We’re kicking off our What Moves You series with Jennifer Roe, a producer from the Netflix documentary From Fat to Finish Line. Jennifer (AKA Runner #7) brought great personality and energy to the film, often shown jamming to music and cracking jokes during her runs in the blistering Florida heat.
But what might be Jennifer’s most memorable moment in From Fat to Finish Line was during her second leg of the 200-mile relay race from Miami to Key West. Cramping up, in pain, and with tears rolling down her face, Jennifer struggled with very real feelings of failure and despair. And while that may have not been the story she planned to tell, it became one of the most dramatic and pivotal scenes in the documentary, and one that showed the power of self-talk.
“Up until that point,” Jennifer says, “I never realized how mean I could be to myself. I really beat myself up. I thought of myself as a fraud and said to myself, ‘See? You’re not a real runner.’ I even convinced myself that I had not only ruined everyone’s race and let my team down, but that I had just blown the whole movie! We were making a movie about getting to the finish line and I wasn’t going to get there.”
It was only after watching footage during the editing process that Jennifer begin to fully grasp what she had done to herself. “I’m pretty sure I talked myself into failing and cramping that night. I’ve learned that what we say to ourselves and the negative stuff we ‘mantra’ really, really matters.”
Watching and reliving the scene became a turning point for her. “I was determined to start being kinder to myself. Instead of sore legs making me feel like I was failing, I started to tell myself that those sore legs meant I was a badass and getting stronger.”
Since filming, Jennifer Roe has run two New York City Marathons and two more Ragnars. None were easy for her, but she let the power of positive thinking carry her through those tough miles and right to the finish lines. And she has incorporated this lesson into her professional life as well. She has since gone on to spearhead From Fat to Finish Line, an international running brand she co-founded with the film’s director, Angela Lee, which aims to support the unique needs of overweight runners, including battling negative self-talk.
“That mental breakdown in the film was probably one of the most important things that ever happened to me,” Jennifer says. “I so understand what happens in our members’ heads. The self-doubt, the feelings of failure, the fear. I know, because I live and battle it. That’s why it’s important to us to build a running company that helps people overcome the mental hurdles as much as it does help them hit physical milestones.”
And while it’s not always easy to keep those voices at bay, Jennifer says she’s getting better at managing them. “Now I know when those voices arrive. I’m more aware of it. I don’t win every battle but I feel as if I’m winning the war most of the time. I’ve learned to say ‘no’ to them. I’ve learned that even if it feels forced, I have to mantra positive things.”