THE BLOG
08/30/2013 03:58 pm ET

Hero of Humanity: Ray Jackson Jr.

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Hero of Humanity: Ray Jackson Jr.

I just made it to mile forty in the 2010 JFK50 miler in Hagerstown Maryland, and I was slowing down. It was my first ultramarathon and trail race. Ray Jackson Jr. was cheering for all the runners out on the course and he was also pacing a good friend of his at the time when he saw that I was almost down to a painful walk. He started jogging along next to me and began pacing me for the next few miles. At one point we were down to a seven minute mile, which was much faster than the fifteens I was clocking in before. Once I was able to maintain a solid pace, Ray went back to help his friend and I was left feeling both inspired and encouraged. This is the kind of person Ray is, and not only does he inspire people in the running community, but he is also a strong advocate for the American Red Cross as a blood donor.

Ray is a Hero of Humanity, and I wanted to find out more about his involvement with helping others, through his running and blood donations.

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What inspires you to run, and what goes through your mind when you are out on the course?

When I first began running ten years ago, racing inspired me to get out there. Weekend 5k's to see if I could beat my friends. But now that I have two kids, a great wife, and past my prime, health is what gets me out there. I want to be as healthy as I can so I can see my daughters as grown adults. I think about a lot when I'm running. From my kids doing something silly to how the weather is playing a role in my run. Sometimes I can't even remember what I thought about. Other times I just "zone out" and listen to my music.

What inspired you to become a blood donor?

It all started in 1997 when an uncle passed away due to cancer. As time went on, and older family members passed as well, I wanted to do something to honor their memory. I also read a lot of articles on the American Red Cross webpage about how blood was in high demand. I knew right then that I had the chance to make a difference, to help save lives, and I did.

How do you feel during and after your donation?

I get excited the moment I make an appointment to donate. When the day finally arrives and I get called to sit in the seat to start my donation, I'm like a kid at Christmas. I feel great. I wish I could donate every day. Just knowing my donation will possibly save lives, that is what life is all about. After my donation, I go straight home and take RECOVERYbits, which are 100% Chorella algae. As a vegetarian and a long distance runner, the algae helps with rebuilding lost red blood cells. It also keeps my immune system up so I don't get sick. That way, I stay healthy and can continue to donate regularly.

What words of encouragement or what life lessons would you like to share regarding your running career and your advocacy for the importance of blood donation?

With running, it's all about striving to be better. Whether it is to race for a better time, or to just stay healthy and enjoy your time outside, it's up to you. I have run a lot of long races and have enjoyed them all. I still race now, but love the aspect of just being free and running for life. If you run, don't lose the love. As for the donation of blood, it's very important to be an advocate. It's to easy to get caught up in daily life and forget simple, yet very important topics like donating. It takes less than 30 minutes to donate and save lives. Our blood is so important. From helping those in the emergency room/hospital to those in cancer centers, they all need our help. People of all ages depend on us. Help me in not letting them down. Become a donor.

To learn more about Ray, please visit his website.

Follow him on Twitter @rayrunslong