The only race that North Hall’s Andrew Jones hasn’t won this season is easily his most satisfying.
It was a third-place overall finish for the Trojans’ senior who has decided to run in college at the University of Virginia.
However, it’s imperative to factor in that Jones was running in a field of elite runners in the from the deep south, not just Georgia, in the championship race Saturday at the Alexander/Asics Invitational in Fairburn.
In this case, his time of 14 minutes, 58.57 seconds over five kilometers (3.1 miles) was enough to break the previous school record by almost six seconds (Ty McCormack, 2010) and bring a sense of validation to all the long hours and grueling runs that Jones does when nobody is watching to make sure he’s training.
“It’s a crazy, good feeling to have the race that I had,” said Jones. “I’ve been dreaming about breaking 15 minutes since I was in middle school.”
For those unfamiliar with the distance, or nuance of running, Jones achieved a time that averages out to less than five minutes for each mile.
On Jones’ record-setting day, he said running against the cream of the crop in boys distance running helped keep him motivated.
The overall winner, Marietta’s Kamari Miller, finished at 14:55.02. Even the fourth and fifth-place finishers just missed out on going under 15.
After staying stride-for-stride with the frontrunners most of the race, Jones could see the time clock when he was roughly 100 yards from the finish line. Then, Jones knew it was going to be possible to break the mark he’s held as sacred and not been broken in school history.
However, to do so, it was going to require his mental toughness and preparation to overcome his body that was running on zero.
“I was running off adrenaline at the end,” said Jones, who said he received a congratulatory text message after the race from McCormack. “When your body is done, you have to give it everything you have and your mind can take you further than your body can.”
Jones said a lot of his mental conditioning comes from inspirational videos by retired Navy SEAL, ultra-marathon runner and author David Goggins, who further gained national fame over the past couple years with his appearances on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
Goggins preaches breaking through mental barriers and physical fatigue, utilizing a no-nonsense approach that can come across as intimidating, to some.
“David Goggins is really big on mental strength,” Jones said. “He always talks about the fact that pain is simply in your head.”
When Jones set his new personal best and school record, his reward came at the finish line with a warm embrace with his parents, Jay and Christy Jones.
Jones makes a lot of sacrifices to run at an elite level, while also maintaining good grades. He’ll venture out for a 15-mile run on Sundays, then 8-9 miles the following day. On Tuesday, he’ll work on repeats, which is when he’ll do more sprinting and focusing on the final portion of the race.
And running is much more that cardiovascular conditioning.
Elite runners are also constantly aware of their stride and conserving energy for the final kick.
Jones also said you need a good familiarity of the course, knowing whether it is hills or flatter terrain and how it will factor into his pace.
He’s happy to have background running tougher courses in northeast Georgia, but feels like his times may have resulted in a lack of recognition from the state’s other runners who dominate around Atlanta.
Even though it was a thrilling experience for Jones to break the 15-minute mark, it left something on the table by not taking first overall.
His next race will be the Coach Wood Invitational, which used to be run at the University of North Georgia in Oakwood, at the McIntosh Reserve Park in Whitesburg.
With another elite field coming to run, Jones looks to break his own personal best, shooting for a time in the ‘mid-14s’.