Tricia Jackson just doesn’t understand the meaning of “quit,” “can’t,” “give up,” “drop out,” or “you’ll never finish.” The emphatic words of Will Smith to his son, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do,” in the movie The Pursuit of Happiness have been carried by Tricia as a mantra throughout her entire life.
The story of Tricia’s first ultramarathon race, the challenging Bulldog 50K Ultra Trail Run, is a testament to this philosophy. Bulldog is a monster race with a total ascent of over 9,000 feet and 31.1 miles of rocky trails and hard scrabble as it winds up and down through Malibu Creek State Park in Calabasas, California. She relates how her running partner, a cancer survivor and Badwater Ultramarathon competitor, had gone ahead of her by 4 miles and Tricia was struggling to make it just under the cutoff time before she would be disqualified from the race. When she reached the aid station located at the halfway point, the volunteer staff there told her she was too close to the cutoff time, that they didn’t think she could make it, and that there was no shame in quitting. In fact an estimated 75% of runners drop out of their first ultramarathon race, so her situation was not unusual. This was the catalyst Tricia needed to propel her back down the trail. She ran as hard as she could and not only caught up to her running partner but finished ahead of him with plenty of time to spare and garnered the prestigious Bulldog 50K Finisher Medal.
Her next foray into the world of ultramarathon racing took her to the 50-mile American River Race, where she was challenged again by the prospect of dropping out. Running on asphalt for half the race and on steep, mountainous dirt and rocky terrain for the second half, Tricia was adamant about finishing the race and achieving a personal best. But an unforeseen obstacle at mile 23 presented itself, which would have easily prevented a lesser soul from finishing. While running on the blacktop, a nail pierced straight through the sole of her shoe and into her foot. Her running partner pulled the nail out of her foot, and somehow she managed to make it safely to the next aid station, where she was told by both her partner and the aid station doctor, “You are going to have to drop from the race; there is no way you can go on.” Her response was simply a calm yet definite, “I have a race to run.” Without wasting another minute, she hit the mountain and poured her heart into every step of that trail. Not only did she complete the race but did so an hour earlier than predicted, achieving a personal best.
Her next ultramarathon goal is being the first African-American woman to race in and place among the top three finishers in the legendary 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon. Billed as the toughest footrace on the planet, the Badwater Ultramarathon is an international, invitation-only event that pits 100 of the globe’s toughest ultrarunners against one another through 135 nonstop miles of Death Valley, California—the harshest, most demanding, and extreme conditions of any race on the planet, with temperatures reaching up to 130°F.
With five months before the Badwater Ultramarathon, Tricia does one of her triweekly, 25-mile morning training runs, which are complemented by her 50-mile runs during the weekends. As one listens to her infectious enthusiasm and dedication to the sport, you can start to feel the trail beneath your feet and the rush of adrenaline coursing through your body, just thinking about attempting such a race.
Her preparation for Badwater includes running the San Diego 100, the McNaughton Park 100 run in Illinois, the Lake Tahoe Rim 100, and the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run, a 100.5-mile ultramarathon with an average elevation of 11,000 feet and 33,000 feet of climb. She also plans three other 50-mile ultramarathons all in the next five months.
The stress to the body when subjected to 30 hours of uninterrupted running, in temperatures ranging from the low 40s to the high 120s and even up to 130°F, causes the muscles and joints to swell up, inflame, and become stiff. This results in much pain and discomfort in the ensuing days of a race. Tricia experienced such problems in all of her races until she found Natural Vitality’s sports product—Natural Calm®, a dietary supplement containing magnesium, which is key to muscle recovery. In her own words, “After 100 miles of running, the body swells up and is very sore in the morning. There’s a lot of pain connected with running such a distance. After taking the supplement I got up and felt no soreness at all, like I hadn’t just run 100 miles. Taking it after mile 50 enables me to relax my muscles and thus keep my mobility and pace intact. It’s miraculous. Where has it been all of my life? It should be a part of every athlete’s diet in every single sport, including Olympic competition.”
She also explained her philosophy when running such long distances over the kind of terrain ultramarathons take you through. “After putting 50 tough, rocky trail miles on your legs, your body is exhausted and you actually feel sleepy. The body gets stiff, and this is especially taxing on a woman. After 50 miles, there are runners who can’t hold down any liquids and simply walk at mile 80. At this point, it is mind over matter or, more precisely, mind over body. In a way you are running ‘through’ your mind. You just push yourself through. It’s the thought that ‘you started it, you have to finish it.’ When the body tells you to give up, you tell it to not even dare.
“You have to train every day and, especially when you are exhausted, to run through your exhaustion and prepare yourself physically and mentally for this kind of exertion.”
It is both a mental and physical test that Tricia has passed with flying colors.