Deetjen gives back

Jill Deetjen finished the Boston Marathon on Monday in a time of 4 hours, 54 minutes and 27 seconds.

The time is a personal-best.

It’s also not really the point.

“I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a slow runner,” she said, laughing, Friday before the race. “I’m like a jogger.”

Deetjen, a Huntington Beach resident, met her goal of less than five hours. But the cool part for Deetjen was that she was there in the first place. Just a couple of years ago, she might not have seen it as possible.

Then Deetjen, 27, became roommates with Jessica Routt, 25. Routt was training for the 2007 Long Beach Marathon, and Deetjen went to support her roommate. Later, Routt sent out an e-mail asking if anyone wanted to train with her for Long Beach the following year. Deetjen said yes, to Routt’s surprise and maybe Deetjen’s, as well.

“I was sedentary, very unhealthy,” Deetjen said. “I was a smoker; I’d been a smoker since I was 16 years old. I had always known that I wanted to get healthy, and I just needed some sort of spark. When I went and saw her run, that’s when it kind of clicked. I just saw the payoff and was very inspired by it.”

They ran together at Long Beach in 2008, then two marathons last year in St. George, Utah, and Tucson, Ariz. Routt also ran at Boston on Monday, finishing in 4:22:35. Deetjen has even been getting into triathlons. Now that Boston is done, she’ll begin training for the Ironman half-triathlon in Boulder, Colo., this summer.

“You kind of hold each other accountable for running,” Routt said. “It always makes it fun.”

But Deetjen had always wanted to run Boston. Her mother is from there, and much of her big Irish family still lives in the area. She wasn’t fast enough to run a qualifying time, but runners can also enter through charity if they’re able to raise at least $3,250.

Deetjen had always wanted to give back. She graduated from Tulane in 2005 and moved out west to California, just weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans hard.

“That was really crazy,” she said. “I had just started working. I really wanted to reach out to the city of New Orleans and go there and volunteer and give back, yet here I was, the second week of work in this new company. I didn’t do that, and that’s something I regret.”

For the Boston Marathon, though, she teamed up with Massachusetts-based Housing Families Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps provide affordable housing and shelter to low-income people in the Boston suburbs of Malden, Medford, Everett and Revere.

Deetjen partially raised money through cake-baking at Valentine’s Day. She said she baked about 25 cakes for her co-workers at Capital Group in Irvine.

“Many, many hours were spent in the kitchen,” Routt said knowingly, as a roommate might.

Deetjen said it was tough, but she had a lot of fun with it, too.

“The actual process took like four days,” she said. “I was up until 3 in the morning every single night. It was crazy.”

As of Tuesday, she had raised $3,850, above her goal, although she said donations will still be accepted through May.

Deetjen is happy she raised her goal amount, but she’s also happy for the health she now has through running. And she won’t let anything slow her down.

How To Help

Jill Deetjen is still raising money for Housing Families. For more information or to donate, visit

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