Running coach and elite marathoner himself, Dan Jones, was born to run. Raised by a family of runners spanning generations as members of the Whakatane Harrier Club he puts it well, “Running is in my blood. Straight out of the pram kicking and screaming and into the Blue and Yellow singlet (the love for running would come about a bit later on).”
In school, Dan gravitated towards long-distance running and found his footing in cross country which evolved into going on to compete as a junior in the World Mountain Running Championships in Switzerland. He went on to attend university in the US after being awarded a running scholarship.
While representing New Zealand in the Oceania Marathon Champs at the Gold Coast Marathon in 2019 he achieved a PB of 2:16:15. He holds the title of 2020 Auckland Marathon winner along with a number of other first places at the Christchurch Marathon in 2021, Hawkes Bay Marathon in 2019, and Kepler Challenge for three years in a row.
We ran our classic set of quickfire questions by Dan to learn what keeps him fueled and running strong.
Morning, lunchtime, evening runner?
Morning and Early Afternoon - gotta hit those double days
Favourite pre-run and post-run snack / meal?
Pre-run Honey on a bagel.
Post-run Vanilla protein shake with banana, peanut butter and maybe a dash of cinnamon.
Outside of your shoes, what’s one running essential you can’t go without?
Isn’t that why we run, because we only need our shoes? That’s what I tell myself but in reality, I gotta have that GPS watch on because if it’s not on Runkeeper it doesn’t count...
Best piece of running advice you’ve ever received?
From my late grandfather (2:24 marathoner) after a subpar performance in my youth - “Never shower on race day before your race”. Reason being was your body needs to use energy to warm back up after the shower. So I have never had a pre-race shower since - sorry to my competition.
Running Solo or Running in a group?
Music, Podcast, or your own thoughts? What are they?
Motley Fool Money - investing podcast
Sharesies Lunch Money - investing podcast
Matt and Jerry - entertainment
Various coaching podcasts
Music for a bit of hype on the odd run
My own thoughts to concentrate on the big sessions
In 3 words how would you describe yourself as a runner?
Put in Work
Favourite running route in NZ?
Toi’s Challenge Loop Whakatane
Running distance a week?
158km avg this year (according to Runkeeper). I think this average will increase with some big goals/races planned.
I run because….
It calms me.
Where does your mind tend to wander while running?
Coaching, goals, life. It’s the great thing about running. Many great ideas are formed on a run and many thoughts put to rest.
What’s your #1 way of maintaining a sound mind?
Favourite ASICS shoe?
Metaspeed Sky - I just can’t wait until I can put it through its paces in some more races coming up.
Based back in Wellington now, Dan’s training in 2020 took him across the globe to Iten, Kenya to push himself alongside the world’s best runners and at high altitude. What was meant to be a five-week training camp visit turned into an extended stay of four months when the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
Competition has also taken Dan to China, where a first-place prize promise of 1kg in gold was an alluring enough incentive to run a 150km course through valley roads. Filled with extreme highs and lows, this experience left a lasting memory for Dan. “I was beaten by a Chinese ultra running legend to place 2nd. Although not as shiny, I didn’t come away with nothing, and I feel that you certainly learn a bit about yourself when you’re left to your own devices and the Chinese sun for 11 hours of running. Although broken for a while afterwards, I think that the experience left me a stronger endurance athlete.”
While in China he found a love for multisport competition and excelled in it. He stayed to compete in the popular Chinese circuit and pushed his limits in races spanning four days of up to seven hours of running, kayaking, and biking - daily! Moments like those are when Dan’s mindset and focusing in on a mantra helps carry him over the finish line. One he reminds himself of is to, “Embrace the pain - David Goggins style.”
With these achievements under his belt, Dan set out to help others reach their running potential. Endurance running, adventure, and multisport racing all require building upon a multitude of skills and athletic prowess. Coaching seasoned or novice athletes alike is Dan’s passion, helping to develop individuals through key training principles and techniques to tackle their running goals.
We asked Dan for his best running advice and words of wisdom for those looking to get started on a new journey as a runner.
Dan’s Five Key Traits for Runners Getting Started
- Set Goals - Give yourself enough time to work your way towards specific goals, whether it be events or for your health. It will be these goals that help with motivation to get you out the door on those days where you feel like slacking. I also think it’s important to set goals at many different points along your fitness journey as in these times if an event is taken away there should be something else to focus your energy on.
- Stay Persistent - Consistency is key for change. Try and get out even on those days you don’t feel like it. Trick your brain into getting your body out that door i.e. “Let’s at least run to the end of the driveway or down the street.” Chances are you’ll get outside, start to loosen up, and end up enjoying yourself enough to get the run done (For the most part, you don’t get back from a run and regret it).
- Enjoy Your Training - A good way to do this is to take the pressure off. Look at the overall picture of where you’re going rather than individual workouts or buildup races. This is a great way to calm the mind and enjoy the fitness progression.
- Listen to Your Body - If you need a rest then take it. If a niggle pops up then take the time needed to get yourself back to normal. Sometimes fatigue is important as the body adapts to training stimulus, but if you need a day to freshen up then take it, or communicate that with your coach.
- Celebrate Your Wins - It is all too common for people to race and then immediately concern themselves with what they need to do to improve for the next time. Although this reflection is important it is more important to celebrate what you have done, show gratitude to those that support you and allow the body and mind enough time to recover before the next training block.
We also wanted to hear from Dan about mentally preparing for race day along with how he strives to maintain a sound mind in a sound body. Confidence in his training translates to the racecourse with the help of positive self-assurance. “I used to get fairly nervous before races growing up. Something my parents used to tell me to help me get rid of nerves is, “Trust in your training, you can only do what you can do.” Of course, this is only applicable if you’ve put in the hard yards and followed some of that training advice from above. But it is this thought that gave and continues to give me confidence when I race. I know how hard I work in training so there is no reason that hard work won't convert over to the race track.”
Off the course, Dan carves out the time to enjoy different activities that allow moments to relax, especially during training times focused on a non-specific race buildup.
“Running can be all-consuming, which is fine for a certain amount of time, but I find I need to have other stimuli in my life to keep things real and get back to basics. That’s when I usually run my best as well.”
His two favourite ways of unwinding and resetting are spearfishing and hunting, which challenge him in a unique way to not return empty-handed with a trophy for the dinner plate. "I like being a provider and won’t, or will return regrettably, if there is nothing for the plate.” But more importantly, these hobbies help him to reset and recharge. “Being in the ocean or up in the hills is therapeutic for me. Both times I have had my major marathon goal races cancelled due to covid, I have sought solace in these activities to reset and calm the mind.”
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