Oct. 15, 2010
Cross country runner Dan Jackson recently kicked off his senior season with a strong finish in the Notre Dame Invitational. Among the 21-team field, the Irish came in seventh place with Jackson finishing first for the team at 24:13. Jackson and his teammates are in action on Sat., Oct. 16 when they compete in the Pre-NCAA Meet in Terre Haute, Ind. UND.com’s Hilary Ferguson got the chance to sit down with Dan and find out a little bit more about the team leader’s goals for the season, his favorite vacation spot, and what he would do with one million dollars.
How do you prepare yourself to run an event? Any pre-race rituals? I prepare myself to run an event by logging many weeks of high-mileage training in the weeks and months leading up to the event. About 10-15 days out from an important race I will lower this mileage and begin to raise the speed and intensity of my interval workouts. This formula is tried and true for distance runners, and I find it works for me very well.
What is your favorite event to run? I really enjoy running the 5k and 10k in the spring when we travel out to California. The races there are always held at night under the lights. The cool evening weather and still air provide for very fast times, and the competition is always very good.
What was the most difficult course you have ever run? The most difficult course that I have run is Van Cortlandt Park in NYC. It’s the “Yankee Stadium” of cross-country courses. Big steep hills and tight corners winding around on a cinder path through the woods; it’s very tough to race on.
What is the biggest challenge when running cross-country? I have found the biggest challenge to be having the confidence to race in the front of the pack. It is very easy to grow content with where you are in a race and when this happens you lose valuable time and places. To be in the front you have to be aggressive and fearless, which is a very difficult thing to do when you are running against the best runners in the NCAA.
When did you become a runner and why? I started running my freshmen year of high school. Up until that point in my life I had been a very serious golfer, and played in many tournaments throughout Michigan in the summertime. However, the high school I went to had a state championship cross-country team and I wanted to be a part of it. Also, the athletic aspect of running appealed to me more than golf. I’m glad I chose running. In other news, the recent national champion in the marathon received a $26,000 payday, while the winner of the PGA’s FedEx cup won $11 million.
Have you ever played any other sports? This is something not a lot of people know about me…besides golf, I was actually a nationally ranked indoor rock climber during high school. Ann Arbor is home to one of the largest indoor climbing gyms in the country. My parents would drop me off here in the evenings with the hope that I’d tire myself out and wouldn’t annoy them so much. I’d climb around until my hands were blistered and bloody and I couldn’t raise my arms above my shoulders. I loved it. Runners are naturally good climbers because climbing is all about your strength-to-weight ratio. Football players or weight lifters are typically awful at it…they have too much weight to carry.
What is your most memorable moment as an individual or member of the team? My high school cross country team won four state-championships during my time there, and I am enormously proud of that, but I would say my fondest memory while being part of a team was winning the track state championship as a team my senior year. Usually it takes a combination of good relays, sprinters, and field events to win a track meet. We won with only six distance runners, which is really remarkable. Before we went up to get our trophy the second place team that we beat that day took to the podium, they must have had 50 or 60 guys go up there. We were next; just 6 scrawny runners, 115 pounds might have been our average weight, but we were one of the best groups of high school distance runners in the country that year. Those guys are still my best friends to this day.
Do you have any individual or team goals for this season? Individually, I want to be the best possible leader I can for this team and also be an All-American. As a team, I would like to qualify for the NCAA National meet in Terre Haute, a task I think we are fully capable of doing.
What is/are the biggest difference(s) between high school cross country and running at the collegiate level? Besides the obvious differences in talent and competition, I have found the biggest difference to be the amount of work it takes to compete in the upper echelons of NCAA competition. In high school, one could get by on a lot of talent and little work, but in the NCAA there are a lot of people that are equally and even – GASP! – more talented than you, so the amount of work ethic one needs to compete at a high level is much, much greater.
I see that you’re a management consulting major. What would your dream job be after graduation? My dream is to move back to my hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. For me, Ann Arbor is the absolute greatest town in the world. The community is fantastic; you’ve got the University integrated right into the city, so there are a lot of young people around and there’s always something fun to do, and it’s the best place to run I’ve ever been to; miles and miles of trails and dirt roads. I want to be a running bum and coach high school cross-country, go to Lake Michigan in the summertime and be around my friends and family. The real world? …I think I’ll wait.
Any songs or artists that really get you pumped up before a race? I’m a huge fan of electronic music. I always listen to “Lift Me Up” by Moby (Milo remix), “In My Arms” (also by Milo), and “Let the Beat Build” by Lil Wayne. That’s how it’s done.
Why did you choose Notre Dame? I chose Notre Dame because everyone I knew from high school was going to Michigan. I had to do something different!
What is your favorite movie? My favorite movies are “Vanilla Sky,” “21 grams,” “What Dreams May Come”; I like movies that can be debated and interpreted in different ways, where the answers aren’t clear.
If you were stranded on an island and could bring along three things, what would they be? Only need two things – my Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Arnie and Little Dog. They would be loyal companions and I wouldn’t ever be tempted to eat them if I was starving; I suspect they wouldn’t be very tasty; they eat their own poop.
Where is your favorite place on campus? I enjoy running around the lakes in the morning before everyone is out and about.
If you could travel to one place in the world, where would it be and why? Easy! The Leelanau Peninsula in Northern Michigan; specifically, Glen Arbor. This is the greatest place in the entire world! It’s home to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Shoreline, which are these enormous dunes that rise straight out of the water, a quarter mile up into the air. Plus you’ve got the pristine waters of Lake Michigan all around you. It’s a paradise! I never want to go on vacation anywhere else.
What would you do with a million dollars? If I had a million dollars, I would throw one helluva tailgate for the Michigan/Notre Dame game next year! It’ll be the first ever night game at the Big House and I live about one block from the stadium. The day after would be like a scene out of “The Hangover,” circus animals and burning furniture would be laying around, perhaps a misplaced baby. I’m sure I could blow that money in one go. Easy.
What will you miss the most about Notre Dame? The thing I will miss most about Notre Dame is being part of a team. I met some great people here, and it just isn’t a situation you can re-create after you’re out of school.
Will you continue running after college? I will absolutely keep running after college, that’s how I’m gonna make the big bucks!
You’re from the Ann Arbor area. Were you ever a University of Michigan fan? This question is a bit presumptuous…I STILL AM!