2018 Athlete in Excellence Award Winner
2018 Athlete in Excellence award winner Jason Dunkerley has little time to rest. Along with his duties as the President of Achilles Ottawa—a support community for runners who, like Jason, are visually impaired—he also sits on the Ontario Blind Sports Association’s Board of Directors and works as a coach for the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club.
On top of this, he has his own intense personal training regimen.
At the moment, Jason is hard at work preparing for a fall marathon—either Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, or the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December. He’s currently in a base-building phase, increasing the volume of his runs over the course of three-week cycles (he usually sticks to one long run a day, though sometimes supplementing his training with two-a-day sessions).
He takes one day off each week—from running, though not necessarily from helping other runners in their athletic pursuits.
Hard as it is to believe, Jason was not actually a good runner when he started out. He ran a cross-country race in Northern Ireland when he was 11 and had to walk most of it. Despite this, something compelled him to keep working at running. With the guiding support of teachers, his uncle, and another local runner, Jason began to make gradual improvements.
When he and his family emigrated to Canada a couple of years later, he began attending a school for the blind. It was there that Jason, in his own words, “caught the running bug.” With the specialized support of teachers and staff members, he embarked on what would turn out to be his vocation.
Community Building and Coaching
Jason has been involved with Ottawa’s provincial sport organization, The Ontario Blind Sports Association, since 2011, serving as a member of their Board of Directors. In 2010, he helped create Achilles Ottawa, a chapter of Achilles International, offering a community of support for blind and visually impaired runners in his area.
Jason’s involvement with both the Ontario Blind Sports Association and Achilles Ottawa stemmed from his desire to create the same kind of encouraging environment that proved a catalyst for discovering his own running talent. According to Jason, “We are creatures of our environment and I just think it makes all the difference in the world to have the right encouragement. It makes me feel good that I can offer this even in a small way, as I benefited from a few coaches and teachers over the years who played such an integral part in my own athletic development.”
Jason embarked on his career as a running coach last year, at the behest of his former guide runner, Josh Karanja. Jason has described the experience helping of high school and university middle distance runners as “terrific”.
Jason’s Goals for the Future
In terms of coaching and working with adaptive sports organizations, Jason just wants to continue giving back to the sport which has been such a defining part of his life. “I know firsthand the transformational power of running and hope to be able to support other up and coming athletes to find the same. It is incredibly gratifying to see young athletes set ambitious goals and work hard towards achieving them. Honestly I believe I learn from them at least as much as they learn from me.”
As for his athletic goals, Jason is currently training to qualify for the 2020 Paralympics, where he hopes to represent Canada in marathon running. In August, he plans to participate in the Hood to Coast Relay, as part of a visually impaired team which will be raising money for United in Stride, a service which matches blind and visually impaired runners with guides across North America.
Aside from his competitive aspirations, Jason hopes to run forever, and continue participating in the amazing sport which has given him so much, and to which he has given so much of himself in return.
- 1998 – 2018 Athletics national team.
- 5 time Paralympian – T11 (runners who are blind and run with a guide)
- 2000 Paralympic Games 1500 m – Silver
- 2004 Paralympic Games 1500 m – Silver
- 2008 Paralympic Games 1500 m – Bronze
- 2012 Paralympic Games 5000 m – Silver
- 2012 Paralympic Games 1500 m – Bronze
- 2015 Parapan American Games 5000 m – Gold