It takes more than a little rain to slow down the Mackie brothers.
That much is clear after watching the two Earl Marriott Secondary siblings – Jaxon, 15, and Jeremiah, 13 – slog through torrential rain and mud in Crescent Park Wednesday, during the junior boys race at Fraser Valley Cross-Country Championships.
Jaxon finished first, with a healthy lead over the rest of the field, while Jeremiah – who is in Grade 8 but ran with the juniors – placed sixth.
And while conditions were less than ideal, Jaxon admitted he actually enjoys running in the rain – a trait gained, perhaps, after years of soccer, a sport played during the year’s rainiest months.
In addition to being accomplished runners, both brothers also play soccer for Coastal FC teams in the high-performance BC Premier League.
Their athletic genes come naturally, as their dad, James, is a former competitive road cyclist and runner himself.
He made the switch from the former to the latter once he met and married his wife, Janine, he said; lengthy training rides on the bike took him away from his young family for too long.
Running was less time-consuming and, it turns out, a way for him to spend even more time with his family.
“That’s how the kids got into it – they’d come ride their bikes alongside me when I’d run,” said James, who competed in cycling races across North and South America.
Eventually, Jaxon ditched his bike to run alongside his dad, and not long after that, Jeremiah followed suit.
“I just wanted to do what they were doing, but then I started to really enjoy it,” Jeremiah said.
Janine credits her husband for instilling a love of athletics in the boys from a young age, and before they were old enough to ride their bikes, distinctly remembers James heading out for runs with either one of his boys “in a baby-jogger or a backpack.”
“I used to get calls from neighbours reporting that my husband was running down the steepest hill in White Rock with Jeremiah, just a newborn, strapped into the baby-jogger,” she said.
Now, James serves as the boys’ coach.
“The three of us really enjoy that time together,” James said. “It’s not forced training that nobody wants to do. We’ll just go out to Campbell Valley and run for an hour, and chit-chat and catch up.
“I get a lot of pleasure training these guys, and watching them grow as athletes and also as young men.”
Jaxon said while some may bristle at the idea of having their dad double as their coach, it’s been a positive experience for both him and his brother. In fact, it’s part of the reason the two have never joined a track-and-field or running club, and are instead content to run under the guidance of their father.
“I’ve always really liked it. He knows how you’re doing… and can change your program depending on how you’re feeling,” he said.
Likewise, the elder Mackie also tries, where he can, to help out his younger brother, who Jaxon admits is faster as a 13-year-old than he was at that age.
James was quick to point out that, prior to Wednesday’s junior boys race, Jaxon made sure to tell his younger brother that, age differences aside, he could compete at that level.
“He knew what he could do,” James said. “Part of what’s helping Jeremiah, I think, is he’s got his older brother pushing him.”
Juggling cross-country and soccer can be tough, but with what little downtime they have, the Mackies have one other joint pursuit: fly-fishing.
But unlike their athletic endeavours, their love of fishing came not from their dad, but from their mom.
“It was a book – a book about fishing that she bought us when we were kids,” Jeremiah said.
Now, the brothers can often be found in the backyard of their 0 Avenue home, casting into the Little Campbell River.
And if juggling soccer and cross-country schedules wasn’t hard enough, James says it’s even more challenging with a third interest thrown into the mix.
“It’s a tough balance for them right now because cross-country classes with the salmon season,” he laughed.
Fly-fishing will take a backseat for the next week, as the Mackies – and other runners across the Peninsula – get set for B.C. Cross-Country Championships, which are set for Saturday, Nov. 7 at Vancouver’s Jericho Park.