Earl Jackson got a big surprise last week. We teamed up with Nike Running to deliver a very special gift to some unsuspecting members of the Chicago running community. We asked for their shoe sizes so they probably new that they were getting shoes but I don't think they expected a massive crate branded with their name & ours with ALL THREE of the fast pack shoes in bright mango: Air Zoom Alphafly Next%, ZoomX Vaporfly Next%, and Air Zoom Tempo Next%! The "Mango Pack" was set to release for the 2020 Chicago Marathon (until the pandemic changed everything) so, it felt good to send these Chicagoans a big surprise to brighten the close of the year. Here's our chat with Earl:
Dan Fitzgerald: First, it's been a hard year. What are you happy to see go in 2020?
Earl Jackson: The short answer? Almost everything. lol.
The longish answer? While this certainly has been a hard year, I try to keep things in perspective (to a degree). Hopefully in 2021, things will gradually return to a degree of normalcy that will make 2021 a much better year than 2020. I personally am looking forward to spending more time with friends in the running community that did not happen as much as I would have liked in 2020 (because they are truly the best).
DF: What bright spots did you feel this year?
EJ: Despite this year being literally the most chaotic ever, especially for the running community, I had quite a few bright spots. Specific to running:
I was grateful to have two opportunities to officially race at the F3 Half Marathon in January and the LA Marathon in March. I managed to set PR's in the mile (5:27), 5K (18:48), half marathon (1:29:00) and the marathon (3:18:03)
Reflecting back on all that's happened in this very difficult year, these very bright spots were crucial in helping me stay as motivated as I can in continuing to work towards my running goals.
DF: How are you holding up?
EJ: Overall, I am doing about as good as I can be given the current state of affairs (lol). The closer I get to the end of the year, the better I feel and the more optimistic I feel about 2021 and beyond.
DF: How has running been a part of your life this year? Anything unique to your running journey this year?
EJ: Running during this insane year has literally been my mental health lifeline, and this year's running journey has been quite a world wind (just like everything else in the world...lol). I started the year off in full swing training for the Tokyo Marathon, my 4th WM major. A few weeks before the race (specifically the Saturday before the cancellation of the mass race), I was reflecting back on my training and how I literally had the best build up ever before a race. Once the mass race was cancelled, I quickly pivoted to the LA Marathon scheduled the week after Tokyo as I didnt want my incredible training to go by the wayside. In the weeks after running LA and watching every other planned race get cancelled or turned virtual, I knew this was going to be a year like no other. Even with this year being as unique as it has been, I always tell myself there are always things that I can be working on, races or no races, to move towards the end goal.
DF: How did you hear about the Heartbreakers?
EJ: I first heard about the Heartbreakers in late summer of 2019 not long after opening in Chicago from a handful of friends in the Chicago running/fitness community. Later in the fall, I dropped into the Chicago store for the first time during Chicago Marathon week (best. week. ever) and had a great time. Later that fall when I was starting to train for Tokyo, the team hosted Saturday long runs and I joined to have a group to run with during the fall and winter and the rest is history!
DF: Let's talk about the "crate"? What are you going to do with these?
EJ: THE BEST FLIPPIN' CRATE EVER! I didn't realize it had my name on it until about 30 minutes after I opened it! LOL. The jury is still out on what i'm gonna do with it, but I will FOR SURE be keeping this!
DF: What's your big running goal for 2021?
EJ: My big "North Star" running goal for that I have been working on over the last few years and will continue to work on in 2021 is putting in the work and qualifying for the Boston Marathon (pending races opening back up!). In addition, I have two half marathons (Milwaukee and Brooklyn) on deck for the first half of the year where I hope to break 1:26:00. I believe all of the incremental work put in over the last few years (higher mileage, cross training and strength/mobility work) will make this goal a reality over the next year!