Physics professor Jennifer Hoffman ’99 breaks women’s transcontinental running record | News

Physics professor Jennifer Hoffman ’99 breaks women’s transcontinental running record |  News

Jennifer E. smashed it. Hoffman, a 1999 Harvard physics professor, set the world record for the fastest distance run by a woman across America last Friday, running more than 3,000 miles in less than 48 days.

Hoffman began her career in San Francisco and ended in New York. She ran every day for 15 hours, covering an average of 63 miles. The previous record was 54 days, set by Sandra Velens in 2017.

Hoffman said the transcontinental race has been her goal for a long time.

“I’ve always dreamed of doing this since I was a kid. I’ve always dreamed of crossing the United States under my own power,” she said.

This is Hoffman’s third attempt to break the world record. Hoffman’s 2019 attempt was halted 2,560 miles into her career when she suffered a knee injury in eastern Ohio. According to Hoffman’s blog, she “dreamed every day for 4 years of returning and completing this tour.”

However, Hoffmann’s decision to achieve a third world record was a last-minute one.

As a member of the U.S. National 24 Hour Team, which competes in ultramarathon events, Hoffman originally wanted to focus on training in preparation for the world championship competition in December.

But Hoffman said she reconsidered in mid-August when Pete Kostelnick — her close friend and the men’s cross-continental world record holder — was involved in a serious car accident.

“I realized anything could happen any day. You never know when you’re going to get into a car accident that could end the dream,” Hoffman said. “Talking to him really convinced me to do it now, while I can.”

Hoffman and her team rushed to organize the intense race after she made the decision to pursue the record.

“I was trained at the bank, but I wasn’t sure if all the logistics would come together, but miraculously, I have an amazing team of women who have supported me,” Hoffman said.

From driving the RV to handing out hugs and chocolate chip cookies, the crew made the run a “team effort,” Hoffman said.

“If I didn’t have this amazing crew that makes all these challenges invisible to me so I can just focus on running, I wouldn’t have done it,” Hoffman added.

Hoffman’s support system also extended beyond her core team.

“In almost every state, I’ve had at least one moment when I was surprised by a friend who happened to be passing by and caught me on the road,” Hoffman said.

But even the “complete strangers” Hoffman met during her escape had an impact. In Nebraska, after hearing about the escape, a woman presented Hoffman with dozens of fresh eggs. In another state, a farmer offered her a free T-shirt from his farm.

“There are so many moments like that — just pure generosity from strangers,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman has also attracted a large number of supporters online. Her Instagram and Facebook pages have gained a total of 2,800 followers, who have remained engaged throughout the journey. Huffman also carried a tracking device that broadcast her location every 10 minutes and could receive messages from the general public.

“Throughout the day, people were sending very short messages of encouragement. It was really touching to feel a huge community of people watching and cheering me on,” Hoffman said.

During the final leg of the race — which spanned 12 miles from the George Washington Bridge to New York City Hall — Huffman was joined by family, friends and students from “all over” her life, cheering her on.

“A friend from kindergarten, a friend since I was at Stanford, several friends who live in the New York City area, and I just felt like a piper — more and more friends kept gathering in this group behind me,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said it was her supporters and team that ultimately pushed her to break the world record.

“There was no question that I had to keep going, no matter how hard it was, because I owed it to all these people,” Hoffman said.

After the 24 Hour Championships in December, Hoffman said she hopes to take a “long break” from running before continuing to chase new running goals.

Despite many “falls and plants and tears,” Hoffman said she couldn’t be happier to have broken the record.

“I failed many times before I succeeded,” she said. “I hope someone, somewhere is inspired to overcome failure and continue to strive for an audacious goal because I believe failure is part of the process.”

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