Growing up, I was the girl that attempted every sport at least once. Not tall enough for basketball or graceful enough for ballet, I quickly found the world of distance running my place to call “home.” Through cross country, I was introduced to the feelings of being a part of a team. My teammates and I ran together and motivated one other, but we also gave back to the community as a team. Little did I know these passions would intertwine to create one of the most impactful team efforts I’d ever have the opportunity to be a part of. I’m currently completing a graduate fellowship at Johnson & Johnson in Corporate Communications, where I was first introduced to the concept of, “Do Good, Be Well”. Led by our CEO, Alex Gorsky, ” Do Good, Be Well” encourages employees to compete in fitness-related fundraising events as Johnson & Johnson teams to help those in need, while improving personal health and wellness. This concept immediately resonated with me, and when I heard about the Johnson & Johnson TriRock Philadelphia Triathlon, I knew it was the perfect way for me to get involved. Swim, Bike, Run. I could handle this right? With one month until race day, my running mileage was already surpassing 35 miles a week so that left bike and swim prep. My first date with the pool was not a pretty one. I realized quickly that swimming was not a strength for this runner, and completing the half mile swim race day would only be feasible with an immensely powerful pair of floaties and the doggy paddle performance of a lifetime. Filled with both disappointment and despair, I entered work the next morning and shared the sad reality with my manager. He suggested solving my problem by finding a swim partner on the “Do Good, Be Well” website. Within an hour my prayers were answered by Kareen, an experienced tri-athletic angel. I had found myself a swim tri-relay partner, and I couldn’t have been more blessed. The next month of training and fundraising were a blur, and I couldn’t have done it without the support and push from my “J&J teammates.” Kareen educated me on the challenges of biking, and took me out for my first long ride. Her entire family even joined in on the fun one day, as her husband came to fix my bike, and her children pitched in by putting air in my long-neglected tires. My bike training was finally on track and with the help of a professional running colleague and my favorite J&J wellness professional, my runs were becoming longer and faster paced. When the Friday before race day finally arrived, I packed up my car for Philly with a box full of new, shiny Johnson & Johnson tri-athlon uniforms. I arrived at Fairmount Park at 5:30 A.M. and was greeted by my partner and a sea of 150 red Johnson & Johnson uniforms. While setting up my bike in the transition zone, my teammate and I had the opportunity to meet our company’s CEO, Alex Gorsky, who was prepping for his own race. Shortly after he delivered his team speech, the swimmers began cascading into the Schuylkill river, and the race was underway. Within 14 minutes, Kareen was sprinting toward me in her wet suit with black band in hand ready for the exchange and I was off! Bikes swarming around me as I worked to keep above a 15 MPH cadence, all I could think about was that 5k at the end. As I entered the final transition, my teammate was waiting for me with water and encouragement. Tossing my bike aside and legs feeling like jello, I hit the pavement for a final 3.1 miles. Sweat dripping, adrenaline racing, I maintained a 7:09 average through the finish line to be greeted by the announcement -- Team J&J had raised $130K for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)! For the first time since graduating college, I was a part of a team again. The memories of biking and seeing a familiar red uniform pass and cheer, “GO JNJ!” will forever define this experience. My teammate and I were awarded second place overall for female relays and a duathlon passion was born. I can’t be thankful enough to Johnson & Johnson for reminding me of the amazing results that can be achieved through teamwork. Most importantly, I was reminded what the rewarding and impactful meaning of doing good and being well is all about.
Kristen is currently on a graduate fellowship rotation in the Corporate Communications Department at Johnson & Johnson. A 2011 Supply Chain graduate from Penn State, she is currently pursuing her M.A. in Communications at Rutgers University.