Truckee’s half-marathon man
His knees and hips may have deteriorated to the point where he can no longer run, but that won’t stop 75-year-old H. Barnett “Barney” Jones from competing in the half marathon race at Saturday’s Lake Tahoe Marathon.Jones has recovered from the quadruple bypass surgery he underwent in May 2003 that kept him out of last year’s race. This year he’ll be looking to repeat his 2002 first place finish in the Men’s 70-and-over category and set a new personal record of less than three hours and six minutes.”It’s a way of life,” Jones said of his training routine. “First of all, I enjoy doing the things that keep me in shape. Secondly, I feel better and I like to be outside. It’s just a better way to live.
“Besides, I’ve got a lot at stake in it, because probably if I hadn’t kept in shape I’d be either dead or an invalid because of my genes.”Jones’ ambitious plans probably don’t surprise those who know him well. He was an avid runner and race walker and has always loved hiking and backcountry skiing. His training for the upcoming half marathon included a lot of peak bagging around the Truckee-Tahoe region this summer including ascents of Castle Peak, Freel Peak and Mt. Rose. Jones also led one of the Donner Party interpretive hikes along the Emigrant Trail last weekend.Training on the road is also important, according to Jones, and he has been taking some long, fast-paced walks around Truckee and at other favorite spots in the area to prepare his knees, ankles and feet for the race.
A high school Spanish teacher for 30 years in the Sacramento area, Jones moved to Truckee full time in 2000, in part to take advantage of the hiking and skiing opportunities the area offers. While his battle with heart disease didn’t keep him off his telemark skis last season, he is looking forward to getting farther out in the backcountry this winter now that his fitness level has improved.Jones was a runner when he was younger, but after years of running on pavement his knees could no longer take the stress, so he turned to race walking instead. Jones enjoyed race walking and competed in a number of half-marathons in that discipline before pain in his hips eventually forced him to slow down even further.This year Jones will compete at a fast-paced walk and figures he can do better than 2002, when he walked the first eight miles of the race with chest pains. In that race, Jones said he started to feel better after mile eight, so he picked up the pace to finish the race, but he was still surprised to hear his name called at the awards ceremony as the winner of his age group.
“It was amazing. I got an award for that when I probably should have gotten a booby prize for even doing it with chest pains,” he said.Fully recovered from his 2003 surgery, Jones said the most important thing for him this year will be just having fun.”The whole atmosphere is kind of fun – all the people and just the whole setting is very sociable and pleasant,” he said. “And the course is beautiful. Where else could you walk on the pavement around Emerald Bay. It’s a pretty unique marathon.”