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Heather Jackson hails ‘refreshing’ trail running switch ahead of Western States

Olly Green
Reporter
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Trail running is continuing to provide Heather Jackson with a new lease of life as she gears up for her first ever Western States.

The American than a year into her trail running adventure and is thriving in the sport after calling time on a glittering career in professional triathlon.

Ahead of Western States this weekend, Jackson explained to RUN247 how the new challenge has brought about a much-needed shake-up to her training days.

Fresh excitement

“It’s so fun, it’s so refreshing,” she said. “It’s so different from what I did for so long.

Heather Jackson at Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB
Heather Jackson at Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB. [Photo credit: UTMB]

“To still have that excitement and stoke every single day, it’s almost every day, every run is like a new adventure.

“I’m just really loving that versus the ‘OK, I’ve got to go down to the bike path and run 8 x 1 miles.”

Canyons cracker

Jackson, who has also committed to gravel racing in 2023, comes into Western States off the back of clinching a maiden win on the trails in April – she stormed to victory in the 50K event at Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB.

She was delighted to taste that winning feeling as a runner, though the real goal was to get some more miles in the legs and recce the trails in California, which plays host to Western States.

“Canyons was really cool,” she recalled.” Obviously, any time you win it’s just amazing, to break that tape and be the first to cross.

“But obviously, it was my first time in a trail race and it had actually been big month of the gravel racing.

“I really had no idea how I was going to feel.

“I hadn’t been running that much in the two to three weeks coming into [Canyons]. Not out of choice necessarily, just because I literally had three bike races in a row and I was trying to balance that – staying off the legs, not doing any crazy running.

“I wasn’t going into Canyons worrying about that, because I was just using it as one of my longest training runs for Western States.

Heather Jackson take victory at Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB.
Heather Jackson take victory at Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB. [Photo credit: Patrick McDermott / UTMB]

“When you’re going in without the confidence of [thinking] ‘I’ve targeted this, I’ve done all my prep to get ready for it’, you never know how it could go.

“To take the win was awesome. More so just to get to this area and check out some of the trails and see the end part of Western States, to get an idea of what that will be like.”

Western States target

The iconic Western States is by far the most high-profile event Jackson taken on since her switch from triathlon, and despite other commendable results – at Javelina Jundred (fifth) and Black Canyon Ultra 100K (second) – she insists that completing the race is her only priority.

“The goal is just getting to that finish line,” she asserted. “That will be a huge accomplishment.

“That is literally my only goal.

“Whatever it takes to get there, whether I’m walking, whether I’m still running well by the end.

“It’s just to enjoy the entire day out there. It’s going to be a long day, obviously, I just want to take it all in and have fun and get to that finish. That’s the only ultimate goal I have.”

UTMB next?

Jackson’s full focus is on her Western States challenge for the time being, though she revealed that she will be heading to the UTMB World Series finals in Chamonix this August.

Her plans for the event are yet to be finalised, though she has booked a place in the UTMB OCC courtesy of her Canyons performance, and is considering targeting the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) in 2024.

Heather Jackson with the podium finishers at Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB.
Heather Jackson (centre) with the podium finishers at Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB. [Photo credit: Patrick McDermott / UTMB]

“It’s definitely kind of fluid right now, just seeing how this goes. Do I absolutely fall in love with it and it becomes like Kona and this is just the event and I’ll 100% be back.

“Or is like ‘that was amazing’ and I tick a box and then do the full UTMB next year. We are definitely going to UTMB this year – after Canyons I got my slot for the OCC.

“We’ll get through Saturday and then confirm, but we have flight to France in August.”

Olly Green
Written by
Olly Green
Olly is the content lead for RUN247, is a regular contributor to TRI247 and keeps an eye out for content that appeals to both audiences including interviews with pro Heather Jackson.

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