Daniel Jones Hoping to Go the Distance at TUM
Daniel Jones Hoping to Go the Distance at TUM
New Zealand runner Daniel Jones is preparing to make his Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB debut when he takes on the 102km course on Saturday 11 February.
Jones will hope to build on the success of 2022, a year in which he won two Auckland Marathons, the Queenstown Marathon, and two Kepler Challenges.
“My preparation has gone incredibly well. I had a great end to the 2022 year with wins in Auckland and Queenstown marathons then the Kepler Challenge ultramarathon. This series of races, which increased in distance and specificity (towards the Tarawera Ultramarathon), kick started a very nice training block,” said Jones.
While a newbie to the Tarawera Ultramarathon, Jones has been dipping his toes further into the ultra running world over the past couple of years.
As well as the Kepler Challenge in New Zealand – where he’s now won five in a row – Jones has experienced trail events in Europe and the US, including three 100km races last year.
His results were a mixed bag; he finished 10th at the Canyons Ultra after blowing up with 20km to go, he then went on to win the Lake Sonoma ultramarathon before hitting another wall at the European Running Festival in Poland. He was leading the race around the 65-70km mark before the wheels came off, eventually finishing sixth.
“I feel like I perform at big races. 2022 was a very solid year of results for me, there were however a couple of blips that were very frustrating. I choked in the Canyons 100km ultramarathon and a 100km ultramarathon in Poland. Don’t get me wrong, I was pretty dark on myself with these results, but I got over it and to finish the year strong, with big wins, gave me good confidence,” said Jones.
The 32-year-old is one of the leading challengers for the 102km title at the Tarawera Ultramarathon and should he finish in the top two, he would punch his ticket to the prestigious Western States 100-Mile Endurance Race.
Jones has made no secret of his desire to qualify for Western States but is determined to focus on running the best race possible at the Tarawera Ultramarathon and seeing where that gets him.
“I raced Auckland, Queenstown, and Kepler in the space of five weeks. Each event I made sure I raced each race in the moment, concentrating on the task at hand and making sure I didn't get ahead of myself with thinking about win streaks or the next race to come,” said Jones.
“I want to carry that thought process over to Tarawera. My number one goal is the Tarawera Ultramarathon, and I don't want to look too far past that. In saying that I know what's on the line – a golden ticket to the biggest ultramarathon in the US and near on the world, Western States 100-Miler. In the end, I want to test myself against the best in the sport, Western States would provide that, but I'm actually lucky in some ways that some of the best have travelled across the world to race here (at the Tarawera Ultramarathon),” he said.
American professional runner Hayden Hawks is one of the global stars who has travelled to New Zealand for the event and will line up in Rotorua as the favourite in the men’s 102km race.
Fortunately for Jones, Hawks is an athlete he’s very familiar with as the two have been training partners both while Jones was in the US last year and while Hawks has been in New Zealand over the Kiwi summer.
“Hayden reached out to me when I travelled to the States last year for my stint of ultra races. I had an awesome time staying and training with him in his hometown of Cedar City. We smashed some solid training, and I went on to have a very successful 100km race at the Lake Sonoma ultramarathon. Hayden's here as the biggest name at Tarawera, so to train with him here in New Zealand, nail some big sessions with a focus on vert strength has been ideal prep. I'm looking forward to lining up next to him,” said Jones.
“In the end we're all here to race our hardest. It may be Hayden, or the other Kiwis, Aussies, Americans or international athletes that are pushing for the win. The 102km is a long way so there will likely be a bit of testing of form as we go along, but everything will be laid down, that is for sure. If it's a sprint for the line, then that will be what it will be. There will be no holding hands,” he said.
The Tarawera Ultramarathon is the first UTMB World Series event of 2023, part of a circuit of the best trail running events in the world offering runners the only opportunity to begin their quest to UTMB Mont-Blanc – the UTMB World Series Final and the pinnacle event of trail running.
Jones says the prestige of the Tarawera Ultramarathon helped draw him to the event, and he’s excited to race more UTMB World Series events in the future as he continues to push himself over the longer distances.
“Tarawera is an internationally renowned ultramarathon. Growing up in Whakatane I always knew it would be a race that would draw me in at some stage. Honestly, I'm surprised it's taken this long. In saying that, my direction in racing has turned towards the ultra distance, so I feel it's my time to show up.
“My result at Tarawera could be a bit of a determinant for the rest of the year. But either way, as I transition to the ultra, more UTMB series races will be on the cards and ultimately UTMB as the pinnacle event,” said Jones.
Whatever the future holds one thing is for sure, Jones his has sights set firmly on the Tarawera Ultramarathon 102km title.
“If I were to win Tarawera, this one race, would make my racing year,” he said.