Running Rings around MS

Living Well Magazine Autumn 2015

In the last edition of “Living Well” we featured an article about UK’s Sophie Jackson who traveled out to Australia to attend the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (MS) retreat with George Jelinek here at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. Her story of recovery from diagnosis of MS in 2009 to her wellbeing today was positive and inspiring.

Now we present to you her husband, Ted Jackson, who has taken Sophie’s experience and run with it – literally. Inspired by his wife’s ordeal and healing, and desiring to support George Jelinek’s organisation Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis, Ted put on his running shoes and ran a remarkable seven marathons, in seven days, in seven continents! His efforts raised a mighty £164,642.00, or Australian $327,597.51, and attracted media coverage across the globe. As he declared on the event website; “I figured it would be nice to do my bit and put myself through some hardship in order to persuade you lot to part with lots of money.”

Fifteen years ago Ted could barely get off the couch let alone run 42km. 

Ted says on his website; “A long, long time ago, 15 years to be precise, Ted Jackson was a 28 year old father of two, boozer, smoker, obese, idle and loathsome (think John Belushi in Animal House). A useless husband and a terrible father. With numerous car wrecks, nights in local constabularies, and the odd black eye, Ted was hardly living the dream. Two months “professional help” at the end of 1999, fifteen sober years since and life has changed.”

It turned out to be just as well, because a few years after giving up the drink, his wife Sophie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, struck dumb and in need of full-time care.

“I really needed him, and thanks to those rough patches that we went through and what we’d learnt from that, he was there for me,” said Sophie Jackson, now fully recovered.

While Sophie’s recovery was hard, it helped shape the Jackson family into the strong unit it’s become, and the motivation for what Ted is achieving now.

When he gave up alcohol, he started exercising, and his commitment soon led him to start running marathons. Since then he has achieved many feats of fitness, even without the classical runner’s body. His obvious joie de vivre has him squaring off with many a new challenge.

In 2015 he took on the World Marathon Challenge: an amazing logistical and physical challenge to run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.

Participants including Ted flew first to Union Glacier, Antarctica, deep within the Antarctic Circle, to begin their challenge of a lifetime. The first marathon on the ‘Frozen Continent’ took place on 17 January 2015, with a mere 168 hours left to complete the World Marathon Challenge. During the seven-day time period, competitors ran a standard 42.2km marathon distance at Union Glacier (Antarctica), Punta Arenas (Chile), Miami (USA), Madrid (Spain), Marrakech (Morocco), Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Sydney (Australia). In doing so, they completed seven marathons on the planet’s seven continents: Antarctica, South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Africa.

Ted’s efforts were all for Overcoming MS, in honour of Sophie. Once she discovered this small organisation, she found it to be an invaluable source of information and support. It’s focus on promoting a positive lifestyle program and improving the lives of people with MS by providing tools to enable recovery, alongside the simple maxim that overcoming MS is possible, inspired Sophie to make the trip to Australia to attend its namesake retreat at the Yarra Valley Living Centre, and in turn inspired Ted to raise money in support.

Keryn Taylor, who co-facilitates Overcoming MS, says “its wonderful to have the support of the Jacksons and see how  each of them have improved  their lifestyles.’

Some things have not changed. Ted still weighs in at over 95kg and apparently Mehmet, the local kebab van owner, could easily be described as Ted’s best friend. Nevertheless, he can never be accused of doing things by halves, and his enthusiasm for making a difference in his health, his family life and others living with MS is boundless.

Above: Ted Jackson crossing the finish line and left: with Professor George Jelinek at the Sydney leg of the World Marathon Challenge – seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.