Harry Jones is a Welsh runner who lives in Thailand and although relatively new to the trail ultra running scene has already had some impressive results including 5th at this year’s Vibram Hong Kong 100, 2nd place at the 2017 Mozart 100 and 2nd at the 2017 North Face 100 Hong Kong. Harry will be taking part in the 9 Dragons 50 Mile event and in the following interview we discuss his background, his thoughts on veganism and the growing trail running scene in Asia.
Can you please tell us a bit about your background and how you came to live in Thailand?
I grew up in North Wales and played a lot of different sports growing up, as well as spending countless days in the mountains with my family. When I finished university I spend some time traveling around Asia with my girlfriend and eventually, not wanting the adventure to end, we decided to settle in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is such a great training base with incredible trails right out of the city, so it wasn’t long after moving here that I got into trail running. Now I spend most of the year training in Chiang Mai and racing throughout Asia, and then head over to Europe for the summer racing season.
You are relatively new to the trail running scene but have had some amazing success so far, what is your running background?
I started off on the track running middle distance at the age of 11 or 12. 1500m was always the focus; it was tough, but I feel so fortunate to have started out in that discipline and built a good foundation of speed at a young age. After university I lost touch with competitive running and started feeling like track wasn’t for me anymore. Once we settled in Thailand in 2013 I started running longer distances, ran my first marathon, and after spending some time exploring the mountain trails decided that trail racing had to be the next step. I ran my first 100km trail race at the end of 2016, finishing 2nd at the Thailand Ultra marathon against Timothy Olson. 2017 was my first full year of ultra trail racing, with six 100km races throughout the year, and a lot of lessons learnt along the way.
What has been your best result so far?
It’s hard to say. I had a few 1st places last year, but I tend to judge my performances by the competitiveness of the race rather than my position. So probably second place at Mozart 100 and fifth place at Hong Kong 100, which are both on the Ultra Trail World Tour. But from a learning perspective, I’m most proud of my 8th place at Hong Kong 100 last year. It was only my 2nd 100km race and training hadn’t been ideal with a busy work schedule and much of my training being on the side of highways dodging tuk-tuks and dogs as I ran back and forth to my teaching job at the time. So to finish in the top 10 against the likes of Sage Canaday and Tim Tollefson, I started to believe that maybe I had more in me than I realised.
Since your move to Thailand how do you think the trail racing scene in Asia has developed?
The trail running scene in Asia seems to have boomed and is growing exponentially. In Thailand, things have really taken off. When I first was running the trails here in Chiang Mai, it was rare to see anyone else on them, but now it would be strange not to bump into some runners hammering down the hills or making their way up the mountain. Compared to only a handful of trail races per year, now there seems to be a trail race every other weekend, and some weekends runners have more than one race to choose between. It’s really amazing to be witnessing the growth of trail running in this country, and to be a part of it.
Have you always been vegan and why do you prescribe to this particular diet?
I’ve been vegan for 5 years now. I made the transition for ethical reasons, and the more I’ve learned about veganism the more I’ve felt like it connects with who I am and what I believe in. I’ve since learned a lot about the negative effects that animal agriculture has on the environment and, as a trail runner, protecting the environment is super important to me. And then there’s the health and fitness side of things too; I was always quite hesitant with regards to how it might affect my performance, so I was really surprised to find that my performance didn’t suffer at all, I felt great and I was recovering faster than ever. It checks all the right boxes for me.
How did you hear about The 9 Dragons and what are you looking forward to the most about this race?
I heard good things about the 50/50 race last year through the Hong Kong trail running community. For anyone brave enough to take on the 50/50, it’s a great challenge, and one that I’d love to take on in the future. For this year, I’m excited to run a strong 50 miler and am probably most looking forward to running through the night, it’s an exciting and totally different racing element.
Have you done anything specific in terms of recovery since finishing the Vibram HK100 only a few weeks ago? (Harry was fifth)
From a recovery perspective, that race beat me up pretty bad. Hong Kong is well-known for it’s stairs, and after hitting them pretty hard on the downhill I was left with some inflammation in my knee. So apart from a little walking, swimming and foam rolling, I just focused on eating well and resting (which is something that I’m not very good at). The knee healed up quickly enough and I was able to get some strong training runs and cross training in over the past two weeks.
Speaking of which, what are your thoughts on how the race panned out and the resulting disqualification?
The pace at the front was intense from the start and it was so impressive to see Asian runners leading so strongly and showing the international trail running community that they are as strong and competitive as it gets. It’s a huge shame that the leading runner broke the rules, but there is no excuse for it. Everyone out on the trails is in the same position whether they are racing hard or taking it easy, so self-sufficiency is part of the whole racing equation. I think the HK100 team definitely made the right decision.
What are your plans for 2018?
2018 is looking pretty exciting with a few Ultra Trail World Tour races lined up, as well as some races on the Asia Trail Master series. My next race is The 9 Dragons 50 miler, then the next big goal is Ultra Trail Australia, with races in the Philippines and Malaysia in the lead up. Then I’ll be heading back to Europe for Eiger Ultra Trail and CCC. The overall goal is always to explore beautiful parts of the world, meet more of the trail running community, and live a life full of adventure!
Thank you Harry!