First sergeant competing in his first marathon

  • Published
  • By Valerie Mullett
  • 341st Space Wing Public Affairs Office
The fitness standards he faced while attending the first sergeant's school are partly responsible for Master Sgt. Jimmy Jackson's participation in this year's Air Force Marathon, set to take place Saturday at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. 

The other part is the man himself. 

"I needed to set a new fitness goal for myself," the 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron first sergeant said. "I don't just want to pass my physical training tests, I want to pass them with flying colors." 

While trying to decide how best to accomplish that, he came across the Web site for the marathon and became intrigued with the possibility of competing in it. 

"When I checked into the marathon, I noticed the deadline to register wasn't until July 31," the avid weight lifter said. "I run a great deal as it is and felt that I was at the level I should be at to consider competing in the marathon. I decided to kick my training up a notch and re-evaluate where I was at before the registration deadline. Then I would make my decision." 

Training advice posted on the Air Force Marathon Web site gives guidelines and benchmarks runners should strive for in order to successfully compete in the 26.2-mile event. It helped the Kansas native tailor his remaining training time to best prepare for the competition. 

"I was comfortable with where I was, as far as running goes, but I did add other dimensions to my routine and extended it to six days a week to make my training more well-rounded," the former security forces member said. "I also relied on some sound advice from past marathoners." 

Two of those advisors include Col. Steve Asher, 341st Security Forces Group commander and Capt. Melissa Youderian, 341st Security Support Squadron commander. 

"We discussed his training and where he could start," said Captain Youderian. "He was ahead of the power curve so he didn't need to start at day one. We also talked about stretching, combating muscle soreness and other effects of long-distance running." 

"I let him know I admire him for taking the challenge," Colonel Asher added. "I encouraged him to change up his programs and put some speed work into them. You need a combination of speed, endurance and strength training for the best results." 

Heeding their words of wisdom, the 18-year Air Force veteran confessed it wasn't easy to keep up the training pace. 

"Some days you just don't feel like doing it," he said. 

It is easy to understand why. 

Since deciding a marathon would be his newest fitness challenge, Sergeant Jackson's workouts have been anything but sedentary. 

A typical week followed something along these lines:
Sunday: A long run of usually 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours and between 12 and 18 miles. His course was a mixture of both on- and off-base routes combined for this distance run each week. 

Monday: Light cross-training at the gym which included weight training for his chest. 

Tuesday: Run from his home to the gym; begin a routine of sprint, jog, walk and lunge work for two miles on the track; weight training for the back muscles in the gym; and then run back home. 

Wednesday: Ride the bicycle to the gym; fast, heavy workout on the cross trainer for about 40 minutes; weight training for the shoulders; and then ride the bicycle back home. 

Thursday: Run to the gym from home, taking a four- and a-half-mile long route; weight training for the biceps and triceps; and then run the long way home. 

Friday: Ride the bicycle to the gym; do exercises of his choice - this was the variety day - and then ride the bicycle back home. 

Saturday: Day of rest. 

Besides sticking to a rigid exercise regiment, he had to make some changes to his diet as well. 

"For me, diet was important because I needed to drop a few pounds anyway," the father of two shared. "I was strict on myself, but not too strict. Basically, I cut out the more fattening foods in my diet and stopped eating earlier in the evenings." 

This routine began at the end of July and continued through Sept. 9. Advisors stress the importance of taking the final week off from heavy training to relax the muscles, "but not so much they forget they've been preparing for something big," Sergeant Jackson said. 

"He is very much a goal-minded person," Colonel Asher said. "He is one of those achievers who won't settle for just good enough. A marathon for a big-time weight lifter is definitely a new fitness goal." 

For someone who played a little football and did some swimming in high school, his athletic prowess has done an about face. 

"I think Master Sgt. Jackson is probably satisfied with his physical performance when it comes to weight lifting," Captain Youderian said. "This is just another way to test his physical limits and push his body to do more than it's ever done before." 

Will he do it again? 

"Probably not," he said. 

"My goal is to complete it in five hours and at the end of the day say 'I did it.'"

(Editor's note: This is part one of a two part series highlighting the participation of a Team Malmstrom Warrior in the Air Force Marathon. Part two will focus on the competition, the results and the emotions of participating.)