In only his fifth ultramarathon to date, Jazmine Lowther from Nelson, British Columbia, picked up a surprising wire-to-wire win at the recent Canyons 100k. Unsurprisingly, just five weeks earlier, she ran in the lead at the Chuckanut 50k and held on to third place just minutes behind the sport’s elite athletes, Ladia Albertson-Junkans and Kimber Mattox.
“Some of the girls were like, ‘Who are you?’ I completely passed them and showed up for Canada, which was pretty cool,” Lowther said ahead of the final Golden Ticket race in Auburn, Calif.
“I felt strong, very well fueled. It was really fun to laugh on super fun trails. It was so good,” Lowther said.
The first ultra of her career was at the 2019 Tackle the Toad 50k hosted by fellow West Kootenay racer Dave Stevens, where she finished third overall and was the Women’s Champion. Essentially a climber and mountaineer, she wondered what she could do in ultrarun if she concentrated more. “I wondered what would happen if I actually trained, so I picked a trainer. (Dave) Stevens opened my eyes to how to train properly. It inspired her to dive into in learning this sport and prepared her to progress quickly.
It wasn’t until July 2021 that Lowther finally had the chance to test his mettle against a 50-mile Sinister 7 competition in neighboring Alberta. She fought against the experienced Arden Young of Calgary, narrowly missing out on victory. The youngster beat Lowther in the sprint to take the title by just 14 seconds after more than 8 hours of racing.
While Lowther has only recently begun to focus her attention on longer ultras, her affinity for running has persisted since elementary school cross-country. “I just had a natural ability to run,” she recalls. “I was already super competitive at that age and I never lost a single race, except one.” She laughed as she elaborated, “That one is definitely etched in my memory bank.” In a mid-race distraction, her shoelaces untied and she stopped to retie them, getting passed and never regaining the lead. She remembers the endless tears she shed after it ended.
More recently, a difficult event left the jolly Lowther genuinely grateful for the bumps along the way. She jumped in her first 100 miles, the Run Rabbit Run in September 2021, and although her training was good before the race, she fell ill a few days before the start. “It was a bit of a shame to wake up on race day and not feel 100 per cent.” But she was already in Colorado, so she decided to run anyway.
It was a hot day and she really struggled to get enough fuel. “The first 50k felt like the worst 50k I’ve ever run.” Even when she got halfway, she was very close to giving up. A good pep talk with her crew rallied her energy and she carried on.
She teamed up with Christian Arguello of Boulder, Colorado, and started feeling good about the night, getting more food and putting in the best miles of her race. Once daylight arrived, her hip seized up and she hobbled for the last 40 miles, but felt good overcoming the adversity. “I learned so much on my first 100 miles and I’m so grateful to have finished. A high mark with a lot of learning,” she surmised. Eighth place among some of the best in North America left her wanting more.
Running has always been a constant in Lowther’s life, even when other activities have caught his eye. “It’s like being at home,” she said. “My mum was very supportive from the start, cycling with me from my childhood home.”
Now she realizes the value of combining the many skills she has acquired over the past few years. “With ultrarunning, I saw so many possibilities for progress.” She also likes having the skills of rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing in her back pocket.
Last winter, with more days spent in the mountains and on skis, she made great strides in her aerobic development. “With the stamina, I’m now able to put in some pretty serious days of skiing, opening more doors in this area and beyond.”
“I watch a lot of Europeans and it gives me hope that skiing counts for something. I think it’s a really good endurance builder without the impact of running. You’re in that speed zone less fuel burning and you can walk away the next day feeling pretty good.
Fast forward to the 100k Canyons on the Western States course, and Lowther is clearly no longer a dark horse. She won the race and set the course record by one second over 2021 Western States Champion Beth Pascall.
“Strong and fierce competition brings out the best in me. At the end of the race, you’re just so grateful and inspired to see all these great athletes come in and perform,” Lowther said.
His future certainly occupied his mind a great deal; she has just turned 30, she would like to start a family at some point, and wants to do the UTMB in the next few years. “It looks like things are falling into place right now and all these opportunities are opening doors. I’m really curious to see how it all pans out.
Asked about her momentous victory, she said: “It felt like a surreal dream that required great persuasion from passers-by that I really was the first woman. Once it hit me, all the engines fired up and all I wanted was to swerve. The fire is kindled. I am thrilled to continue this momentum for the most historic and competitive race in North America. It’s a dream come true much sooner than I would have imagined.
His goals for Western States in just eight weeks are simple, but ripe beyond his years: “Challenge myself and see what’s possible, scare me a little, but come out feeling really accomplished. and finding that satisfaction is truly precious.”