Fitness challenge met: 'I did my marathon'

Master Sgt. Jimmy Jackson, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron first sergeant, is all smiles after completing the 26.2-mile Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Sept. 15. (Courtesy Photo)

Master Sgt. Jimmy Jackson, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron first sergeant, is all smiles after completing the 26.2-mile Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Sept. 15. (Courtesy Photo)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Editor's Note: This is part two of a two-part series highlighting the participation of a Team Malmstrom Warrior in the Air Force Marathon.

An emotional rollercoaster might best describe all that Master Sgt. Jimmy Jackson experienced over the course of the last four months, culminating with a trip to the Air Force Marathon Sept. 15. But it was a ride he wouldn't trade for anything. 

During his training leading up to the race, Sergeant Jackson said he hoped to finish it, number one, and do it in less than five hours. 

Saturday, on a course that wound through Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and into its surrounding community, he faced the test. 

Once they said, "go," he was among more than 1,700 other competitors registered for the full marathon to head out on the 26.2-milie course. 

"I was very anxious before the race started," the former security forces member said. "I just wanted to get going so I could get it over with." 

Stopping briefly at every mile marker for water, Gatorade, fruit or other hydration offerings was part of his strategy. 

"I knew I needed to stay hydrated in order to make it to the end," he said. 

Anxiousness soon turned to relief when he approached the 10-mile mark. 

"I was happy to be in double digits and I was feeling pretty good about where I was, as far as being on pace," the first-time marathoner said. 

The next milestone along the route was the 13-mile marker. 

"That was the halfway point of the race," he recalled with a smile.
 
During his four months of training, the longest run he'd accomplished was 18 miles. Mile-marker 18 was his next memorable sight. 

"Once I hit the 20-mile marker, things started to get hard and this is where I lost quite a bit of time," Sergeant Jackson said. 

There was a very steep hill injected into the course at this point and it may have been the difference between those who finished and those who didn't. 

"I admit, I walked the hill," the 18-year Air Force veteran said meekly. "Then I got to the 23-mile marker and I told myself 'all I have left is a simple 5K race.'" 

But a simple 5K race after you've pounded the pavement for more than 4 hours already was anything but easy. 

"The cramps started getting pretty intense and I just started praying to God to give me the strength to make it to the finish," the senior NCO recalled. 

About that time, the sight he thought was eluding him finally came into view -- the finish line. 

"At the 25-mile marker is when I spotted it for the first time. From then on, I just stared at that finish line, praying to God, until I made it across," the determined runner said. 

That moment took place 5 hours and 13 minutes after he took his first stride. 

There are a few lessons learned and tips he'd pass on to others who might want to tackle the enormous feat he just accomplished. 

He wished he had incorporated more steep terrain into his distance running. "And I would have bumped up my longest training run to 22 miles instead of 18," he said. 

In all, his dedication and preparation served him well helping him achieve the goals he set. 

"My time was close enough to my goal that it didn't really matter," he said. 

Looking back, he has no regrets. 

This 38-year-old first sergeant from the 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron is proud to say, "I did my marathon!"