Local Masters runners set for World Championships in Finland – El Paso Times

Local Masters runners set for World Championships in Finland  El Paso Times


As a just-turned 60-year-old, El Paso distance runner David Jackson has to check to see where he is qualified for a senior discount.

Here’s one area he can be sure he reaps the benefits: the steeplechase in the World Masters Athletics Championships in early July in Tampere, Finland.


He’s headed there with his wife Virginia Garcia Jackson, as both are veterans of the masters track circuit, but while this is Jackson’s sixth World Championships competition, it’s unlike the others.

His best event, and has been since he ran for UTEP in the 1990s after a stint in the Air Force, is the steeplechase. He’s been doing it in the three decades since.

For “young people,” that’s a race of 3,000 meters (almost two miles, seven and a half laps) over 36-inch hurdles with one water jump a lap. For 60-year-olds, at the World level, it’s a 2,000-meter race (about a mile and a quarter, five laps), over 30-inch hurdles.

Jackson is enjoying life as a 60-year-old.

“Actually I do like it better,” said Jackson, who in 2015 beat prostate cancer while barely letting it disrupt his busy schedule of masters running. “With the the lower hurdles I almost feel guilty, I can almost step over them. They’re half a foot shorter. It plays more to my strengths.

“I’m pretty efficient on the 36s. It’s so much easier now doing the shorter distance. It almost changes the complexity of the race, it’s more speed oriented now. It’s shorter, and with the hurdles being lower, it makes it speed oriented instead of distance oriented.”

Masters track begins with the 35-49 age group and tops out at 95-and-up, with 60-64 being where the steeplechase gets shorter.

Jackson, who recently was inducted into the El Paso Senior Games Hall of Fame, will enter the steeplechase in Tampere (about 100 miles north of Finland’s capital of Helsinki) as the 15th seed but thinks he can finish in the top 10.

He’s also running the 800 and 1,500 meters in the 11-day event that beings July 29, while his wife Virginia will represent Mexico in the 8-kilometer (5 mile) cross country race and in the half marathon in the 50-54 age group. As the sixth-seed in cross country, she has a legitimate chance of earning a medal. 

“That’s the thinking, that’s my intention against the whole world,” said Virginia Garcia Jackson, who married five years ago and moved to El Paso from Mexico with her husband. “It’s very important for me to represent Mexico.”

This is her first Worlds, in fact her first trip to Europe. Her first international competition was in 2019 when she and her husband were among four El Pasoans who competed in the North American championships in Toronto.

There were plans to compete in the next World competition, also in Toronto in 2020, but was shut down because of COVID. This event in Finland is part of the planet opening back up after the pandemic.

“I’ve been telling Vicki how amazing this is,” said David Jackson, who like his wife is a personal trainer. “We really enjoyed the North American championships in 2019, but this is competing against Masters from the entire world.”

Part of what makes this one even more special is getting back with competitors they were separated from because of COVID.

“There is a lot of camaraderie, I’ll get to see a lot of old friends I competed against in Puerto Rico, Australia, Toronto, people I haven’t seen in a couple of years,” David Jackson said. “It’s great to get out again.”

Traveling to Europe makes it extra special for the Jacksons, 

Bret Bloomquist can be reached at 915-546-6359; bbloomquist@elpasotimes.com; @Bretbloomquist on Twitter.