A super-mom, super-cheerleader, and super-fan, call Beth Jones a symbol of the trail and ultrarunning family. While Beth may not be an ultrarunner herself, she is an essential part of our community.
So, what does that actually mean?
It means she’s the Mother Hen of many at ultramarathons and trail races, bustling around courses to make sure that both her loved ones and strangers alike are staying strong.
It means she’s the Mrs. Incredible/Elastigirl of the ultrarunning community, opening her arms and home to all who need a place.
She is the Mother Goose of running stories, jokes, and made-up cheers.
She is the Mother Bear of protection, fighting for her family and friends.
She is the actual mother of mountain runner Dakota Jones.
She is a boisterous fan at races, a peaceful yogi in her free time, a mother to Dakota and Molly, a friend to many, and someone to know if you don’t already.
So, let’s get acquainted.
Beth Jones was an Ohio-born gal who says she would rather live in a tent than return to the Midwest. After graduating from high school in Medina, Ohio, she headed to the East Coast where she worked as a waitress in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, a city close to Asbury Park, New Jersey where she once caught Bruce Springsteen playing in a bus depot before he became known as ‘The Boss.’ For a few summers, she lived in an old house that was converted into a dormitory before heading north to New York. There, she worked as a waitress and front-desk employee in a resort hotel.
In 1979, she cut across the country and landed in Vail, Colorado, where she worked a bar job she disliked. After another move to Boulder, Colorado, she fell in love with the mountains and the man who would become her husband, Steve Jones.
As a chemical engineer, Steve’s career moved the couple to Moab, Utah and Beth decided to go back to school to get her bachelor’s degree in nursing. While pregnant with Molly, her first child, Beth attended college classes three days a week, studied in the library one day a week, and worked weekends in the hospital in Moab.
“It was a pretty crazy time, but it was a good time,” she said. “And I can tell you pretty definitively that when I graduated we had a party and my husband danced on the roof.” Adding in while laughing, she said, “Yeah, that’s Steve Jones for ya’.”
Dakota was born three years later, giving Beth a favorite daughter and a favorite son, she said. Both children still live out west where Beth can see them often.
“I go home to Ohio because my little 91-year-old daddy lives there and I help him and spend time with him,” she said. “I love to go home to my dad and family who live there, but when they say to me sometimes, ‘Why don’t you move back here?’ I go, ‘Oh hellll no. I have a sweet life out here. My son is here, I have access to my daughter, and it is a beautiful place to live. It is a good life.’”
In 2006, after Molly graduated from high school and Dakota had a few more years to go, the four-person Jones family moved to Durango, Colorado. Back then, running was not yet the diehard passion it now is for the Jones family. It was just one of the many ways the family recreated outside. Beth, too, was a self-proclaimed recreational runner.
“I ran so that I could eat whatever I damn well pleased,” Beth declared. “I was never competitive in any way, shape, or form. I just did it to stay fit.”
At the time, Dakota was a football player and it was during football practice where he realized he may need to switch sports. The team of middle-school athletes would run up Moab’s ‘dump hill,’ a near two-mile run uphill and back down, for cross training. According to Beth, Dakota was up and back and resting in the shade completely cooled off by the time the rest of the kids got back. Beth told him that in football his scrawny body would be on the bench often, but in cross country, he could be pretty good.
Later, in Durango, the assistant running coach Robin Halloran was running 50-mile races, and Dakota and the rest of the Jones family were introduced to the sport of ultrarunning.
“He started getting extremely interested in the longer distances.” When Beth heard about it, she said, “Well that’s a long-ass way to run, but get after it. If that’s what you want to do and you can do it well and it serves you, then do it and I’ll help you do what you want to.”
Beth is the type of mom who didn’t mind if the hobby was running, swimming, BMX riding, hiking, or all of it. “I don’t care. I felt that as long as my kids were on track and paying attention and being physically active and not into the drinking and drugging, then I would support them in whatever they wanted.”
Beth was already used to the tricks and spills of BMX biking, which Dakota was pretty skilled at by the time he was in high school. As a parent, she explained, it is easy to worry about the safety issues of whatever a child is doing, whether it is taking jumps on a bike or running through the pitch black of night during a 100-mile race.
“You can get caught up in the unsafe bullshit or you can say, ‘Well, wear a helmet, be safe, drink a lot of water.’ And then you let go of it all,” she said. “Because shit happens. We all know that whether you’re trying to be safe or you’re out there being a dope, things will happen.”
Besides, worrying and fretting gets in the way of Beth’s main duty–cheering on her kids and friends. For Dakota and other running friends such as Brendan Trimboli and Anna Frost, ultrarunners who both reside at least part of the year in Durango, Beth is out there screaming, ringing cowbells, and making as much noise as she can during races.
When Beth and her family pull up to a race, there are themed t-shirts, funny accessories, several cowbells, and a chorus of screams and cheers all day long.
In the early years, Beth was at nearly all of Dakota’s races, along with other family members and her husband, Steve. In 2013, Steve lost his fight with lymphoma. During the period he was sick, Beth remained home by his side.
Now, when she attends a race, it makes the event that more special to her, and her family and friends.
Take the recent Kendall Mountain Run in Silverton, Colorado, just a few weeks ago. As soon as Beth arrived, she hiked about 1.5 miles up the course to where an old boxcar was situated. Then she went up a few more switchbacks where she could see runners far below and above. With her iPhone video following Dakota’s bouncing head up the mountain, Beth was able to watch him run and cheer him on.
“When he was running up, he went by and next to him was Timmy Parr–I should find Timmy Parr so that he understands about me–and as he is running I’m yelling at my son and carrying on and then I turn to Timmy and say, ‘Great race, have fun, and don’t beat my son!’ And then on they went. I just always say shit like that and most people know that about me and if he had beat my son then I would have gone over there to shake his hand and say, ‘Well done.’”
After Dakota passed, Beth stayed in her prime spot and cheered on the rest of the runners as they headed up the mountain.
“I just stood and cheered because everyone likes to be cheered!” she said. “The middle- and end-of-the-pack people, not one person did it to win and but just to do it, just to run. And they will say, ‘Oh yeah I’m slow,’ but then I say, ‘No, dude, you are doing it!’ They are inspiring and fun to watch. I can’t stand there and ignore anyone or just watch them pass. No way. I am an equal-opportunity cheerer-on-er.”
“She is the most loud and most obnoxious person at these races. It’s awesome,” Dakota added. “Everyone who runs by her knows her or remembers her. She is the most memorable.”
Beth enjoys being there on the sidelines. She enjoys the atmosphere, the community, the friendships, and the camaraderie she is a part of.
“I’m always inspired by these fabulous people, they are so focused,” she said. “They make me want to be a fitter and better person, because they are great.”
Even though she isn’t an trail runner or ultrarunner, Beth can sense the competition among friends but understands why it is such a unique sport.
“In a race, they are competitive and do the best they can, but before and after the race there is a wonderful community of souls and it is great to watch,” she explained. “It’s really inspiring on a lot of levels. In other sports, it is not that way, it is every man for himself. I would certainly never downplay the competitiveness and the importance of doing well or winning, but it doesn’t feel negatively competitive to me. It feels really good competitively to me. It is easy in life to get caught up in the negative, to not take care of yourself, but you go to these events and then you’re reminded.”
At some events, she parks herself in a chair under the shade with Joe Grant’s mom Heidi and the two mothers talk, tease their boys, and usually get in trouble by their runners for being too loud.
“It’s a sweet time and you get to put aside all the worries and frustrations of your regular life and just be there for that event,” she said. “It is an opportunity to step out of our lives and watch people be spectacular. It’s just the best.”
What is also incredible is the number of the blisters on her fingers after a few hours with her cowbell.
“I lost my last cowbell and had to get a new one, so it is green this week,” she said, “It’s funny, but I have to pay attention because I will get blisters on my fingers from the cowbell. ‘I’m like, seriously? You dope!’ So, I have to keep moving it from finger to finger. I have a cowbell and I have a really big mouth. I just love to make noise. It’s just really satisfying.”
Beth has been crewing Dakota since he first started ultrarunning, following him around the races. Her favorite race to crew and watch? The Hardrock 100.
“When I can, I do crew and that’s a lot of fun,” she said. “Being there is nervewracking as hell. It’s hurry, hurry, hurry, then wait, wait, wait, oh hell wait some more, wait, wait, wait, hurry up and then quick race to the next one.”
For Beth, it is fun, fast, and another way be front and center and intimately involved in the entire race, she added.
“This is just my way of being in the middle of things,” she said. “I get to be pretty selfish. Other people want to crew him and I’m like, ‘Umm no! Your mommy is doing it. Hello!’”
Dakota says that, as a nurse, his mom’s job is to take care of people, yet at these races and especially for his races, she understands that this is the type of pain she doesn’t need to help out with.
“She understands that this sport will hurt,” he said.
It was during Hardrock one year when Dakota came into the aid station, sat down, and put his head in his hands. “I just want my bed,” he moaned.
“I said ‘Dude, you can have your bed, but you have to wait 12 miles and then I will drive you the block to your bed,’” she recalled.
In 2014, while crewing for Dakota, Beth and Anna Frost met, and the two have been friends ever since. “I saw her cheering for her son Dakota and I was thinking how bubbly and energizing she was even during the night!” Anna said. “She is always incredibly happy and fun. She has a huge heart and is grateful for every day she has in this world and the people in it.”
Hardrock has been a favorite race of Beth’s to watch since the family first found out about the sport. It is a favorite of Dakota’s, according to Beth, and it was the last race she and Steve crewed together for Dakota before he passed away.
“I have a soft spot for it in my heart,” she said, and she returns to the race every year.
“At these races, especially Hardrock, you see families come out to support their runners and my mom has always been there for me,” Dakota said. “She has a huge cooler with food. She is willing to stay up all night long. She will help other people out as they run by.”
This year, Hardrock coincided with the second day of the Telluride Yoga Festival, an event Beth also attends every year. As a near-lifelong yogi, Beth looks forward to the festival all year long.
“I have been dabbling in yoga for about 40 years but I have focused on a dedicated effort for about eight years now,” she said. “The festival has teachers from all over the country, so it is great to learn more about different styles.”
This year, after learning that her two passions were colliding, she cut all her afternoon yoga activities and instead grabbed her cowbell and headed to the park in Telluride to watch the top runners come through.
As a spectator, she prefers to be everywhere–at the finish line, start line, up the mountain, or chatting with the race organizers and volunteers. At some races, she takes a bike and rides the final miles of the course back and forth to cheer for runners as they finish. At every race, she meets new friends and hangs out in camp chairs, talking with other runner moms and families.
Most runners recognize her as Dakota’s mom, thanks to her loud and enthusiastic support of her son. But many also know her as a loving landlord. For the last several years, Beth has opened her house to runners traveling through who need a place to crash. For them, it is a warm, safe place to rest before a race, and for her, it is a chance to get to know more of these incredibly inspiring people.
“After Steve died, I had this big house. So when I know someone is coming through town and needs a place to stay, I invite them and quite frankly it’s selfishly motivating because then I get them to myself and I get to know them,” she said. “Someone stays at the house before Hardrock and they can relax for a bit. Who wants to go around in a big old house by themselves? Nobody! So, it’s fun to have people around intermittently. It is a great situation. Good for me and good for them and I love getting to know them that way.”
Some of Dakota’s friends, who decided to move to Durango, stayed in the Jones’ house for four months while they got settled in the new city. “It was really great. I have had a lot of friends stay at my mom’s house,” he said. “She loves it. She loves to talk to people and she is super personable and friendly.”
Anna Frost and her husband happened to spend a few nights there while house sitting for Beth and watching her cat Ralphie while she was away. “We house sat and ended up staying even longer,” Frost said. “She is always welcoming people to stay. She is such a great host.”
We all think of our mothers as superheroes. Moms are willing to protect us, care for us, drive around the mountains at 3 a.m. to crew us, and open their homes to our friends. Beth is one of those mothers who we can all look to for love, friendship, and guidance–sure, she’s a mother to Dakota, but she’s also something of a mother to us all.
When I told Beth that iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks had called her “a symbol of family ultrarunning,” her response was, “Oh, for heaven’s sakes! That makes me want to cry!”
When Steve passed, Beth watched both her kids take off–one in his sport, the other in her business. They both became strong, successful adults. Steve wasn’t able to see that, which is part of why Beth stays so involved in her children’s lives. That is also part of why she keeps her house open to visitors of many kinds. And maybe even a little bit of why she crews and camps out for races with her son and friends. It is because Beth and others embrace an open definition of what it means to be family that Beth has become known as a mother to our community.
“I just love to cheer all these people on. It is so exciting for me,” she said. “I love being in the middle of it, being there for them.”
Dakota adds in, “Yeah, my mom is just as much a part of [this community] as I am.”
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
Do you know Beth Jones? Has she cheered for you at a race? Can you share your Beth Jones story? Leave a comment to do so. Thanks!