Gerry Ives: 78 and going strong

Gerry Ives in a well-preserved Washington Running Club singlet. Photo: Elyse Braner

Gerry Ives sits at the table by his window, flipping through a photo album of old pictures and articles collected from decades of running. There are photos of him on magazine covers, on award podiums, out somewhere in the middle of a race and clippings of various articles and race results.

Every single photo in Ives’s thick book has a story and he joyfully recalls each one with a smile on his face. He is a man of countless tales, a man who has seen it all over 78 years.

Ives says his goal is quite simple: to run as long as he can. “There’s a guy I run with. He’s maybe 15 years younger. He says, ‘my goal is to run one more day than you’, and so now I just keep running just to piss him off.” 

He tried running out when he was 11, running cross country in his native England, but didn’t take to running much after that. He chose horseback riding instead.

But in 1961, Ives moved to D.C. from just outside of London, England to work for what is now Bloomberg BNA. At first he continued horseback riding here in DC, though his wife at the time didn’t like the time commitment required. So instead, Ives decided to run again, non-competitively.

In 1980, Ives was invited to run on BNA’s corporate team in the ACLI Capital Challenge. Having not raced in years, Ives was not confident, so he joined the B team. He beat all but one person on the A-team. Thus began Ives’s decades-long racing career.

In 1982, Ives joined the Washington Running Club’s Sunday runs. The club, which today hosts runners of all abilities, was very different at the time. “Most guys were sub 2:40 marathon guys,” he recalls.

He remembers one time when an out-of-state runner from Buffalo came to one of their runs. Worried about keeping up, the visitor decided to run with the two women in the group instead of sticking with the men. Ives laughs as he tells the story. “The guy gets smoked!” he says.

Through his many years with the club, Ives has run with big names in the local running scene including Betty Blank, Clay Bradley, Chan Robbins, members of the Georgetown University women’s team and Jake Stein, one of Monica Lewinsky’s lawyers.

With his publishing background, Ives chosen to write the club’s newsletter. He joked he tired to pawn the job off, but was unsuccessful for 15 years.

Throughout his running career, Ives has had tremendous success. His team “once beat all the shoe company teams in the Philadelphia Half Marathon” and he personally placed in numerous races.

Ives says his favorite race was the last time he ran the Marine Corps Marathon, which was back in 1993. His pace only varied, “about five or six seconds per mile,” he says. He also credits fellow runner Amy Durham for helping him pace nine miles.

Ives says his hardest race was the D.C. Marathon, though he could not recall the year. After running the first 20 miles in 2:07 – on pace for 2:46 –  then got hot at mile 22 and stopped to walk. In the end, he finished 3:04.

When he turned 60, Ives took a brief break from running, but Robbins, who was an elite athlete coordinator for Cherry Blossom, encouraged him to run in the master’s division. He ran the 10 mile in 59:51 in his first race back.

Despite his age, Ives has not shown any signs of stopping. In 2013 alone, at the age of 74, Ives totaled 3,072 miles in the year, averaging a little over 59 miles per week. Last year, he ran 2,030.

Ives is still a loyal Washington Running Club member, meeting Sunday mornings by the CB2 in Georgetown. He likes that the club brings together people of all walks of life, from high profile lawyers, to teachers, to mailmen.

He even recalls one Sunday during a holiday when only three people came to the group run. One of those runners was a visitor from North Dakota. To everyone’s surprise, “the guy from North Dakota actually turns out he knew someone in the group!” Ives said.

Ives says he continues to run for a variety of reasons. For one thing, he finds it therapeutic and that it “takes problems away.” He likes that it’s easy to do and that, as long as you have the right shoes, you don’t need much equipment. He also enjoys looking at nature. He’s seen every type of animal along his runs in DC including deer, foxes and even cayotes.

If it weren’t for running, Ives wouldn’t have even found his home. Ives had lived in Cabin John, but on a run to Georgetown, he stopped along the way to look at some of the houses under construction in Foxhall. “If I didn’t run, I wouldn’t have seen it,” he says as he sits in one of those very homes today.

His favorite place to run in D.C. is along the canal, not far from where he lives. Ives even saw a man fall into the canal once. Ives helped pull him out of the water and back onto the trail. He ran into that same man in Georgetown days later, who thanked him for saving his life.

After a run, Ives enjoys sitting down at the local Dean and Deluca or Peetz Coffee, where he loves to chat and get to know people. Those who know him will tell you, that’s what he does best.

“The thing about Gerry is how outgoing he is,” said fellow WRC member Carla Freyvogel. “When we run along the trail together, every other person shouts out a hello. It could be a young woman, who is obviously a serious competitor, it could be a young Marine, carrying a knapsack of bricks, it could be Jake Stein, the famous lawyer, a person on a bike, [or] a geeky scientist from visiting from Norway. Everyone knows him. I have often suggested that if he ran for mayor, he would win. Everyone knows Gerry.” 

“If you leave him alone for one second, he makes a friend. Sometimes during a long run, we get separated. One of us takes a pit stop, or the other wants to run some harder miles. I can count on the fact once we are united, he will have a story to recount of someone he just met on the trail,” Freyvogel continues, “and usually, they find a friend or two or three or 12 they have in common.”


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