Running in Louisiana’s sweltering climate might seem like a borderline death trap, but Baton Rouge native Jason Jeﬃrs has made a hobby out of it. After a ﬁve year stint in the military with the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he returned home and took up distance running. Jeffirs has been competing in marathons for six years in addition to running Fresh Junkie, a local salad and wrap restaurant on Main Street. DIG got a chance to catch up with Jeﬃrs on what it takes to run a marathon, his training diet and paddleboarding.
DIG: How did you ﬁ rst get into running?
Jason Jeﬃrs: I played soccer growing up for four or ﬁ ve years in a recreation league, all through high school and in the military. I’ve always been active. I got into running going on six years now and instantly fell in love with it. I had a buddy who asked me to run a half-marathon and that was my ﬁrst race. I got into that and started meeting a bunch of cool people with real positive attitudes. I kept doing that and entering races.
DIG: You also like to paddleboard, how did that start?
JJ: From there at a trail race up in Rustin, I met Walker Higgins from Muddy Water Paddle Company. He got me into stand up paddleboarding. I’ve been doing that oﬀ an on. We’ll go race anywhere from Mississippi River to local LSU lakes to Florida and Mississippi.
DIG: What appeals to you more, running or paddleboarding?
JJ: I’m deﬁ nitely a runner. I’ll race anywhere from one mile speed time trials to a 100 mile ultra-marathon. That was actually one of Walker’s races last October. Any distance in between that, I’m comfortable with doing. I just did a 39 mile trail run last Sunday in Bogue Chitto State Park. I ended up getting second place overall. That was a Q50 race.
DIG: Do you help plan any of the races throughout Louisiana?
JJ: Yeah, I also help with putting on races. I manage Fresh Junkie racing downtown. It’s a salad and wrap shop… I’m on the operations team for a bunch of races and I have been a race director for my own personal races.
DIG: What do you love most about running?
JJ: For me, once I get on the trails, I don’t listen to music. I don’t listen to anything. That’s my out, that’s where I can go to just be free. Whether it’s a stressful day at work or just to wind down. Obviously it’s my thing so I’ll train six months for a big race. You download a training schedule and you stick religiously to it. The ﬁnal product is doing something you never thought your body could do.
DIG: What’s a typical day like for you during the training phase?
JJ: If I’m training in the morning, I’ll go on a four or ﬁve mile run. And then I’ll get to the shop at 7:30 a.m. and make the salads and wraps at Fresh Junkie till 2:30 p.m. If I don’t have anything that afternoon I’ll go on a short run, or I’ll come home and get on my bike trainer for an hour to three hours. I usually wake up at 5:45 but if I don’t have to work early I’ll sleep in until 7:30.
DIG: What’s been the most diﬃcult race you’ve run?
JJ: The most diﬃcult race I’ve ever run was one called the Outback. It was in Lake Kincaid State Park in Alexandria. It was a trail marathon, I ended up getting ﬁ rst place overall. I didn’t really know where I was in the race because I couldn’t remember if anybody was in front of me or not. I just kept pushing and ended up getting ﬁ rst place.
The coolest place I’ve ever run was the 100-mile race through the cane ﬁeld. When you can run a 100 miles through your hometown, that’s pretty sweet. We could hear the LSU football game going on that Saturday night as we were still running. I almost saw the sun come up the very next day. It was right at 24 hours when I ﬁ nished that race. It Started at 6 a.m. on a Saturday in Port Allen and ﬁ nished at 5:12 a.m. on Sunday morning.
DIG: What are you doing when you aren’t running?
JJ: I’m usually paddleboarding. I signed up for a challenge at the beginning of the year to paddle 100 miles in 100 days. So the mileage isn’t hard to get at all. It’s just about ﬁnding time to do it. If I go run in the morning, I’ll put my paddleboard up on my truck and after I leave Fresh Junkie I’ll go paddleboard four or ﬁve miles. I also do Yoga on the side to stay ﬂexible. I get on the bike trainer to keep my legs turning. I like to train on tired legs unless I’m racing. Other than that I’m snapping pictures of the stuﬀ that I do. I love social media.
DIG: What’s your diet like?
JJ: I’ve got it dialed into a grilled chicken salad every single day. My breakfast, I can normally eat whatever I want for breakfast. Whether it’s a crepe to a bacon egg and cheese biscuit. It’s literally whatever I want because I know I’m going to burn it oﬀ that day. Leading up to a race I’ll eat super clean for three to four weeks out. Then the week of a race I’ll put two to three cheat meals into put some fat in my body to burn oﬀ during the long endurance race. I look at food as fuel for your body. I tell everybody, “I got to fuel the machine.”
DIG: What would you say is the toughest part of running a marathon?
JJ: Staying dedicated to your training and the task at hand. Whatever distance/pace you are trying to achieve.
DIG: What advice would you give to those that one-day want to run a marathon?
JJ: Sign up and start training, but before you do anything go to a running specialty store and get ﬁ tted, the right shoes are worth their weight in gold. Start small and build up, run with friends. Teamwork goes a very long way.
Photo courtesy of Jason Jeffirs