brief run-in with a pack of loose Rottweilers.
“I was sitting [at the aid station] thinking ‘why am I doing this? This is horrible. I’m dying. I want to burn all of my shoes, screw this,” she says. “They give me this can of Coors Banquet and I have this grilled cheese sandwich and I felt like a million bucks.”
To prepare for her races, Jessica runs the Ledges trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which she calls “magical.” To help other runners, Jessica does a podcast through her website, Sugarstride.com. The podcast offers running advice to people who are just getting started.
Jessica also leads a running group in Akron and Cleveland called “Eat Clean, Run Dirty.”
“It’s hard to be anywhere in NEO or Akron without having a cool place to go run within five minutes.”
Jessica is also helping run The Burning River Film Festival in October of 2018 at the Akron Civic Theatre. The festival will show inspiring movies about ultramarathon runners, while also acting as a social gathering for the trail running community through vendors, food and art.
“The film festival is a cool way for you to bring your wife or your kids and show them what you do. They might come to your race, they might see you at the finish line, they might see you at an aid station but they don’t know what’s out there.”
For runners just starting out, Jessica encourages them to hit the trails with a group and find out what they’re capable of. She says volunteering at races is also a great way to join the community.
“I think a lot of people would surprise themselves at how strong they are.”
Find out more about Jessica at SugarStride.com. To keep up with the Akron group runs, follow the Facebook page @SugarStride and join the Eat Clean, Run Dirty Facebook group.