Ageless athlete: Barney Jones, 86, completes Lake Tahoe Half Marathon | SierraSun.com

Ageless athlete: Barney Jones, 86, completes Lake Tahoe Half Marathon

Sylas Wright
swright@sierrasun.com
Barney Jones, an 86-year-old former Truckee resident, was in good spirits after completing the Lake Tahoe Half Marathon on Sunday.
Courtesy photo |

Barney Jones’ 86-year-old joints have their good days and bad. This past Sunday, they rose to the occasion for one of his most cherished events.

Jones, a former longtime Truckee resident, raced to a 465th-place finish in a field of 500 in the Lake Tahoe Half Marathon. He breezed across the finish in 3 hours, 29 minutes, spry as could be for a man who has undergone back and quadruple heart bypass surgeries.

“I was a little bit worried about my joints, especially my back and hips,” said Jones, who has completed the annual half marathon on Tahoe’s West Shore seven or eight times — including shortly after major back surgery in 2009.

“The closer the event got the more I did training walks, and the less problems I had. The day of the event my joints didn’t bother me at all. I have arthritis, and they say one of the things that’s best for arthritis is exercise and movement. I’m a believer in that now.”

Jones refuses to let his aging body shelve his athletic endeavors. In addition to various back, hip and knee ailments, which turned him from a runner to a speed walker in his 50s, he suffers from a chronic heart condition called atrial fibrillation that has plagued him for years. He was forced to move from his beloved Truckee home to Folsom in 2010 due to his medical issues.

His health hasn’t prevented him from maintaining his active lifestyle, however. No longer able to drive, he swapped out his bike for a three-wheeled recumbent trike that he rides around Folsom, which allows him to frequent a gym multiple times a week. “I was afraid I’d crash and wreck myself on my bicycle. But the trike is very stable and very comfortable,” he said.

This past August Jones was the oldest finisher in the 35th annual Squaw Mountain Run — a 3.6-mile race that climbs 2,000 vertical feet to High Camp, at 8,200 feet. It’s one of his favorite events along with the Lake Tahoe Half Marathon. Jones said aside from the athletic challenge and mountain scenery, he enjoys the camaraderie and friendly nature of the races.

“Just being by Lake Tahoe is wonderful. And everybody is jolly and friendly and enjoying it. When you’re waiting at the starting line for the gun to go off, people you’ve never met in your life just start talking to you — these young kids in their 20s and 30s who are just friendly as heck, taking pictures with you and everything. It’s just a nice, festive atmosphere.”

Jones said he may opt out of next year’s half marathon, but he hopes to walk the Squaw Mountain Run again.

“I don’t know, I’m a little hesitant to push it any farther, especially regarding my heart,” he said. “So I’m rather doubtful about doing it again.”

North Shore runners represent

The 20th annual Lake Tahoe Marathon included more than a dozen events over multiple days, including three full-distance and three half-distance marathons, a 72-mile ultra, a 10K, and more. The traditional, staple marathon took place Sunday.

While 26-year-old Ryan Neely of Walnut Creek claimed the overall win in a field of 185 finishers, posting a time of 2:45:21, Kristen Walstad, 42, of Truckee was the top woman and fourth overall in 3:10:05. Walstad won several races in the Tahoe area this past summer, including the Squaw Mountain Run and Northstar Mountain Run.

Among other top Truckee and North Shore finishers, Todd Tanis of Truckee placed ninth (3:34:25), Tara Purinton of Incline Village was the fourth women and 11th overall (3:36:44), and Stefan Tampe of Incline Village was 22nd (3:53:33). Leigh Giannini of Tahoe City finished 63rd (4:28:12), and Truckee’s Michael Murphy was 100th (4:58:51).

In the Lake Tahoe Half Marathon — which was won by Brian Solomon, 33, of Reno (1:20:52) — Dave Zook of Tahoe City placed 11th (1:37:16) out of 500 finishers. Fellow Tahoe City resident Charles Mallett finished 19th (1:42:17), David Simon of Incline Village was 20th (1:42:28), Jessie Baker of Truckee was 26th (1:46:52), Lauren Swing of Incline Village 28th (1:47:45), Kurt Heisinger of Tahoe City 55th (1:55:09), and Lizzie Gogo of Tahoe City 64th (1:57:43).

Baker also raced the Nevada Half Marathon on Friday, finishing third (1:43:02).

Tahoe City resident Kristy Oriol placed seventh in Saturday’s Cal-Neva Marathon, and Greg Flanders of Incline Village was 23rd (4:19:04).

Find complete results from all the events at http://www.laketahoemarathon.com.