Don’t call Dr. Jill Roberts Dopey just because she likes a challenge

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Jill Roberts could have a plethora of titles both before and after her name. With master’s and doctorate degrees from the USF College of Public Health, she is certainly accomplished. However, which accomplishment really gets her going?


Dr. Roberts, an assistant professor specializing in food safety, began running in 2001. At the time, she was a graduate student at the University of Texas in Houston. Her thesis advisor nudged her along and soon she advanced from an avid walker to an accomplished runner.

Today, Dr. Roberts is a pro with her most recent triumph being Dopey during Disney’s Marathon Weekend. The Dopey Challenge, affectionately named for the Disney character, spans four days, stretches nearly 50 miles long, and includes a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon.


Jill Roberts with her running bling

Dr. Jill Roberts with her running bling

Interestingly enough, Dr. Roberts attempted Dopey as a dare set out for her by her younger brother. She couldn’t resist the challenge and wanted to “prove to myself that not only could I return to running after having a baby, but I could go farther than ever before.”

Proving her brother wrong isn’t the only reason she runs. “I find running to be therapeutic! I run for stress relief and for focus,” Roberts said.  “Most of the manuscripts, lectures, and seminars I have created have been formulated while on a run.”

Over the years, she’s developed a favorite list of sorts … Her ideal distance is the half marathon. “It’s just long enough (13.1 miles) to require a bit of training, but not long enough to have to train for hours on end,” Roberts said. Her favorite location to run is Disney World—no surprise there—with local spots (Bayshore Blvd., Flatwoods Park, and the USF campus) coming in a close second.

Sometimes she’s spotted running with headphones, but they’re often on silent. Dr. Roberts prefers to focus her thoughts while running and the headphones prevent her from being distracted by others. If music is playing, she favors something with a fast beat to help her keep a pace.

Without question, The Dopey Challenge was her greatest feat thus far. However, not one to become complacent, Dr. Roberts is constantly looking for other ways to defy her running prowess.

Jill Roberts Dopey Challenge (4)

“Gasparilla is already adding more challenges to the Tampa races so next year that is on my schedule,” Roberts shared.

Later this month, Disney hosts the Glass Slipper Challenge, a 10k plus a half marathon, and Dr. Roberts will be there. “Of course, I can’t resist an inaugural race!”

Dr. Jill Roberts is an assistant professor in the College of Public Health. The Department of Environmental and Occupational Health is her academic home and offers several concentrations that lead to MPH, MSPH, DrPH, and PhD degrees. Most recently, they launched an online MPH in health, safety, and environment.

Story and photo by Christi Owiye, USF College of Public Health