Heartbreaker Highlight | Jilana Thomas

Meet Heartbreaker Highlight Jilana Thomas! She's new to our team but has been making a name for herself on the streets of Chicago for some time. When we put our most connected friends on the task of finding who would best run the show at our Lincoln Park store, Jilana was our top candidate. Lucky for us, she decided to join! Walk into the shop at 2148 N Halsted and you'll be greeted by a warm smile and stellar run knowledge courtesy of this Heartbreaker. 

Get to know Heartbreaker Highlight Jilana Thomas in this quick interview by Chief Heartbreaker Dan Fitzgerald.

Tell me when you started running and why? 
My dad ran a bit when I was younger, and while I was in high school, my mom ran 3 marathons after having never been a runner. I went to one single track practice in high school, and the coach thought I had asthma because I was wheezing so hard. He didn't necessarily encourage me to come back, so for years I really thought I "couldn't" run. It was a belief I really held for years. Luckily, I didn’t have asthma and I think having seen my parents enjoy running, even if only for a short time, always stuck in the back of my mind. It would still be another 4-5 years of struggling to run myself before completing my first 5K. Running with a group was what got it to finally stick for me. In retrospect, I have no idea what made me want to run so bad but I’m relieved I finally got the hang of it (on most days)!

What's your favorite race distance? 
I don't do many races, but I've enjoyed focusing on Half Marathons when I do. I'm signed up for a road half in October, but my last one was a trail half and I'd eventually like to do more of those. They're tough to train for in our flat, cemented city but I had so much fun doing it and look forward to getting better at them.

What do you think is the hardest part about starting to run? 
To keep going! I think for someone who is new to it, it is so hard to push past that phase of discomfort. I tried to run so many times before actually sticking to it. Since I had never done any sports growing up, I think I really lacked that athletic mentality, grit and experience of just pushing through what was necessary and uncomfortable. In my experience, it's easy to just give up when you don't know what there is to look forward to.

Who is your favorite musical artist? Seen any good shows in Chicago? 
I have so many! I think my absolute favorite is Frank Ocean. Jamila Woods is my favorite Chicago artist, though. The Chicago live music scene, and creative scene in general is so, so awesome. I feel lucky to live here. There is always something good to choose from, so I've always got a show on my radar! I was actually really excited to know that our store is around the corner from Tonic Room and Lincoln Hall, which I've frequented many times to catch some great performers. 

What do you hope a customer at Heartbreak Chicago finds upon entering the store?
I certainly hope first and foremost that they feel welcomed and celebrated. In addition, that they may find their identity represented in some way here and/or a need met. Running will connect us with most people who walk through our door, but I hope each visitor finds a connection to us in those other ways as well. My favorite things about Chicago are the arts, the abundance of passionate communities to choose from and especially, its diversity. I hope anyone can walk in and feel all those great parts of our city threaded into Heartbreak Chicago. That's important to me.

What's your favorite non-running past time? 
Though I love to go to shows, open mics and all things art here in the Chi, I'm pretty introverted and I really love just lounging at home with my dogs. Neither of them run, so they keep me grounded and rested at home. I often have multiple books in rotation and paint whenever I get a burst of inspiration. I'm guilty of spending lots of free time on Yelp bookmarking new food and coffee spots to try out, too.  

White Sox or Cubs?
I truthfully couldn't enjoy a baseball game if my life depended on it but naturally I'd vote White Sox, since I'm a proud South Side resident!