Youngest Runner at XTERRA Nationals is Making a Difference
Nine-year-old Jake Mackleer is raising funds for Humane Society
Jake Mackleer is a little guy who likes to dream big. At 9 years old, he will be the youngest runner on the 21-kilometer course for the upcoming XTERRA Trail Run National Championship.
That alone would seem to be impressive enough, but Jake also wants to make a difference in his community. In addition to chasing a national title at the XTERRA Trail Run event, he will be running to raise funds and awareness for the Pender County Humane Society in his hometown of Hampstead, North Carolina.
"We talked to Jake about making this event bigger than himself … ultimately it was his choice to help the animals he loves," said his father, John.
The XTERRA Trail Run National Championship will take place on September 22 at Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah, and more than 700 runners from at least 30 different states are expected to participate.
Jake earned his way into the event, winning the 9-younger age division in the XTERRA North Carolina Trail Run Series. Every age-group champion from the various regions across the United States received free entries to the XTERRA Trail Run Nationals, and Jake was thrilled upon receiving his.
"We have never travelled on a plane for a race, only in-state road trips," John said. "He is so excited and his whole school knows about his event."
Jake is in the fourth grade at South Topsail Elementary School. He is the youngest runner to attempt the 21K championship course at Snowbasin (a 7-year-old ran the previous course at Bend, Oregon).
The 21K course will be the longest race of Jake's young running career, but his family is confident that he can finish the race. Jake completed a 16K race just last month in the North Carolina Series, and stays in shape year-round through his other sports of soccer and wrestling.
"I really think he will do fine," John said. "He sprinted the last half-mile of a 10-mile run at XTERRA Fisher Farm. He is also mature enough that he will not quit. My concern is really about the altitude change and the climbs for him. There really is no way to simulate that in Coastal Carolina."
John said he will accompany Jake along the course for safety - and encouragement. He added that they are treating this race as a special event, and would otherwise not enter a course as long as 21K. "Probably the furthest distance I will allow him to run until he is over 14," John said. "He's mentally tough as nails, but still a little kid growing."
John has competed in XTERRA off-road triathlons, so he often trains with Jake. "XTERRA training with your kids offers a huge teaching opportunity with nature," he explained. "If we saw something cool on the trail, we did not worry about keeping the pace. Stop and observe. Jake and I have seen a lot of stuff training together, and we always stop to check things out."
Regardless of how he fares on the course at Utah, Jake has already prevailed. He has secured close to $1,000 in donations for the Pender County Humane Society.
"This past Friday, the Humane group held their spaghetti dinner; Jake had flyers made, along with a booth," John said. "He was a hit, and raised $400 that night. He is also casing the neighborhood with his flyers. The local newspapers have caught on, and they are getting the word out, too."