Jessica (Jess) O'Connell is a Canadian track and field athlete competing in distances from the 1500m-10km and beyond. She specializes in the 5000m distance.


As a 17-time national championship medalist, Jess has represented Canada internationally over 15 times including the Rio Olympics and IAAF World Championships in cross country running, indoor, and outdoor track. She has personal best times of 15:06.44 in the 5000m, 32:22 in the 10km (road), and holds a national record of 8:46.50 in the indoor 3000m. Her latest international competition was the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru where she won a silver medal.

Off the track, Jess has a MSc in Exercise Physiology. She has worked both in research and applied physiology and co-owns Grit Coaching, an online coaching business creating personalized strength and endurance training programs for runners and OCR athletes. 

Jess is no stranger to injury. In the year leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics, she endured five setbacks requiring anywhere from a week to four months of altered training. Over the years, she has experimented and fine-tuned her approach to alternative training (cross training) while injured, and has become somewhat infamous for her quick and successful returns to competition following long layoffs. 

One day during a particularly boring water run (a dead MP3 player left her alone with her thoughts), it dawned on Jess that she had amassed a wide range of knowledge on what works and what doesn't with cross training


Through her experience and educational background, she believes that others will benefit from her encounters with injury. Injuries are tough, and she wanted to help!


Hence, "The Backup Plan", in all its 5500 word glory, was born. Brevity was never her strong suit. 

For Jess, one of the most difficult parts of an injury to navigate was deciding what do while cross training - how much was enough or too much, how hard she should be training, and how to plan workouts appropriately. She is happy to unload this burden from others by creating customized cross training programs, enabling injured runners to retain fitness during a layoff and return to running with confidence.