Winning a race with father time

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Shawn Jackson, left, is part of the Kent State University-Trumbull branch cross country club team, at age 43. Here he poses for a picture with coach Bill Hess.

CHAMPION — Shawn Jackson sat at his desk and pondered his existence.

He was 35 years old selling computers in Solon and realized his 40th birthday fell on April 20, 2015. The day of the 119th running of the Boston Marathon. Jackson qualified in 2014.

As a teenager, Jackson ran the one- and two-mile races for the Hubbard High School track and field and cross country team until he graduated in 1993.

Jackson left Hubbard for Malone (College) University in 1993. That stint lasted a little over two years.

Life. It happens. Jackson got married and found a job. He had to pay bills. He didn’t finish college.

It eventually led him to a family and his former job, which was consolidated and moved to Colorado.

Jackson took his severance package and invested in a college education — KSU-Trumbull Campus. He’s studying exercise science and working for a handyman.

Jackson is turning back the clock, even though his body has felt the ravages of aging.

Jackson had a knee injury after running at Malone, slowing his distance runs for awhile.

“The doctors couldn’t even pinpoint it,” he said. “Spent an entire year to rehab it. Whole bunch of treatments done. Anytime I put running pressure on it, it felt like it was swelling up. The joint was stiff. I couldn’t run. I was good for about 15 steps and that was it.”

He slowly regained his strength and will to run. He was playing with his children, feeling good, running around the block and still feeling fine — even going a mile.

He’s wearing a yellow T-shirt with small midnight blue letters of Kent State Trumbull nowadays. Two big Cs with an arrow shooting through it. Then, the Titans nickname dominates the bottom of the lettering on the shirt.

“Here I am, doing it all over again,” Jackson said. “I have a whole different appreciation for it.”

Bill Hess is in his second year coaching the Titans cross country team, a club sport until next season.

A handful of area runners, most recently graduated from high school, are part of the group. One is a 43-year-old named Shawn Jackson.

Hess, 54, ran for Niles McKinley High School and competes in area road races. He’s tapered off his distance events, but with Jackson on the team, he’s found an inspiration to take to the streets again.

“I’ve been there,” Hess said. “I know what it takes. That’s what impresses me the most. It’s almost inconceivable that someone could run that fast, older like that.”

Jackson trained on a treadmill. The KSU-Trumbull team watched in amazement as the 43-year old pushed his body to run a 6-minute mile.

“This is huge for everyone who wants to aspire to something,” Hess said. “They look at that, 43 years old and running that fast.”

Training is different in your 40s and 50s than it is when it is in teens and 20s.

“Ease into it and don’t forget your rest days,” Jackson said. “Those rest days are even more valuable now. That’s the biggest difference between running then and now. For me, it’s the rest. My recoveries take a little bit longer. It’s needed.”

Jackson is a volunteer cross country coach for Mineral Ridge. His daughter, Olivia, is going to be a freshman this year, but she is home schooled. She’s run with the Rams junior high team and ran a half-marathon with her father in the fall of 2017.

The two run together. Shawn holds his own as he ran a 17:20 5K race last year. He averages around 18 minutes.

“God is letting me pull off some of those times still,” Shawn said.

Adam Burgard, a 2018 Maplewood High School graduate, is one of Shawn’s teammates. The former Rockets runner is amazed by his Jackson’s times.

“I hope one day I can run like that when I get old,” Burgard said.

Don’t we all.