Lockdown Diaries: gratitude, overcoming adversity, and beating the odds.

Team Meraki’s original athlete and long distance queen Jackie had already faced her fair share of obstacles before Covid-19 hit. A multiple marathoner and ironman athlete, Jackie is no stranger to endurance – in the literal sense – but 2020 brought with it a new set of unique and deeply challenging circumstances. Here, Jackie shares her truly inspiring story, of grit, hope, and positivity.

For me, the keys to getting through Covid (and 2020) are to stay positive and focus on what you can control.

Since I live in HK, the disappointment of races being cancelled due to COVID-19 started in January.

First the Hong Kong marathon in January followed by the Tokyo marathon in March (my last world major) and ultimately the Big Five marathon in South Africa in June.

To make matters worse, my father in the US had been just diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, given 6 months to live and I was living/working on the other side of the world.

Every training run/workout was a struggle. I was mentally drained and could barely run a km without breaking down into tears. I pushed through it. Coach Liv, the most supportive friend/coach a girl could ask for kept checking in. Told me while it won’t make everything better, running will make me feel more like me which will help. And it did.

When the case count continued to grow in Asia and more broadly at the end of February, I decided to fly back to the US for a month to surprise my family.

That flight home turned out to be perfect timing. While my colleagues in our Boston office stayed a comfortable 6 feet away, the case count across the city continued to grow. Two weeks later my company moved to mandatory work from home globally and I extended my trip (4.5 months in the US and counting!).

I’ve run 32 marathons with a goal of doing 40 before I turn 40 (currently 36). In the first few weeks without having something to work towards, I felt lost. I knew I needed to maintain some type of routine if I was going to be able to handle the stress of my Dad’s situation, a global pandemic and work.

Pre Ironman Austria!

Mentally I couldn’t handle structured training or setting a big goal. I needed to focus on things that made me happy. A short faster run, strength training and the best part of the week, a zoom turbo session where I could connect with the Meraki team in London. I developed a new routine of Saturday turbos, lunchtime walks and early evening workouts to boost my energy before spending the evening catching up with my team in Asia during their morning.

I had also read and discussed the benefits of a plant based diet on my dad’s condition. Liv sent me some of her favorite vegan recipes and I invested in some books: the Cancer-Fighting Kitchen and Run Fast, Eat Slow. I went from someone who uses her microwave to cook 99% of her food to something that resembles a good cook. I changed the eating habits of my entire family. While I fought my Mom on her potato chip and peanut M&M addiction, slowly but surely got all of the junk out of the house. My energy levels increased, I dropped back down to race my weight (without the 12-15 hours of training) and most importantly, my Dad’s condition started to improve.

Great Wall of China marathon, 2018

While the world has gone a little mad in 2020, I’m incredibly grateful for so many things in the midst of this crisis:

Extra time: crisis give you an opportunity to focus on what’s important in life. I’ve loved the extra time I’ve been able to spend with my family and so fortunate my work has been flexible and completely supportive. I’ve also loved the extra time I’ve gotten to spend chatting with Liv and the team on Saturday’s. Something I’ve missed since moving to HK in 2019.

Training: I’ve been constantly training for a race or had a race on the calendar for over a decade. While I love being on a plan and having a focus, taking a little break has been refreshing. I know it will reinvigorate me to train once races come back.

Nutrition: this downtime has allowed me to really focus on nutrition for the first time. I’ve focused on eating real food, cooking, and taking a break from alcohol. This renewed focus has been good for me, but more importantly for my Dad. The change in diet combined with chemo and an overwhelming positive attitude has allowed him to experience remarkable progress. It’s been over 6 months since his original diagnosis and he’s defied the odds. We still have a long way to go, but the doctors now think he has years not months to live.

While I know a lot of people can’t wait for 2020 to be over, I’m going to enjoy every minute because it’s extra time with my Dad I wasn’t sure I’d have and I’m forever grateful to Covid for that!

Finish Line smiles, Austria <3


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