Meet Ona the 5K Racer – Dogster

One could say that Ona, a punky 12-year-old Yorkshire Terrier, has enjoyed a pretty bright and breezy lifestyle over the years soaking up the sun in Southern California. Lots of beach days, a comfy warm bed and a big pile of plush toys. What more could she want? Well, as it turns out, she wants to run!

Nearly 50 races and counting

Ona likes to take the lead during the races, so her dad and running partner, Jeff, follows her nearly the whole time. © Alan De Herrera

Weighing in at just 6 pounds and standing a mere 6 inches from the ground, Ona is a seasoned long-distance racer. In the last six years, she’s completed nearly 50, 5k runs with an average pace just over an 8-minute mile. As the adage goes, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” This dog can run!

“I started hiking with Ona after she turned 3 and she loved it,” says Ona’s dad, California Highway Patrolman Jeff Jones. “She always had so much energy.”

As an experienced long-distance runner himself, Jeff decided to sign both of them up for their first race together at the Homeward Bound 5k run in 2016.

“We had already done several long hikes in the past but I didn’t know how she would do running long distance.”

When they reached the halfway mark, Jeff tells me he stopped and offered Ona a quick water break. “She refused and just wanted to keep running,” he added. “People were shouting ‘that dog deserves a medal’ as we ran by.”

Soon after, the duo signed up for several more races and thus Ona’s running journey began. “Even during the pandemic we did 19 virtual races,” said Jeff. “Nothing was going to stop Ona from running!”

Breaking records

Ona remains focused on the finish line during her races. She doesn’t get distracted by other dogs or people. © Alan De Herrera.

Last December, I joined them one early morning for their 41st race at the Christmas-themed Santa Claus for a Cause 5k run. Decked out in a warm Christmas neck gaiter dawned with little green doggie bones and striped candy canes, Ona looked up at her dad among the crowd of runners towering above her. With a few wags of her tiny tail, she signaled she was ready to go.

At the sound of the buzzer, Ona sprinted out of the starting gate tugging on her leash with all her might, keeping her head forward and focused on the path ahead. “She loves to run out in front of me, so I’m really just chasing her the whole time,” says Jeff.

A determined Ona charged along, unfazed by the cheering spectators or other dogs along her path. “She’s just so razor focused when she runs,” Jeff proudly tells me.

They crossed the finish line not only breaking their all-time record at 24 minutes and 45 seconds, but also making the podium with a first place title in Jeff’s age category. “The older she gets the faster she runs,” Jeff whispered in my ear as they received their honorable medals.

There is a small wooden rack on Jeff’s bedroom wall displaying 45 ribboned medals: An homage to their running adventures together over the years.

“We will need a bigger rack soon,” Jeff tells me with a chuckle.

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