Catrin Jones is a massage therapist and mother to a three-year-old girl, but she still finds time to train for ultramarathons — races she doesn’t just run, but crushes. In the span of one month, Jones put her talent for ultrarunning on display with a pair of Canadian records: a 50-mile national best in October and the six-hour mark on Sunday. She ran both records at small, specially-organized events in and near Victoria, where she lives, to close out what was an otherwise uneventful season due to the many race cancellations around Canada and the world.
Jones started running in 2006, although her plan was never to become a runner. “I thought I’d do one marathon because both my parents had done one,” she says. “But once I did the race, I got hooked.” Seven years later, she took a step up in distance into the world of ultrarunning with a 50K, once again feeling an instant obsession for the new challenge. Today, she has many accomplishments under her belt, including winning a bronze medal at the 50K world championships in 2015 and running to a ninth-place finish at the Comrades Marathon in 2019, as well as many more top results in other ultramarathons and shorter races.
While Jones says she likes the marathon (she hopes to eventually lower her PB of 2:42 to a sub-2:40 result), she says ultra distances are more her forte. “I prefer the long runs,” she says. “My body takes a while to find its rhythm, and once it does, it’s fairly steady.” Jones has proven this to be true on many occasions, and she consistently knocks out big runs and impressive results in ultramarathons, including her two most recent records.
An October 50-miler
Looking for a goal to chase, Jones reached out to friends in the Victoria running community and organized the October 18 50-mile race, which they called the “Big Five-Oh.” Jones says 12 runners started the event, running along a roughly 2K circuit near the University of Victoria. Heading into the race, Jones had her sights set on the Canadian 50-mile record of 6:14:45, which Bev Anderson-Abbs ran in 2014.
“I’ve been aiming for that record for years and just haven’t had the opportunity to go for it,” Jones says. “It’s been on my radar forever.” Although she says she wished she could have raced more in 2020, Jones adds that her empty schedule gave her the unique opportunity to go after these records. On the Big Five-Oh race day, Jones says she felt “incredibly good during that 50-miler,” and she crossed the finish line in 6:09:12 to smash the six-year-old national record.
One Track Mind Ultra
On Sunday, just four weeks after her spectacular run over 50 miles, Jones was back in race mode and looking to break more records. She took part in the One Track Mind Ultra 24-hour race (although she only ever planned to run 12 hours at most), and she had two potential goals in mind: break the Canadian six-hour and 12-hour records, which stood at 74.930K and 133.535K, both belonging to Bernadette Benson. Jones was 100 per cent locked in for the six-hour record attempt, but she decided to “get to six hours and then assess” whether she felt good enough to continue.
She kicked off the run with a great opening six hours, and although she says she was closer than she wanted to be to Benson’s record, she still managed to beat the mark, running 75.538K. At this point, Jones’s 50-mile effort from just a few weeks earlier had caught up to her, and while she made it through six hours, she doubted she could carry on for another six. “I was holding on OK, but I had a decent lull after about 60K,” she says. “My body was sending my brain signals to slow down.” Jones ended up pulling out of the race, but she says she believes the 12-hour record is within her reach.
Jones doesn’t have solid plans for the rest of her season or 2021, but she says that, in addition to taking another crack at the 12-hour run, she would like to try for the national 100K record. “I have to wait and see,” she says. “I think some of the ultra community is hoping to put on smaller events, and if I can get into some, that’ll be great, but there’s too much uncertainty to plan right now.” As Jones proved this year, even if she doesn’t get the chance to race in events like ultramarathon world championships or the Comrades Marathon, she finds a way to work in big results. While her schedule for 2021 may have a lot of unknowns, she can still be expected to hammer out some impressive record-breaking runs.