After Watching Jenny Simpson Go for Gold, Jason Simpson Is Ready for His Turn at the Trials

Pacing his Olympian wife gave him the turnover boost he needed to clock an OTQ.

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Courtesy of Jason Simpson

At their home in Boulder, Colorado, Jason and Jenny Simpson use each other as motivation to get out the door for a run. The couple, who will celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary this October, runs together at least three times a week, including a long run, speed workout, and evening double. But while they share a similar training load, they are preparing for very different events.

“We’re one part miler and one part marathoner,” Jason, 35, told Runner’s World. “Even though Jenny is training for the 1500 meters, she usually runs higher mileage, so we’ll do most of our base runs together.”

Over the last 12 years, Jason has cheered on his pro runner wife, who’s now 33, as she’s made three Olympic teams, collected four major medals in the 1500 meters (a gold medal at the 2011 world championships, two silvers at the 2013 and 2017 world championships, and bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics), and triumphed in numerous track and road races around the country.

But while Jenny’s career has taken off, Jason—who works full-time at his graphic design company, Sketchfolio—has quietly been training for marathons.

And now, after punching his ticket to the Olympic Trials by running a 2:18:41 at the 2018 California International Marathon (CIM), the couple’s focus is on him.

Switching Roles On the Sidelines

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A few months after Jenny raced in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jason completed his first 26.2 at the 2008 CIM, finishing in 2:32:17.

“I figured that with a little more training, I could break 2:30,” he said.

After putting in more miles with Jenny and the Boulder Track Club, Jason shaved his marathon time down to the 2:20s, where he hovered for several years. “For a while, I didn’t think I would be able to break 2:20. I thought that would just be my limit,” he said.

As Jason was preparing for the 2018 CIM, however, something clicked. He dropped a 4:17 mile at the 5th Avenue Mile in September in New York City (Jenny, for the record, clocked 4:19 to win the women’s race), then smoothly transitioned into logging between 95 to 100 miles per week. A few weeks before the December race, his coach told him that he was fit enough to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, which would take running below 2:19.

“Everything had to go perfectly for that to happen,” said Jason. Luck played in his favor. On the day of the race in Sacramento, he crossed the line in 2:18:41, punching his ticket to Atlanta on February 29.

“I’ve been to a lot of Olympic Trials to cheer, but this is the first one I’ve qualified for myself,” he said. “It feels good to put in the work and surpass my own expectations.”

While Jenny has much more pressure riding on her performances than Jason, the two support each other’s running progress with equal enthusiasm. Just as Jason travels to almost all of Jenny’s races, Jenny cheers at most of his, save for the ones that interfere with her race schedule. For example, when Jason ran Grandma’s Marathon in 2012, Jenny stayed at home, since the June race fell just a week before the Olympic Track Trials that year.

“Jenny is a master spectator,” he said. “She treats the marathons like a cross-country meet, popping up six or eight times during the race to cheer for me. If you see a blur of New Balance on the course, it’s probably her. She definitely puts her 1500-meter speed to use.”

Working as a Team

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Helping pace Jenny for mile workouts throughout the years has helped Jason improve his own turnover in marathons, he said. One staple session is 400-meter repeats, which the two take turns leading.

“Jenny doesn’t think twice about dropping me if I’m struggling to keep the pace,” Jason said. “She’ll just blow by me. That’s when her competitive side kicks in.”

When asked if he ever gets competitive with his highly decorated wife, Jason said the two compete “in a playful way” in races and workouts. “If I really try to compare myself to her, I know it’s a losing battle,” he said. “It’s a losing battle for every runner, really.”

There is one race left in which Jason has an edge; the couple races in the 5th Avenue Mile every September, which Jenny has won eight times in her career. But she has yet to defeat her husband: Last year, Jason clocked 4:15.9, while Jenny ran a course-record time of 4:16.1.

“We have a joke among our friends about how long I can stay ahead of her,” Jason said. “In the early years, I’d finish in a comfortable margin of time ahead of her, but this year, I barely edged her. She’s about to run me down.”

To prepare for the Olympic Trials, Jason kept his mileage around 100 miles per week and raced two fast half marathons to boost his speed. He finished his latest, the New Orleans Rock ’N’ Roll Half Marathon, in a personal best time of 1:06:53. At the Trials, he’s hoping to finish in the top 100.

Now in taper mode, Jason is looking forward to competing on such a vaunted stage in Atlanta. As usual, Jenny, who split 8:51.49 to win the 3,000 meters indoors at the Camel City Invitational earlier this month, will be tagging along to cheer him on.

“I can’t highlight enough how much Jenny has helped me in my own running,” he said. “She shops for our groceries, does our finances, and makes all of our travel plans so that I can work full-time and still have time to train. She motivates me and makes it possible for me to pursue my goals, like qualifying for Trials. It’ll be awesome to experience this race together.”

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