Running Women Series – fRAN Johnson

Read how Fran Johnson gets her run on especially distance running in this In The Gym interview.  You will be inspired.

Learn how Fran Johnson got started running and keeps running long distances. #blackgirlsrun #runnerscommunityFFFC:  Please introduce yourself to our readers.

FJ:  Greetings, everyone! Thank you FFFC for asking me to be a part of the Fierce Women Series. I am honored. My name is Francene (fRAN ) Johnson from Joplin, Missouri.

FFFC:  How and why did you get started running?

FJ:  I started running back in elementary school. I continued running through middle school, high school and some college. I always and still do love it! 1991 was probably the last time I ran until December, 2011. Glad to be back!

FFFC:  What inspired you to start running?

FJ:  I’m not sure what inspired me in 5th grade. I just ran. It was very natural for me. My dad was a runner.

I continued running all through school and by the time I finished high school I had the opportunity to win state titles in five of my events in the 100, 200, 400 and anchor in the 4×100 and 4×200 meter dashes coached by Head Coach, Len Nickoloff and Assistant, Mark Walden at Clearview High in Lorain, Ohio.

Thankful for the training I learned from them…GREAT Coaches!

FFFC:  What do you like most about running?

FJ:  I am blessed by the talent God has given me. Like in high school, I still enjoy competing. I don’t have the speed like I had in high school, but enjoy running long! I love the endurance part of running. It’s relaxing and healthy for me.

FFFC:  What is the furthest distance or longest time you have run?

FJ:  The furthest distance I have run is 26.2 miles. This happened at my first full marathon at Oklahoma City Memorial Run in April 2013. It’s pretty crazy to think about this after being a sprinter since elementary school.

I did run cross-country my last three years of high school. My coach, Len Nickoloff encouraged me to run cross-country to help make me faster and stronger in my 400 meter dash, which back then the 400 seemed like a long distance run to me, LOL! In 2014 I will be running my next longest distance which will be my first 50K (31 miles).

FFFC:  Do you belong to a running group? Show’em some love right here.

FJ:  I am a member of Rufus Racing, LLC, here in Joplin, Missouri and unofficially a member of ‘Joplin Roadrunners.’ Both groups are awesome and are so supportive! I’ve been a part of both groups for almost three years. They cheer us all on at our races and very active in the community!

FFFC:  What do you do to stay in tip top running shape (exercise, nutrition, etc.)?

FJ:  My number one practice is getting regular chiropractic adjustments to help improve my performance and stay in shape. I also run with the cross-country team and on my own.

I train with a group run by a couple, Nathan and Jenna. We do speed work and run hills which is a lot of fun running with friends! I run in as many races as I can 2-4 a month.

I’ve been drinking lots of water since training for my first marathon and about a month ago I gave up soda. I was drinking too many sweet drinks. Both of my parents are diabetic so I am controlling the sugar. I also eat pretty healthy, but can do better.

FFFC:  What was the biggest challenge when you started running or still is even now?

FJ:  My biggest challenge was and still is not being able to run as much as I want to because of a lot of family activities, but family does come first. Most of the races I’ve done recently have mainly been 5K’s so the training I’ve been doing works for that. I’ve ran three half marathons since the last weekend in September and feel my body is pretty conditioned for the halfs.

I do have a marathon coming up in December so I will need to get back to running longer than 13.1 miles.

FFFC:  Have you ever had any major setbacks? What was it and how did you overcome it to get back out there?

FJ:  Through all of my years of running I had never had any setbacks until late this summer. I ended up with some knee pain which kept me from running for a good six weeks. I mean I would go out and force myself to run even with the pain which was not smart. I could not get a ¼ of a mile in! It was SO frustrating! This came a few weeks after my marathon. Within the week of my marathon I signed up to run a 5K because I “felt fine.” Three weeks later I ran a half marathon.

The problem, I think, is that I did not let me body recover properly after my marathon. I had read about it, but didn’t let it sink in. A friend sent me some info on foam rolling. I had a foam roller in my home, but was not using it properly.

Once I read and watched the video on foam rolling, I tried it and it helped! Within a week I was back to running up to 7 miles. I was SO happy! It was painful foam rolling out all of the tight muscles I had. I had lots of knots in my legs that I had to work out.

The foam roller was a lifesaver! I would recommend you to see a doctor if you are having any issues. You do not want to make things worse by continuing to run with injuries.

FFFC:  Do you have any upcoming races planned? Share the event details here.

FJ:  My upcoming races include; Nov.3, 2013-Bass Pro Conservation 5K Nov. 23, 2013-AdventureMax Half Marathon & 10K Trail Run Nov. 28, 2013-2nd Annual Joplin Turkey Trot Dec. 28, 2013-Run For The Ranch Marathon Jan. 1, 2014-Annual Chilly 5K (may have to walk this one) Feb. 15, 201-Run With The Wind 25K

FFFC:  Who helped you as you developed your running skills?

FJ:  I have learned my running skills from my high school track coaches, Len Nickoloff and Mark Walden. Mark would sprint with us. He showed us how to pump our arms, lift those knees and power out of starting blocks, etc.

I remember everything I learned from my school days and have also have learned some things from my kids track coach where they currently attend school. I am one of the assistant track coaches, but I still learn things from the head coach Daniel.

I have learned things that I can use in my running now and it has helped me.

FFFC:  Any advice for someone interested in starting to run?

FJ:  Like my high school coach told me when I started back into running almost a couple of years ago…don’t start out too much too soon. If you can, run with some friends. This will help keep you motivated.

Change up your running routes. Don’t run the same route all the time because you will get bored and start to feel not so motivated. Keep a journal and write down your progress.

I would write down how long it took me to run a mile and each day would try to run a few seconds faster. I had a stop watch at the time since I wasn’t aware of running apps, but today I use the Mapmyrun app. It’s free and simple to use.

FFFC:  What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

FJ:  Well, up until running my first marathon it was having the privilege of traveling to China in high school to compete in a 13K race with a group called International Sports Exchange.

Running my first marathon was the next biggest accomplishment! I loved every step of my 26.2 journey. Now I’m addicted! My next goal I plan to accomplish is qualifying for Boston. I will be thrilled if I qualify in 2014!

FFFC:  Who are some of your running idols (Male or female we don’t discriminate)?

FJ:  Some of my favorite running athletes are the kids on the track & cross-country team who have inspired me over the years before getting back into running. It was always so much fun cheering them on! I was finding myself wanting to get out and run with them at their practices and it just brought back so many of my own memories.

Caleb Hoover and Trenton Morris now in college had inspired me so much when they were in high school. They trained hard in practice. Caleb Hoover was and is one of my favorite athletes.

He runs for NAU and their team was featured in Running Times Magazine in September, I believe. He runs and gives everything he has! I enjoy watching his college races and seeing how he is still wowing people. Check him out on Twitter. Florence Griffith Joyner was my idol in high school. I enjoyed watching her, the fastest woman in the world.

I loved her drive, her style and her personality. She was a beautiful woman. Now that I’m running distance, I have learned of amazing distance runners like Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, Sheri Piers, Camille Hero, Ida Keeling (97 year old 100 meter runner) as well as several local athletes who inspire me.

I love hearing about their workouts, admire the positive attitude, admire their passion for the love of running. They truly inspire me so much!

FFFC:  How can our readers learn more about your running journey?

FJ:  Readers can learn more about my running by visiting my Facebook page at I Run Long or visit my blog at


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1 Reply to "Running Women Series - fRAN Johnson"

  • scott December 23, 2013 (12:56 am)


    good info!