79. DAVID ‘JACKO’ JACKSON -The Lessons Learned From Quitting an Ultra Marathon


79. DAVID ‘JACKO’ JACKSON -The Lessons Learned From Quitting an Ultra Marathon

Today on the show I welcome back David Jackson better known as Jacko where we chat about his experience running the ultra marathon The Ring O Fire in North Wales.

Back in 2013, Jacko suffered a seizure on at rugby training resulting in a bleed on the brain forcing his retirement from professional rugby. He couldn’t run for nearly a year without triggering his symptoms and when he learnt how to breathe effectively and efficiently through nasal breathing, everything changed.

Having run his first marathon in October 2021, he set the Ring O Fire as his next challenge. This coastal ultra marathontakes runners on an extraordinary 135-mile (216km) journey, an epic race is staged over three consecutive days and follows the rugged and spectacular Anglesey Coastal Path.

Beauty aside, the extreme distance and variable terrain has sealed the race’s reputation as one of the most challenging ultra marathons in the British Isles.

We chat about;

  • The difficulty of the Ring O Fire and how he felt he disrespected not only the course and the challenge but also his fellow participants.
  • We dive deep into what it means to quit (and may have come up with more questions than answers!)
  • What happens when we reach our limit
  • The most important outcome of this entire experience.

Jacko’s vulnerability is such a strength. His ability to explore his emotions and share his thoughts openly is something I respect and admire and I know this episode will resonate with you.

The Challenges and Emotions of An Ultramarathon Runner

Jackie 3:20
So let’s dive in with Jacko. Jacko. Welcome back to the Bodies Built Better podcast.

Jacko Jackson 3:27
Thanks. Thanks for having me back. It’s, it was, it was a pleasure speaking to you last time, and yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing what gets teased out with this one.

Jackie 3:38
Well, I had such amazing feedback on the last episode, by the way, all about breathing and nasal breathing and why that’s so important. And, of course, during that episode, you touched on the Ring O’Fire, and oh, yeah, thumb, which he recently completed. And I was thinking about where I could start this interview, like, what do I ask first and that there’s so many questions I have.

Jacko Jackson 4:07
But many answers. I don’t know.

Jackie 4:11
Probably. That’s okay. We’ll see if we can tease something out of you. But I thought to give everyone an idea of maybe the pain or what you were going through at the time, you could take us back to 4:30 am of day three, sat on a toilet crying saying I didn’t do it.

Jacko Jackson 4:35
Okay, so yeah, I guess in a weird way, the story starts there or it doesn’t start there. But it’s–I wrote a blog and share it–post on Instagram which clearly that you’ve read summed up the–summed up the challenges, some of the emotions and the things that we’re going through and the crux of it, obviously, like, the event started on day one and blah, blah, blah, but yeah, 4:30am on day three we’d, uh, we’d already done by that point, over 100 miles and we had 33 left to go. And, or just a little bit before that was like the alarm went off at 4:30, I think I’d fell asleep for maybe 10 or 20 minutes twice. And lying in bed, I felt–I felt like physically sort of sick and I was–before even like going, how stiff am I can I get out of bed it was like, I really don’t feel well. And just immediately, like, I can’t, I can’t go through this. Again, like day two took a–day two took a lot of hours or 67 miles, 112 kilometres, or something far beyond anything I’d ever done before. And that was off the back of day one was far harder than I was anticipating it going to be. I’ll talk about some of the potential mistakes that I’ve made along, along the way. And this is more like mistakes in training and building up to these types of things. But I managed to get out of, managed to get out of bed because I needed, needed the toilet, need, needed a poo. And we were staying in our camper van on my sister’s drive and went into–went into her house to go to the toilet. Sort of, you know, gingerly, gingerly moving didn’t have enough energy to even just close the door. So I’m sat there with my pants around their ankles and actually then just couldn’t, I couldn’t pose almost like I didn’t have the energy to do it. And I was just in a bit of a mess. And I was like, I can’t–I can’t do this. I was even a little bit of, like I had had my, my headaches were like, sort of that was the type of symptoms I had from my old head injury like nine years ago. And yeah, I just didn’t it was just, it was just on comprehensible that I could like–that I could go off and do this I kicked us a big rock on day one and my toe was like really hurting and Bubba all sorts of stuff and but just just genuinely was like I can’t do it. And I felt extremely embarrassed. I’d done the stupid thing of I was trying to document we were trying to make a little sort of short film documentary about it was like the nasal breathing like I’m not a man I’m not an ultra runner of like an old rugby player. That was you know the head injured recovered from back in 2013 and there was you know, the felt like there was a bit of a going to be a nice sort of message come out of this and I was like fever barefoot who provide the shoes that I love to run in and everything in walk and he was any other any other shoes in that and an that was an advantage who–and I do the certifications on Massachusetts, both of those two companies had sort of supported the–support that by paying for the two guys to be there to film it. And I was like, he’s such an idiot. Why did you think you could do this? Like one? You just–you’re not you’re not an ultra runner like this, you have bitten off far more than you can chew. And not only that, like what are you going to say to those people at those companies, have, like, what’s the story? Like Are we able to go? We did, it was really hard, we got, like. into debt, we did. Do you want me now? It’s like I was, I was embarrassed because I disrespected the challenge. It gets better but then it also gets worse. So I’m like I’m in that type of headspace

Recovery Found In A Sister’s Support

Jacko Jackson 9:17
And my sister, my little sister whose house I was staying, I came downstairs. She said she only woke up because a little boy woke up, a little Bobby woke up, and, and it was perfect because it meant that she then heard me downstairs. She came–she came down and she was–I was just you know afterwards she was like I was just coming down to, like, wish you could look for day three. And, um, I’m like, just sat there crying. And, and she’s I don’t know and I look up. At this point, I’ve not bothered that much. The only thing I’m wearing is pants around my ankles. Like not clothes, but I’m not bothered at all and they turned on you know, out in a pool on the side of the street on day two, like you’ve just lost all of anyway,

Jackie 10:06
And when you don’t–you don’t have any energy to even care.

Jacko Jackson 10:09
Yeah, it was always almost like the things like, it just, it just didn’t matter on the scale of things that were masking at that point in time. It just, didn’t it. And so I’m kind of on the lookout for those axes. I can’t do it. Like, I can’t go. And I was actually–I was expecting her to be like, Oh, no, like, so she, you know, she’d done my sister was part of a GB rafting team that won World Championships a few years ago, she’d done Snowden Ironman, where you said she Snowden Iron Man is like, you run up Snowden for the for the run at the end. And you cycle around Snowden like it’s horrendous. It’s so horrendous, I might say, I’d seen her in like, the pain cave, like, you know, and I was expecting her to go. And no, like, “you did amazing. Yesterday–yesterday was 17 hours, 45 minutes, when you add 18 hours to do it.” And I was expecting her to be like, you know, “look, you’ve Yeah, best and you’ve done enough. And this is good–and this is good enough.” But she just went, “Just try and get in the car. That’s the first step.” And it’s better. He says, I want to get that tattooed on me. So I haven’t got any tattoos and don’t really fancy over the past like almost one. Because it was so good in it. Like, she didn’t challenge me. She didn’t–like she didn’t do it. She didn’t do it was just literally broke it down to an even simpler step than I’d been trying to break this thing down into like, Okay, how many? How far is each day? And where are the checkpoints and then you know, I’d even worked out that it was it was roughly going to be about 248,000 steps, like to do that–to do the distance and so I was like, you know, one step at a time. But that didn’t actually get you from like, the house or the van by you staying to the startline. So she just took yesterday took it into the just took it another level. I don’t know if she knew what she was she just know she wasn’t planning so because she didn’t I didn’t think she knew I was going to be in that sort of state but I sort of like looked up and moved with my with my bottom lip and I haven’t been crying still, I’m like, Okay, I’ll try and get in the car because I felt I felt like that’s reasonable. Like I could get in the car. And I was like, but I’m not gonna be able to do it. Like I can’t–I can barely walk as I say where I couldn’t put where my bird kicked a big rock on day one toe still bruised now that my toenail still purple and I couldn’t get my left or if I put my I couldn’t comfortably have my left shoe on it just like it hurts too much. Anyway, we get–we get in the car, I’m just like a mess. My sister-in-law picked us up, Catherine, my wife, I called, my stuff, good. She was, like, reflecting on that. She was like you just got in the car. And like you didn’t have, like, your race number in the bag, drink nothing. She was, actually she’s got, together with…

Finding Strength in Struggle

Jackie 13:21
You’re wearing clothes, right? By that time?

Jacko Jackson 13:27
Yeah, yeah. That was about it yeah, got to –got to the start of day three where the race briefing was and then this was right sort of then actually got worse in that–I’m in a car I’ve only got–I didn’t I only had one shoe on because the struggle in there. But once we got there, I was like, I’ve got to put me in a shoe. We should–and I’m like gingerly sort of own calm, like, walk to the–walk in. And I’m sort of half hoping that or that maybe I wasn’t, I wasn’t really hoping I think it was just like, aware that like, okay, how is everybody else type of thing. And I think at this point, 106 people started and I think 56 made it to the start of day three. And 53 finished and they said they said you know, statistically over the years, if you make it to the start of day three, then it’s highly likely that you’ll finish this event. And I’m there going like I can’t, like, walk–anyway, so I sit down on a chair. And there’s only one other person sat down. This is like a bloke in the corner who’s about 65 and everyone else is walking around the light changes which are then like seemingly, like obviously there’s people that everyone’s a bit stiff a little bit like people looked okay, and I was like–just made me feel worse. I was like Like, again, it was like, just embarrassed. I was–I was embarrassed. Because the–I felt like I disrespected the challenge. But in doing that in the event, like a disrespect, it was like, I didn’t really want to look at anyone, I couldn’t look at anyone there because it was like, I’d disrespected them in a way because it was like, I shouldn’t be here. Because then I was back to that sort of, like, very negative self talk of like, he’s such an idiot. Why have you done that this year? All that sort of stuff. And then, and I still and I still am, just because I actually find somehow we got to we did actually do it and get to the end within the time restraints and everything. It doesn’t–that doesn’t mean I didn’t disrespect it and didn’t come, I thought I was prepared, but I was I was not prepared. I–my mind started changing in–I was like, “Okay, well at least I’m here. So I’ll start. I’ll walk. And I’ll get timed out the first checkpoint.” Which was like you had like two hours or something to get to do the first 15k or something. I was like I’ll just walk because–so my brain started to think like, like best case, it was that sort of best–best case scenario where or worst case nobody was like, okay, best case scenario now is like I walk and get timed out. And then we won’t take pioneer barges,we’ll just walk with my family that has there been supporting the whole time through like we’ll just all walk around together but just not part of the event. So at least I can sort of finish the total distance and so before we go when the event starts and this the only thing I remember from the race briefing was ever, like the weather is pretty bad for the first couple of hours like there’s 20 mile an hour winds and a bit of a storm. But after that it gets really you know, the weather is good and they were, they were right, the weather after that was good. But the, the storm was–the storm was pretty bad. Imagine what it’s like on the coast. And we’re running around coastal paths and like, winds, like smashing into your face and the rains hammering down. But, yeah, we start

Running In The Rain: How Jacko And His Wife Took On A Grueling Race Despite The Elements

Jackie 17:24
Would that have been like a nice distraction, almost. Or is that just, like, more pain?

Jacko Jackson 17:33
Yeah, no, it was. So effectively, like we, we started, and I’ll come back to the way in a second. Like we started and everyone gingerly sort of ran off or people that were good, like, you know, most relevant. And I was just walking the back of this point, I didn’t even really realise that Catherine, my wife, Mrs. Jacko was, um, was with me but the Wii was like, oh, she was just like, you know, it’s working then. It took–it took a–it took maybe like, does it take 20 minutes to do the first kilometre or something? It was like a terrifically slow like just like jumping up like walk–anyone walking walk, like twice as fast as that I know. And the rain and stuff in the wind, like, beat into it as almost like this is just so horrendous. Why don’t we try running because at least that would get it over with quicker, not thinking that I’d make the first checkpoint, but just like rather than walking in this horrendous rain like who cares how much it may hurt more not so then just like tried to try to move a bit faster and then just remember shouting so as we’re sort of a bit back in the world and could see Catherine ahead of me. I remember shouting sounds like “I’m running.” and she was like “I know. I don’t know how it’s happening.” And then so we started running and running at that point the physiology of it is weird because it’s like doesn’t–doesn’t make sense like running at that point then didn’t probably hurt her less than walking there. So we’re running and then like eventually I don’t know after a couple of Ks like we said, she’d catch some people up and I’m shouting to them and they were walking so obviously they’d like was, was was then struggling when I show it to her. Let’s catch the huge fucking walkers. Not because I didn’t lie, but just that I was like, as an outward got like starting to was to get energised in this thing. And then as we were running like it we started actually picking up would like a really good pace. And then it was like, we might actually make this first checkpoint. And it still was like not worrying about me personally, like, there was a bit of it–then starts remind me of like, or thinking–reflecting back on it now it’s like, day two is this thing of like, just clinging on to like every checkpoint in like, just making it, just making it just which was I found it very stressful to be like just on the edge all the time. But once I’d made it was like once I’d made one. I was like, “Well, why can’t I just made the next one.” So the belief started to change–change. And I remember like coming, it was like we were coming up to I think we even came into the first checkpoint maybe like 10 or 15 minutes, early enough time to stop in there bacon, bacon egg sandwiches, it was like the best bacon sandwich I’ve ever had. There, that must have been like eight o’clock in the morning or something. And I remember coming out, he’d see the chip on it was like, or there’s a certain period where you like, okay, it’s only, you know, a kilometre left to this checkpoint. And I know, I’ve got enough time. It’s like, there’s that point where you’re like, I know, I’m going to, uh, no, I’m going to make it. It happens before that, that sense of achievement, or that feeling happens before you actually then it was I remember coming up and I was like, I was like, I felt like Lazarus, like rising from the dead in that I was literally like, okay, that was like, nobody thought they were gonna see me at this checkpoint. And I know that because I didn’t think I was going to be there. You know, it was just like, and it then just went, it went from there. The coming back to the wee bit like Catherine, my wife, she’d she’d planned to run a few little bits with me. So on like, day one, she ran the last section, which was like, in the dark, it was like, it was nice to like, not be running on your own in the dark. And, and the further she’d run before, this was like, in one day it was like 15 miles. We did an event in inax, more down south, in June. But she had not been she’d not been training for this or anything she’d done a couple of the record runs with me, but like, talking about doing like, the odd 5 to 10 or 15k type of thing.

Navigating The Marathon: Finding The Strength To Keep Going After A Series Of Setbacks

Jacko Jackson 22:23
And I wasn’t aware of how much she’d done until, like, we’d finished and I’ve sort of worked it out. But on day two, the checkpoints, as I say I sort of made the first checkpoint in, in all right time, maybe like 15 minutes early, or 20 minutes early. But then, was hoping to, like, build up a bit of a buffer, if you know what I mean. And then, but what was happening was it was like, losing five minutes, since it was like down to 10. And then like coming in at the same time that just just being–being too close that it just felt quite stressful. If you’ve only got 10 minutes to spare one little mistake, or you need to go and have a poo or join something or navigation mistake or something happens then. And then and then you’re out and it was like that was quite that was quite stressful. So like there was she joined me on day two, after I’d ran maybe like 20 miles or something. Maybe slightly less. Because she could–not because she was planning she see I was struggling. And so she just joined me. And then yeah, literally ran probably then say like 50 miles on day two.Yeah, she would have ran 50. She ran–she ran have fought for between 40 and 50. On day two ran the whole of day three, which was like 33. She said in the morning of day three she was like, “Well, I’m not gonna be able. I’m not gonna be able to run with you like, this morning first thing like because I can’t move.” But as soon as she saw me, it made her feel so much better. Like maybe yeah, she wasn’t–she had no training, no preparation, no sort of like a mental thing of like, I can prepare with this thing. I know it’s gonna happen. It was like she ended up doing about 80 miles of the 135 That’s so

A Journey of Strength and Support As An Ultramarathon Runner

Jackie 24:42
That’s incredible. All to get you through it.

Jacko Jackson 24:47
Yeah. And literally like, she was worried about 50 to 100 metres ahead of me like going come on, come on. And, you know, we’re coming with loads of food and just Yeah, it was–it was in–it. was an incredible. Yeah, it was an incredible experience from that to be. Yeah. And just just to be supported in that way. And there was, you know, my mother was there. My both–my sisters, my brother in law, my sister in law, my mother in law lives. So there was there was a–there’s a whole family effort of support going–going into that but yeah, I would not have–I would not have done it without her and I wouldn’t have–I wouldn’t have done it without everyone support which was–which is one of the nicest things I’ve found. Reflecting back on it of like, being that vulnerable and being that broken that you just actually needed that. Like, when was–when was the last time we were in that total vulnerability or needs for people to literally support us, it’s like, when you’re an infant, when you were a baby, it was almost literally like that–could–it was and when you when–you go through–when you go into those types of places, I wouldn’t necessarily expecting it to be quite like this, but the the connection between us all that, like, you know, we’d–we’d done it. And we didn’t think we’re gonna do it. And yeah, the–yeah, the deep, deep sort of connection was, yeah, it was very special to experience that.

Where to find Jacko:

Instagram: @jacko.david.jackson

Ring o Fire –https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/david-jackson-breathwork

FREE App Pro Breathwork –https://probreathwork.passion.io

Certification –https://www.rootedlife.co.uk/course/breathwork-basics

Website: www.rootedlife.co.uk

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