Jo Dee Messina Just Wants to Finish

Energetic Country Star Trains to Run a Half-Marathon in Phoenix

CMT Inside Fame: Jo Dee Messina debuts Saturday (Jan. 10) at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

It’s 8 a.m. on a snowy Nashville morning and Jo Dee Messina is up early — at least for a musician. But after fixing a pot of coffee, she perks up enough to talk to about her grueling fitness routine, swimming in groups and her ultimate goal.

CMT: Why are you up so early this morning?

Messina: Today I am going to run 10 miles, I think, because I’m running a half marathon in Phoenix this Sunday (Jan 11). … The weather’s not helping me at all. A while back I was doing a lot of running outside but I got this chest thing going on because I was so cold. But for me to run on a treadmill for 10 miles, it’s like they might as well pull my hair out one by one.

How long does it take you to run 10 miles?

I’ll let you know. … Let’s see, well, my last run was eight-and-a-half miles. I do about an 11-minute mile, so however long that takes.

What is it about this particular event that made you think, “OK, that’s the one I want to try”?

One of my friends in radio asked me, “Hey you wanna come out and do the Phoenix marathon?” and I was like, “Phoenix? January? Sure!” (laughing)

What is your routine to get ready for an event like this?

I usually run anywhere from four to six miles a day anyway, so I have been increasing my mileage and just working up. I’m going to do the 10 — it’s actually 10.5 miles. I’ll do that today then I won’t run until the race … until the marathon, whatever you want to call it.

When you’re training for something like this, what are some of the sacrifices that you have to make?

It’s just time consuming really. You know it takes a couple hours to run it and a couple hours — couple days — to recover from it. (laughing)

How do you recover? Do you just kind of let your body get back into it, or is there like a procedure that helps you cool it down?

Well I’m lucky I have a trainer that stretches me out when I’m done (laughing) And get sleep, really. I try to get as much sleep as I can.

What are the benefits of training for a major run?

That’s a very good question actually. It’s more that whole personal accomplishment, finishing it deal. That’s why I am doing it. I run to keep in shape. It’s not my favorite thing to do. (laughing) I would rather bike actually, but I run to keep in shape. These little mile markers are goals I set for myself. They’re just kind of like a big pat on the back. … You get anxious before it. I’m getting nervous for it. I don’t know why I’m nervous because I know that I can cover the distance. I’m not going for time.

Last year, I got the fitness bug and started running these 5Ks.

Oh, those are fun.

Yeah, I’ve enjoyed it. I’m not doing it to beat anybody or to get first place. I just want to get faster. For me personally, it’s more like a community thing than a competitive thing. Is that how it is for you?

You know, right now, this is my year of marathons and triathlons. I am creeping in with the half marathon, so I haven’t really done them before. I’ve done the 5Ks a few times, but I usually do those for a charity like Race for the Cure or muscular dystrophy or things like that. I was doing those for the reason of just going out there to use my own sweat and guts to help a cause. (laughs) This one, though, I’ll have to let you know afterwards.

You just mentioned a triathlon. Do you have one of those planned?

I do. Actually I am working on my swimming right now, all through the winter. That’s something that I truly just want to finish. I’ll never win the thing. I just want to do it, you know, just cover it.

I’m not exactly sure what a triathlon covers.

It’s a 0.9-mile swim, a 24-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run.


So. … (laughing)

When is that one coming up for you?

The season starts around May, so I am going to be scoping it out. I haven’t picked one. There’s a billion. If you go under triathlons on the computer, you can find billions of them. I may start with a sprint triathlon, which is shorter distances and then go to the Olympic trial size, which is what I just told you.

In terms of fitness, is there like an ultimate goal for you?

Just finishing it actually. Just finishing the triathlon is my deal. I’d love to someday, before I die, be in shape to do the ironman. But that’s just a brutal thing. I don’t know. I’ll have to see how I do with my swimming. (laughing)

Is swimming like the toughest part of those three for you?

Yes. It’s really the toughest for a lot of triathletes, but a lot of triathletes start out as swimmers.

Is it the distance that makes it tough? I mean, that’s a long way to swim.

It’s pretty much a long way to swim. … And it’s tough, too, because when you start, everybody’s at the same starting point, but you don’t come out of the water at the same time and you don’t get off the bike at the same time, so you’re not starting the next thing together. But when you’re swimming, everybody starts at the same time and what happens is that the stronger swimmers will swim over top of you! A lot of people get freaked out in the water, so I’ll probably be one of them. (laughing)

When you’re looking around at these events, are you surprised at the diversity of the crowd? Because it’s not just the young, athletic type that’s participating.

No kidding. Hey, you know what, there are people in their 50s doing the ironman! The Hawaiian ironman. Did you see that on TV? People in their 50s and 60s. Oh my god, it was amazing.

Do you think you’re still going to be doing this when you’re 50 years old?

I don’t know. I just gotta finish this next thing. (laughing) I’m just wanting to finish this thing.

Craig Shelburne has been writing for since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.