Jenny Simpson won the women’s 1500m at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meet in Eugene at the weekend, cheered on by her dutiful husband Jason. Roll back just two months and there was a role reversal, with Jenny cheering on Jason at the Boston Marathon. The 2011 world 1500m champion and 2014 Diamond Race winner shares the diary she kept of her experience of supporting from the sidelines.

September 2014 – Announcement

Jason and I were with some of our New Balance friends when I overheard him talking about wanting to race the Boston Marathon in 2015. I was really surprised because in the past he has run one marathon a year and has never returned to repeat a course. But for his lucky seventh battle with the distance, he wanted to return to take on Boston.  

October 2014 through to April 2015 – Training

I’m returning slowly to training after a long 2014 track season but Jason is quickly into heavy mileage. Before I am ever awake he is putting in his first run through the early morning snow. Quickly after, he is back out the door to rush to his full-time graphic design job and using his lunch hour to fit in another run. I’m the professional runner, yet he is putting in more miles, running harder workouts, and balancing a job and family duties all at the same time. I have never seen him this focused for training. He’s eating right, going to bed early, and cutting out extra fun things in his life. This is where maybe my normal pro lifestyle is an influence. But seeing him have this kind of focused purpose is so inspiring for me to watch.

I realise that this race is really important to him if he’s willing to work this hard, so I want to show him the type of support he has shown for my running career. So I decided to take over a lot of the daily responsibilities – a real role reversal. We are having a bathroom remodelled and tax season is around the corner. Jason would typically take the lead on these types of projects, but I volunteer to take it off his plate so he can train.

I cook all of our meals and pack Jason’s lunch so that he can eat healthy at his desk and run again during his lunch hour. I notice incrementally that there is less and less food in the house. He’s training harder than ever and I’m having to grocery shop and cook more to keep up with his appetite! Soon we are both into high mileage weeks and training hard. One night, I’m putting pasta on to boil when I notice the packaging suggests it serves eight people, but I know Jason and I will have no problem finishing it just the two of us!

 

Go Jason Go!!! #bostonmarathon #newbalancerunning

A photo posted by Jenny Simpson (@trackjenny) on

 

WHERE'S HE PACKIN' ALL THAT PASTA?

Monday April 20 – Race Day

The role reversal is most pronounced as we reach race day. It is pretty normal for both of us to be running at home, but it is very strange to be traveling to such a big race and I am not the one putting on the racing singlet! I think of all the little jobs that Jason does for me when I’m racing and I try to support him in the same way. So I’ve decided I need to gather his race-day breakfast. So I get to the grocery store and overwhelmed with my options, I ring him for specific requests for types of granola and bagels and fruit. I know I’m way over-thinking this whole task, but it’s so important to me to get this right so that he can see how much I care. I return to the hotel with my breakfast feast and I realise I never asked him if he wants cream cheese for his bagel. I didn’t notice that Jason, taking a lot of fun in my nervousness, has been filming me with his phone. It is so inconsequential whether Jason has the perfect spread for his bagel but that moment really captured how nervous I was.

Because of the nature of the Boston Marathon course, I decided to stay and watch the race at the Lenox Hotel near the finish and keep up Jason’s progress on a running tracker. Around 15km the tracker fails to update. It’s probably just a delay but I fear the worse until about three minutes later, the update arrives and he’s right on schedule. As the race progresses I am generally more relieved knowing that things are going well. But I am always the most nervous for the final 5k stretch because after coming such a long way, I always hope marathoners can finish strong. I got to watch the race with Jason’s coach, Clint Wells. It was such a sweet experience because I got to see how much joy Clint gets from his athlete’s splits going well and how he genuinely cares about Jason’s success.

Clint and I got down to the course several blocks from the finish hoping to be able to cheer for Jason as he came in for his final sprint. The crowd was so deep and it seemed impossible for us to get a spot along the fence. We found a slightly less crowded section where I could see a few runners if I stood on my tippy-toes. This wasn’t going to work (I’m too short!) so when Jason was about two minutes away I politely asked the people in front if I could slip in their place just long enough to cheer for him and promised to jump straight back out as soon as he passed. The running community is so incredible and so of course they let me slip in. Not only that, but they all wanted to know who he was and by the time he came running by we had a whole section of people cheering his name. Jason finished in 2:25:47 – a personal best on a rainy and windy Boston day. I’m so incredibly proud of him.

 

Eating my reward for completing the first workout back after Boston marathon. 10x400 in 69 with 90 sec rest. #chickenfries #burgerking

A photo posted by Jason Simpson (@jasonfordesign) on

 

One advantage of not being a full-time professional athlete is having the freedom to indulge 🍔 👅 🙈

Reflections

Watching the finish of the Boston Marathon is so emotional and inspiring. But I can’t help but feel that this one moment provides such an inadequate snapshot of all the work that goes into preparing and running a marathon. Most people who run the mile seriously are professional athlete like myself, but for someone like Jason, who already has a full-time job, training for a marathon is the commitment level of taking on another job. This experience has given me an incredible appreciation for the majority of the running community that is more like Jason than like me. Jason doesn’t get a pay check for training but for the last few months, he’s acted like it. To see this level of dedication for pure personal fulfilment was really inspiring for me.

So would I ever be tempted to compete in a marathon? I was sitting in a private party for New Balance overlooking the Boston Marathon course when someone asked me that question. I had just helped my exhausted husband, shivering and limping, back to the hotel after his successful finish. I looked out the window at the steady stream of runners, leaning into the wind of their twenty-sixth mile approaching the finish line. I hesitated for a second before answering: “No, it looks painful and miserable. I don’t know how anyone can think that is a good idea”. At the same time, the camaraderie and community of the marathon distance is truly moving to a runner like myself looking in from the outside. I know I will one day run the distance. What I don’t know is whether I’ll run it as a competitive runner or later in life as a mom pushing a stroller, but definitely some day.