WSC marathon runner encourages hopefuls to embrace the uncomfortable

Maddie Genoways, Staff Writer

Everyone is familiar with the all-encompassing isolation and crippling feelings of loneliness and dread that hit with the first tidal wave of the pandemic. By the time the first wave of COVID-19 had ebbed, it was difficult to try to get back to living a normal life, never mind achieving those impossible, life-changing goals. 

This is the story of how one WSC student went from barely outrunning post-pandemic fears in a lonely dorm room to running marathon after marathon. 

Jackson Witter, 25, started at WSC at the end of the pandemic after working in the U.S. air force.  

“As you can probably imagine, I felt pretty isolated and lonely,” Witter said. “I had to leave my friends back in Lincoln, and I spent a lot of my time just sitting around feeling miserable and playing video games.” 

For Witter, help came from an unexpectedly athletic corner. 

“I was working over summer break when my buddy told me he was doing a half marathon run with his dad for Father’s Day,” Witter said. “I was surprised when he asked if I wanted to join them.”  

While he comes from a family of avid runners, Witter admits that he was never as passionate as his relatives.  

“As a kid, I felt like they were always pushing me into joining them,” Witter said. “I spent a lot of time running away from running.” 

Despite his history, Witter ended up accepting the offer and began training for his first ever marathon with no idea of what he would be getting into. 

“It finally came down to the day of the half marathon,” Witter said. “I only got about 7 miles in before I had to stop. I felt horrible, like I had failed. That feeling of failure ended up becoming the fire that ignited it all. I had something to prove, so I signed up for another marathon. Then after that marathon I signed up for ultra-marathons: a 100k run, then a 50k run, where I ranked third in men’s and fifth overall. Since then I’ve done a 50 miler and two more marathons.”  

Since Witter started running two years ago, he has lost over 70 lbs. 

Witter said he stuck with running as his sport of choice because of the mental clarity it gave him.  

“I’ve come to realize it’s my form of meditation,” Witter said. “Whenever I’m feeling stressed, you can probably find me running somewhere around campus. Even beyond staying in shape or training for races, running just helps me to clear my head of all the stuff I’m worried about.”  

While the going hasn’t always been easy, Witter has found motivation to keep training by looking to his role models and biggest supporters, his parents.  

“They’ve motivated me from the start,” Witter said. “There’s no way I would’ve even considered signing up for a marathon without their support. They force me to think of the bigger picture. I look at my dad and see how great of person he is now, but I also recognize that progress didn’t come overnight.” 

Witter is a firm believer anyone can follow in his footsteps with the right motivation and a good amount of perseverance.  

“If you told me I’d be running marathons two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Witter said. “I used to be so scared to try new things, I thought failure was a sign for me to give up and never try again. But after you accomplish one of those scary, impossible goals, you start wondering what else you’re capable of.” 

As Witter prepares for his next races, a 100-miler in Fremont and a 24-hour race in Abilene, KS, he offers advice to any student looking to start their weight loss journey.  

“Speak your goals out loud to help hold yourself accountable,” Witter said. “Eventually, you’re going to have to either face the shame and eat your words or go out and do it. Never look down on yourself when your commitments don’t go as planned. You’re going to have to learn to be okay with being uncomfortable, because once you push through that feeling, nothing can stop you anymore.”