OAKLEY -- It's been a banner-busting year for Jennifer Kadavy.
The 31-year-old Concord resident, a cross country and track coach and English teacher at Freedom High School in Oakley, got married, got buff and got a spot in the 2016 U.S. Olympic team marathon trials.
Traveling the 26.2 miles between Calistoga and Napa on March 2, Kadavy was a blur. She placed first in the Napa Valley Marathon at 2:40:47, after having blue-ribboned February's Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon with a 1:16 finish. A few days after cranking herself up the 250-foot Golden Gate Bridge incline, in the 31st annual Across the Bay 12K (she came in second), Kadavy sat down for an interview.
"I'd like to run Big Sur, just for fun," she says. "I'm running the California International Marathon from Folsom to Sacramento in December. I want to find another fast course before then."
Her focus, narrow and deep, is showing up in her numbers. Shaving precious seconds off her times, she managed to dip under the Olympic Trial "B" standard of 2:43. Now, she's aiming for "A," a goal that would mean clipping three minutes. "I have four marathons where I can try to do it," she says.
Growing up in Fremont, her father signed her up for road races at the age of 4.
"He's a runner too, and he taught me to pace myself. All the other girls were sprinting, then walking. I'd run right on by," she recalls.
During her freshman year at San Jose's Notre Dame High School, coach Matt Andrade led her through tough, repeat workouts. Pushing past her limits made her realize she didn't have limits, and running hard -- and long -- became a rewarding experience.
"I never regret going for a run," she says. "I feel lighter, emotionally and physically. I'm more clearheaded and positive, even when my pace isn't what I wanted it to be."
At UC Davis, Kadavy encountered a series of speed bumps -- injuries she says resulted from a lack of planning and trying to keep up with the team's top seven runners.
Today, despite her full-time job, coaching schedule, running with the San Luis Obispo-based Asics Aggies, and training at Concord's In Shape while logging 55 to 60 miles per week, she's relatively injury-free.
"Mileage is huge," she says, explaining her recent success. "Getting that under my legs, learning how to fuel properly during a race, drinking more water. Deciding to train well."
It also helps Kadavy to have a supportive spouse, Andy, and Bran, a pit bull pointer mix they adopted from the Animal Rescue Foundation.
"He loves running. The key is to not run him in the heat," she says.
It doesn't matter whether she's talking about her husband or the dog, the point is made: Companions make the arduous task of racking up miles more appealing.
Kadavy says the sacrifices made -- holding her clothing while she warms up, making sure she has 100-calorie GU Energy Gel at mile 8, pushing her out the door on slow days -- come naturally to her husband, a fourth-grade teacher at Pittsburg's Stoneman Elementary and also a runner. And demonstrative, dramatic moments, if not as natural, may have become his specialty.
"We were on a dinner cruise on the Seine River in Paris," she remembers. "He went up to the microphone, and he was thanking my parents, then he started talking about me. I walked over to him in my frumpy sweater, and he proposed. I put the ring on the wrong hand, I was so nervous."
Confident about her training routine (five days at 10 miles, one day off, long run Sundays and an "insanity workout" at the gym on Wednesdays), she says qualifying for the Olympic trials was "an answer to prayer."
Proving to herself that she could achieve a satisfying marathon time isn't making Kadavy complacent -- instead, it's making her strive to move faster.