Public relations professional mixes business with pleasure — promoting race events and setting new personal bests.
By Henry Howard
Unlike all the other athletes I have featured in this blog, I personally know Meg Fingert. In fact, we met before either of us were runners.
At the time, about six years ago, I was recruiting Purdue University students to assist with a new website and Fingert was a college student. Ironically, she was among the students in the first class I taught at Purdue a couple of years later.
Since then, we have both graduated onto bigger and better things, including marathons. But this is her story – the story of a self-proclaimed “non-runner” who is eyeing a 50-state goal.
A ‘non-runner’ now embraces PRs and PR
Fingert participated in athletic activities during her childhood and high school, but didn’t consider herself an athlete.
“I spent a decade of my life dancing ballet starting at 3 years old,” says the California native. “I began surfing when I was 7 years old. I was a member of my high school dance team, and also swam for our varsity swim team. I was never the top contender, but I enjoyed it all the same.”
Then she left the West Coast for the Midwest, jumped into the college lifestyle and exercise took a backseat. “My fitness fell by the wayside a bit during college,” she recalls. “In my senior year, my metabolism took a dive and I suddenly found myself 20 pounds heavier after a study abroad trip. With the help of a trainer (and the good ol’ Weight Watchers app,) I lost it all. After that experience, fitness became something that I practiced everyday and felt a passion for.
“Running was yet to be a part of that fitness regimen, but it wasn’t long before it found me.”
1,990 miles and counting
The way in which running found her was, to put it mildly, ironic.
“When you’re growing up, your mom always tells you to never do anything for a boy,” Fingert says. “Don’t move, don’t change who you are, etc. Well, my taking up running started with a boy.”
Enter Andrew Treat, an accomplished runner who qualified for the Boston Marathon during his first 26.2 race.
“He was stationed in Hawaii with the Navy, and I was working and living in Las Vegas at the time,” says Fingert, who says she met her now fiancé in early 2013. “With an ocean and many deployments separating us, I knew our time together was always going to be scarce. We both love being active, and I wanted to find a way for us to be able to workout together. Since he loved to run, I decided to try to love it too.”
To Fingert, this was an “outstandingly foreign idea.” Her previous memories of running included humiliating Presidential Physical Fitness Tests where “I’d be the last person in my grade to finish the mile run. I also developed bursitis in my hips in high school, and thought I would never be able to do any kind of high impact activity again.”
But this time was different. Fingert committed herself and fought hard to keep from becoming discouraged.
“I knew that going out and trying to just run for 30 minutes straight would lead to failure,” she says. “I had at least learned that much in P.E. class all those years earlier. I can be very easily discouraged at times, so I decided to find a way to steadily work my way into becoming a runner. I used a walk-to-run app called C25k, and I downloaded Nike+ to track my speed and mileage. Over an eight-week period, I went from more walking to more running. I downloaded those apps on March 15, 2013, and, 1,990 miles later, running has become a part of who I am.”
A challenge from mom
When it was time to tackle races, Fingert jumped right in, first with a 4.6-mile mud and obstacle event. At the time she was working for a public relations firm and a client was hosting the mud race. ”My co-workers knew I had just started running, and suggested I participate to make a video about the race for our client’s social media marketing campaign.
“While it was farther than the 5K distance, I decided to give it a go. I finished much faster than I had expected, and felt I had taken on the obstacles and the mud with courage. I signed up for a traditional 5k a short time later and enjoyed it even more.”
By June 2014, she had knocked off the 4.6-mile mud run, a 5K, 10K, 15K, a Spartan race, a half marathon and a full marathon. “With every race and every new accomplishment came the want for more. Every time I completed a new distance, I would hop right back into training for the next level up.”
And she hasn’t stopped meeting — and setting — goals. She is now working on finishing a marathon in each of the 50 states.
“This 50 State Marathon Club idea came out of my participation in the Coronado Island Independence Day 15K,” she recalls. “Even with the mud run and the 5K under my belt, I was still very hesitant to call myself a runner. I didn’t know how dedicated I was yet, and felt that my early successes may have been flukes.”
Fingert was worried coming into the race, having just finished the 10K training plan. She was spending the Fourth of July weekend in San Diego with her parents when her mom challenged her to run the 15K race. “While it was only 5K more than I had trained to run, that number was much larger to me then than it is now,” she says. “I truly did not know if I would be able to finish.”
At the starting line, she saw a man with a 50 State Marathon Finisher jersey on. “I was dumbfounded,” she remembers. “ ‘You’ve run 50 marathons?!’ I exclaimed to him. ‘I’ve actually run more than 100. I’ve done the 50 states twice through, and I just completed one on all seven continents.’ ”
FIngert was blown away. “Here was a man in front of me, more than twice my age, who was kicking ass and taking names at running. I found myself sort of starstruck realizing the gravity of his accomplishments. There I was worrying about a measly 9ish mile run, and this guy had just finished a marathon on Antartica.”
Even when the gun signaled the start of the race, Fingert could not let go of that chance meeting. She made her time goal for the 15K but more importantly set a new goal. “I walked away from the finish with my first medal and thought, ‘One day, I want to be like that man. I’m a runner, and I’m going to run all 50 states.’”
PRs and PR
Fingert also has created a niche PR job for herself that involves public relations and personal records.
“Public relations is constantly ranked as one of the most stressful industries to work in,” she says, adding that at her last job she wondered if she would continue in the industry. “It’s so easy to feel burnout while juggling multiple brands with competing deadlines and priorities.”
When she moved to Florida with Treat, she began to wonder if she might be able to reignite that passion for PR. “I decided go out on a limb, rebrand my personal website and begin seeking clients specifically in the endurance sports industry,” she says. “In just three months since launching Meg Fingert Public Relations, I am already serving outstanding clients and I’m more excited about my work than ever.
“I also enjoy blogging about both running and public relations on my blog, aptly titled PR and PRs.”
One of her clients is the Tallahassee Marathon.
“Within just one week of starting my business, a friend of mine connected me with the race directors of the Tallahassee Marathon,” she says. “There were only six weeks to race day, so I got right to work kicking their marketing efforts into high gear. This experience was extremely validating. In my past positions, I had had a few superiors and co-workers insult my abilities as a public relations practitioner. I hoped that, after taking this leap of faith, I would be able to remove all doubt that I was not the exceptional PR pro that I knew I was.”
By all accounts, it was a successful event.
“I felt so vindicated,” Fingert says. “The race directors couldn’t have been happier with the results of my efforts. I had effectively generated meaningful media hits, helped them to navigate some crisis situations, and aided in making this the most successful year in the race’s 42 year history with a record-breaking 1400-plus runners participating. I feel more confident than ever in my skills and in my choice to re-center my career around the sport I love. I’m also very glad to say that they have brought me on board as their public relations representation for the 2017 race!”
It also was a successful race for Fingert, who had registered for the half marathon before landing the race as a client.
“As I ran up to the finish line, I saw a couple of reporters doing live reports,” she says. “It hit me that I had, in a way, been ‘at work’ during this wonderful morning of running. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to bring these two loves of mine together, and, in that moment, I did just that in a very literal way.”
Fingert has come a long way from the writing class at Purdue. Writing is still very much a part of her life, but so, too, is running.
“Running is truly a metaphor for life,” she says. “It has offered me so many lessons, and it has disproved to me some of the negative assumptions I had made about myself. …
“First, running taught me that I can survive failure. I mentioned previously that I can be easily discouraged. Everyone is their own worst critic, but I can be particularly cruel to myself when I don’t succeed easily. I can’t tell you how many training runs haven’t gone as planned, or how many goal times I’ve missed. I’ve learned to get back up and try again — and not to beat myself up. Running has taught me to routinely remind myself, ‘Don’t look backward — you’re not going that way.’
“Second, running has taught me to love my body no matter what state it is in — skinny, fat or otherwise. When I was first trying to lose weight, and even after I had lost it, my body was the enemy. I was in a constant struggle with it, fighting for the upper hand. Now, I see my body as my greatest ally. It is a beast! It has taken me on some many incredible journeys. It is strong and it is mighty. Even on the days when I don’t think it looks that great, I can’t deny it’s incredibly powerful.”
Name: Meg Fingert (soon-to-be Meg Treat)
Hometown: Camarillo, Calif.
Number of years running: Three years
Point of pride: I PR’d by more than 20 minutes at the Honolulu Marathon!
Favorite race distance: 10 milers and full marathons
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Nuun Hydration, and my Marathon Eve ritual steak dinner.
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: T.H.E. by Will.I.Am
Favorite or inspirational mantra or saying: “Don’t take anything so seriously that you forget to have fun!”
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
Professional Website: MegFingert.com