Jessica Marino, a 2004 graduate, was a member of the Richmond women’s soccer squad for four seasons. As a Spider, Marino helped the program reach the NCAA tournament in 2000 and 2002.
In the 2002 tournament, Marino helped the Spiders gain national notoriety when she scored the game-winner in a 1-0 win over No. 15 Clemson in the first round. Richmond went on to defeat James Madison, 1-0, earning the program’s first bid to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.
Always an athlete, Marino transitioned from soccer to marathons to triathlons– Ironman Races to be specific –all while holding down a job in the finance business. RichmondSpiders.com caught up with her to discuss her athletic and professional careers and how Richmond helped her develop after graduation.
RichmondSpiders.com: You’ve transitioned from playing soccer at UR to competing in marathons and triathlons. What drove you to start racing?
JM: I moved to NYC when I graduated from Richmond and began working in an office every day and living the “adult” life. The “freedom” of being an adult wore out fairly quickly and I started to miss the competition and discipline of training athletically for some sort of goal or challenge. I distinctly remember watching the NYC marathon my second year living in the city in complete awe and basically holding myself back from jumping over the barriers to join the race. I was fascinated by the runners and their fortitude as I watched from a bar on the upper east side of Manhattan somewhere around the 18th mile of the race. My competitive fire was totally sparked in an instant. Never having run over four miles straight, I didn’t know if I could do it, or how I could possibly run for 26.2 miles, but I knew that I would now have to figure it out for myself. I found a way in to the NYC marathon for the following year, and the rest is history!
RichmondSpiders.com: How long have you been competing in triathlons and other races?
JM: My first marathon was NYC in 2007, and then it snowballed from there. I narrowly missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon that first year. After a couple of days of incredibly sore legs and a permagrin that wouldn’t quit, I committed to running the following year, in 2008, with the sole focus of qualifying for Boston. I achieved that goal and went on to run Boston the following April and repeated that routine of NYC into Boston for another year after. After I completed the Boston marathon for the second time in 2010, I came to the realization that somehow I had officially transitioned from an offensive striker/sprinter on the soccer field to a distance runner. I had become very comfortable with the challenge of completing a marathon and was ready for my next challenge.
A few friends had suggested that I might enjoy a deeper dive into triathlon over the course of the past year, but I didn’t know how to swim really, and I didn’t own a bike. By the Fall of 2010, the competitive itch had completely overtaken the fear of taking on a new sport and I somewhat drastically took the leap. I signed up for the full distance Ironman in Texas in May of 2011, giving myself 9 months to learn how to swim (2.4 miles), ride a bike (112 miles), and be ready to get myself to the finish line (26.2 mile run) in Texas. Fast-forward to October of 2015, and I had just finished my 6th Ironman, and 2nd Ironman World Championship appearance in Kona, HI.
RichmondSpiders.com: About a year ago you were riding in the Race Across America, a 3,000-mile team cycling race. What did that race teach you about yourself both physically and mentally?
JM: That was quite the wild ride, and truly a once in a lifetime experience for me. Team Intrepid Fallen Heroes ended up winning our 4-person mixed gender division in the final 55 miles of the whole race. It was surreal and so incredibly intense. We made it across the country in just over 6 days between the 4 of us, with one person’s wheels on the road at all times. It was alot like living my whole life and all of life’s lessons – all of the highs and all of the lows – in those 6-plus days.
The first day was a full 10 hours for myself and my riding partner that started on the beach in Cali where the energy was completely electric, and ended in the middle of the dessert after a full day of intense riding in 110 degree heat. After a few hours of sleep on the bus, Day 2 brought another 10-hour shift where we had to climb over 8,000 vertical feet in more scorching heat. It was after this second day where, personally, I heavily questioned myself and my ability to be able to complete the challenge of making it across the country. But when things get challenging, you have to focus on taking one step at a time, never giving up and believing in yourself.
We started that next shift in the middle of the night, and within a few hours, we would get the opportunity to ride into this unbelievable sunrise in the middle of the most vast, desolate, peaceful, and breathtaking scenery of a Utah Indian reservation. I will never forget that moment, or that day, or that vision. Much of the same would continue for the rest of the way to Maryland. Every time I woke up for my next shift, I would look back to the previous shift and realize how fortunate and proud I was to be apart of this experience. And the best part was that it truly closed with that fairytale finish. I stood at the finish line where my parents came to meet me in Annapolis, starving and exhausted, but filled to the brim with this overwhelming belief that anything is possible, and you just never ever give up on yourself, or your dreams.
RichmondSpiders.com: You also work full time. Can you talk a little bit about your job?
JM: I work in Finance during the day. I am an International Equity Salestrader. I was a Finance major at Richmond, and was fortunate at the time to be able to use the University’s alumni network and resources to secure an Internship on Wall Street. That internship then turned into a full-time offer and I have since continued on the same career path, though at a different bank than where I started. Always an athlete, the environment on the trading floor was something that I felt I could thrive in. The high stakes, high pressure, constantly fluid and fast-paced environment combined with the challenge of being able to build and maintain client relationships is what drew me in. And those are the attributes that remain an interesting and attractive part of the job today, though much has changed in the financial industry and our economy in general from when I started.
RichmondSpiders.com: How does your time as a student-athlete at Richmond help you balance a high-end job with such a rigorous race schedule?
JM: From student-athlete to the working girl/amateur elite athlete was entirely transferable. I have been able to draw upon all of the skills and characteristics that I learned in college to help me channel that same type of work ethic and commitment to my life now, especially in the thick of training. Time management is paramount, as is deep discipline and focus and determination. And although it exists in a different kind of realm in terms of support, I certainly miss that camaraderie and family of my Spider Soccer days.
RichmondSpiders.com: What advice do you have for current student-athletes who are about to start another year packed with high-level athletics and academics?
JM: I think the biggest thing is to remember why you do it all. That you are pursuing your passions both in the classroom and in your sport, whatever that is. Pursuing your passion is what is exciting and motivating and ever-lasting about it all and helps to keep perspective. It makes it fun and helps to melt the pressure and stress when it mounts. If it were easy, it would be easy – and easy doesn’t quite create as much room for growth, excitement, sense of personal accomplishment or fulfillment like a good challenge does! I’d say to commit to your purpose and your goals in and out of the classroom and enjoy the ride. You only ever get to affect the right now and then its gone, so you might as well go for it with all you have in every now.