When Robert Jackson assessed his running goals for 2015 as he debuted in the 60-69 age-class division, he decided to make some changes.
With high aspirations for his campaign on the provincial, national and world stages, he realized achieving those objectives would take some assistance. Therefore, for the first time, he hired a coach and the results soared far higher than what he thought may be possible.
Under the guidance of coach Courtney Babcock, a Montana-based former Canadian Olympian, and her influential planning process, Jackson has set provincial road racing records in six race distances, including a new Canadian record in the 60-64 age class earlier this month (28:53) at the Hampton Five Miler and finished in the top 10 in four distances at the World Masters Athletic Championships in Lyon, France, in August.
It was there where he captured a bronze medal in the half-marathon, clocking a superb time of 1:21.33 in addition to setting three provincial track records in 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 meter competition, for a grand total of nine new provincial standards.
“I had low expectations going to France because I had a couple of injuries and I was going to try and do four events over there,” he said. “My wife (Nadine Currie Jackson) went with me and devoted the entire two weeks to ensuring I did everything possible to deal with and overcome those injuries.
“Without Nadine, there is no way I would have gotten through all those races.”
He also credits Babcock’s influence and goal-setting programs that started back in January and targeted peak performances for August and September.
“I report back to her and we have regular conversations,” Jackson explained.
“It has been a big motivator for me, knowing what I am supposed to be doing every day as opposed to going out and running as hard as I could and stopping. Now, I know what I am supposed to do and it has made me accountable to someone.”
That accountability included hitting pace goals on the treadmill early on, and the subsequent adjustments when he hit the standards set. It eventually translated into incredible fitness and an admission in the first part of the year that he was still figuring out how to react to the ‘new engine,’ Babcock helped create.
The results in France were gratifying and also led to a shoe and clothing sponsorship deal with Skechers, another added bonus for his diligence.
“I just enjoy running and pushing myself to my limit,” said Jackson, a Perth native who moved to the Capital City area as an elementary school student.
“Having said that, I’ve been brought up to believe that I can do anything I want to do. As long as I put my mind to it and work hard at it, I can accomplish it. Running has been a fulfillment of that philosophy of ‘yes, I can do this’.”
While he ‘dabbled’ in running earlier in life, the sport provided a fitness avenue for his passion in tennis, which he played from 1972-2000. Over time, wear and tear on the court led to cartilage problems in his elbow, eventually prompting a change in his leisure activities.
Running took over.
He recalls one of his first competitive events, a 10k in Beresford, where he travelled with his wife, camped overnight in their 1972 Volkswagen camper van and did not feel particularly sharp after a restless sleep prior to the race.
But he prevailed and was delighted with his performance.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
“Running and doing well in that race, I thought the sport was something I could, if I worked at it, do well in,” he said. “Success breeds motivation in that sense, so I kept on going.”
He is active as a volunteer administrator in the sport and some years, can be seen at as many as 25 races across the province, many which he attends annually. It allows him to develop strong friendships, including one of New Brunswick’s top women’s marathon performers, Shelley Doucet of Quispamsis. While they don’t train together, they chat frequently, fuelling each other’s motivation and ultimately pushing each another to achieve their goals.
“It is a level of comfort going back to a race that you have done before, that you are familiar with the course and familiar with the organization,” he said.
“A big part of it … is the people in different areas who don’t travel to all areas of the province. So you get to see people you haven’t seen in a while. You can be collegial with them but also compete against them. I like that rejuvenation each year.”
The associated health benefits are not something he takes for granted and he feels fortunate to be able to race at such a high level. He takes satisfaction from talking about the sport with others, offering advice when asked and if his progress can motivate others, all the better.
“Being at the start line is an accomplishment. There are a lot of people who, for whatever reason – health or other circumstances – can’t do what I do by running and being healthy. A lot of it is the joy of getting out there.”
Jackson will take part in this weekend’s Liv9 Fredericton Fall Classic – in the half marathon event – and as for the remainder of this year, he may take a shot at a Canadian age-class record at the half marathon distance in Moncton’s Legs For Literacy. Then, there are already plans in place for the winter indoor track season. And quite possibly, more records to look forward to as well.
Kevin Barrett Kevin Barrett‘s column appears every other Saturday, Email him at email@example.com or visit barrettkevin.wordpress.com.