Colin Jackson

“I’m always moving”  

Words: Werner Jessner
Photography: Daniel Grund/Red Bull Content Pool

For 11 years he was the world’s fastest man over the 110m hurdles. Now he’s the international sports director of the Wings for Life World Run and a posterboy for how staying active makes your life better

THE RED BULLETIN: Can an athlete know that they’re going to break the world record? 

COLIN JACKSON: Yes, you can. You’re getting closer to it and at the same time you’re aware that your training has got better. From the moment I could produce a 13-second run at the drop of a hat, it was only a question of time until the record fell.

How long did you have to wait?

I realised at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 that I could run a world record. But it didn’t work out. That would have been a magic moment. But I did it at the World Championships in Stuttgart in ’93: 12.91s.

How did you feel that morning in Germany?

I was nervous. I still hadn’t won a major title at that point. Linford Christie was my roommate. He had won gold the previous day and had just missed the world record by one hundredth of a second. Now it was my turn. There was huge pressure.

What do world-class athletes talk about when they’re sharing a room?

Hardly ever about sport. Cars. Their houses. And women, of course. Back in the 1990s, we still used to play cards.

How did you become a sprint hurdler?

I was a fast runner, I was a good high jumper and long jumper, I had good spatial awareness and I was agile. I wanted to be a decathlete, but I wasn’t tall enough.

“Top sports people are undernourished. 
A big engine, 
light chassis and no dead weight”
Colin Jackson

Are you one of those people who is good at all sports?

Most are easy to learn. Skiing? Snowboarding? No problem.

What are your personal bests in other disciplines?

I’ve done 10.29s for the 100m, 6.49sfor the 60m flat, 2.03m high jump and 7.96m for the long jump.

In some countries those would be national records. What discipline are you most in awe of?

The high jump. The world record is 2.45m. That’s the height of a soccer crossbar!

Are you in the same shape as when you ran? (Jackson, 47, retired in 2003.) 

I weigh 10kg more now than I did then. But that’s not because I’ve got fat. It’s because top sportsmen and women are undernourished. A big engine and light chassis. And no dead weight.

So why do sprinters have such powerful upper bodies?

Because their arms propel their legs. When your upper body has explosive power, your legs automatically do, too. Sprinters always have their hands in their field of vision. Look out for it the next time you see a sprint on TV.

3rd of May 2015

The starting pistol for the 2015 Wings for Life World Run will be fired simultaneously in more than 30 countries around the world on May 3, 2015. Find the race near you and register now:

What sport do you do now? 

I run. I hurdle if a gun is held to my head. I do a lot of mountain biking. I play tennis. Football. I ski. Snowboarding. There’s always something. I’m always on the move.

Do you understand people who prefer to sit in front of their TVs rather that exercise?

Exercise is the one thing in the world that only benefits you alone. Everyone in the world, regardless of how busy they are, can find an hour a day to do themselves some good. If you can’t manage to do that, you’re the worse off for it.

Roll of honour

All 110m hurdles:
World Championships gold (1993, 1999)
European Championships gold (1990, 1994, 1998, 2002),
Olympic Games silver (1988),
World record holder (12.91s, set in 1993, equalled by Liu Xiang of China in 2004 and beaten by the same athlete in 2006).

Do you use an exercise monitor?

My father is 83 and he wears one on his arm and gets annoyed if he doesn’t meet his daily target. Whatever helps is good. I don’t need one, personally.

Do you use a pulse monitor?

No. For me exercise is about feeling good and being in tune with your body. I don’t need to work out any more. I just can.

How far do you run these days? 

I hated long-distance running when I was competing, but now 10km isn’t a problem.

How far would you hope to get in the Wings for Life World Run?

I’d go about it scientifically. How long could I walk, how long could I go at half-speed and how long would I have to run at full speed to do 15km? So 15km would be my target. That’s virtually a marathon for a sprinter.

But as the race’s international sports director, you won’t be competing, you’ll be at Race Control. What exactly does your job entail?

I want everyone to be disappointed at the end of the race! Not with the way things have been organised or the course itself: I want them to be dissatisfied with their own performance. Because that will mean they’ll come back next year.

Will the 78.58km record fall? 

Last year’s winner, Lemawork Ketema, is convinced he’ll manage 100km, but only if absolutely everything comes together.

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