Dakota Jones returned to a familiar race as he prepares for bigger goals in 2018.
The ultra-runner from Durango conquered the 12-mile Kendall Mountain Run on Saturday in Silverton with a winning time of 1 hour, 37 minutes, 44 seconds. The 27-year-old also won the race in 2016 in a slightly faster time of 1:37:03.
Saturday’s Kendall Mountain Run was the 41st running of the event. Jim Walmsley of Arizona set the course record in 2017 in a time of 1:31:05.
It was Jones’ first race since April 2017, when he suffered a hamstring injury at the Lake Sonoma 50. He was unable to fully train until November, but he then had a setback with an Achilles injury. He has targeted several classic shorter-distance mountain runs for 2018.
“I felt like I didn’t have much of a concept of where my fitness was,” Jones said. “I haven’t raced in so long. But I also know this mountain and Silverton well and have done this race before and knew what to expect. I didn’t know how I would respond and what the other competition would do, but I was pretty lucky and fitter than I thought I was. It was a good day.”
Jones will stay in Silverton for the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run this week, though he won’t compete in the famed 100.5-mile race through the San Juan Mountains. He will pace fellow Durangoan and good friend Brendan Trimboli, who Jones believes could finish on the podium at this year’s Hardrock 100.
Saturday’s race at Kendall Mountain offered runners 3,748 feet of vertical gain up rocky, dirt roads from downtown Silverton to the summit of the 13,066-foot peak. The final 250 to 300 feet to the summit present a vertical scramble that can separate the elite mountain runners from the rest of the field.
Timmy Parr, a 36-year-old from Leadville, finished second to Jones in 1:43:37, while Alamosa’s Cole Jackson, 22, was third in 1:51:21.
Jones had extra motivation during the race, as his mother, Beth, was halfway up the course cheering him – and every runner – up the switchbacks.
“It’s the best kind of race when it’s in your hometown of Durango or Silverton,” Jones said. “These are my favorite mountains in the world. I have a super strong connection, personal connection, to these mountains. It’s where I got a sense of who I was and what I like to do. It’s been 10 years now since I first volunteered at Hardrock, and I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to be a runner and be involved highly in the running scene. It’s given me opportunities I never expected. After 10 years, it’s a nice circular moment to reflect on.
“It was nice to come home to the people and mountains I know best, and to run well at Kendall feels really nice. Someday, I’ll be too old to win, but as long as I can still do this in the mountains, I’ll be happy.”
The women’s race was conquered by rising star Lucy Bartholomew of Melbourne, Australia. Bartholomew, a 22-year-old who finished third at this year’s 100-mile Western States Endurance Run, crossed the line in 1:59:14, the only woman to break the two-hour mark this year. She placed 10th overall.
Madeline McKeever, a 31-year-old from Denver, was the second woman to finish in 2:01:30. Durango’s Jennifer Maley, 37, completed the women’s podium with a time of 2:07:57. Fort Lewis College runner Becca Bramley was right behind Maley, as the 22-year-old was fourth among women in 2:08:13.
Jones, who is a sponsored runner for Salomon and Clif Bar, is training hard for the Pikes Peak Marathon to be held Aug. 19. Before that, he will run the La Luz Trail Run, a nine-mile vertical race in Albuquerque. He also will try to enter the Imogene Pass Run as well as the Bridger Ridge Run.