After several false starts, running sticks for Ken Quincy

It’s a cool spring day as Vienna’s Ken Quincy finishes his 10 mile run on the WO&D Trail. There is no one around him on the trail, but that’s how he the 82-year-old likes it. The conditions are somewhat of a miracle, given how many runners and walkers have made use of the trail for exercise and a break from staying at home.

As he submits his time for this year’s virtual Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile, he proves that age won’t stop him from running. Last year, among many, many races, he finished the Lucky Leprechaun 5k in 31:42 

Having lived in Vienna since 1972, Quincy has been a noteworthy presence in the running community for decades. Originally from Colorado, he moved to the area to work for the FDIC after, as Quincy puts it, “[they] made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

He did not start running regularly until his mid-40s after a few unsuccessful attempts at getting introduced to the sport.

Quincy’s first 10K was in Seattle, during a two-week business trip.

“A couple of us who were not runners decided, ‘What the heck? Why not?’ [I] ran in tennis shoes, not running shoes, because that’s all I had.”

When his first 10K was over, Quincy thought, “Well that was fun, but no more of that.” And so, he didn’t run.

It wasn’t until his son took an interest in the sport that Quincy was briefly reintroduced to it.

“I had a son who was a runner for Marshall High School, and he wanted somebody to run with. That lasted one day,” he said, jokingly.

But as time passed, Quincy eventually discovered that many of his colleagues at work were interested in running. He learned that running was a form of stress relief for his coworkers. So, once again, he gave it a shot. That, he said, was around the time running caught on for him.

“It was kind of interesting. I could come home and put on my running trunks and I bought some shoes by then,” he said. “And I went running.”

In those days, Quincy had a favorite route. “I would run from Gallows Road down to Maple Avenue in Vienna and back and it made me feel good.”

After falling into a running routine, a friend of his encouraged Quincy to try going out for a 10K. His first 10K in many years was at a restaurant in Reston. After running that race, things progressed quickly from there.

“Then I got talked into a couple of other 10Ks, then in 1985, I got talked into the Marine Corps Marathon and I’d never done a marathon before.” To give him some extra encouragement, Quincy trained for and ran Marine Corps with two of his friends.

“After that first marathon, I said, ‘Forget that. I did it and I’m done,'” he said. “That next spring, I started getting the bug and I just kept running them after that. [Now] I’ve done 25 marathons.”

He closed out his marathoning career with Marine Corps, his 22nd time running it, on his 80th birthday in 2017. He has also run New York, Philadelphia and Boston.

Quincy says it’s hard for him to know which race has been his favorite, as he has done so many. He considers Cherry Blossom among his favorites though, which he has run “about 30 times.” He also considers the New York Marathon to be one of his favorites.

Boston in 2003, though, he says was the race that meant the most to him.

“Boston meant something to me because in 2001, I broke my foot. [Due to my broken foot], I was out of running and then [when] I got back into it, I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon in 2002 and amazingly, I qualified for Boston,” he said. “That period for me between Marine Corps Marathon in 2002 and Boston [in 2003], it meant a lot for me because it was when I came back from an injury.”

Quincy loves the 10K, but he has run anything from track races up to marathons.

“When I started running, there weren’t too many 5Ks,” he said. “Most of the [races] were 10Ks, which is why I like 10Ks, I guess. I’ve only run one half-marathon. For some reason, it just didn’t fit in the schedule. But that was a very special one.”

That one half marathon he mentioned was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in celebration of the anniversary of the Indy 500 auto race. The half marathon begins in downtown Indianapolis, then takes runners to the stadium, then on the track itself, then back downtown. Quincy, being a car fan himself, loved being on the racetrack. He ran the half marathon with his son, who lives in Indianapolis, which made the experience even more special.

“If you’re a car nut like me, that’s just fascinating,” he said.

He also ran a 5K in Denver’s Coors Stadium and a 5K in the Virginia National Speedway.

Quincy also participates annually in the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics, regularly running the 5K and 1600 meters, but occasionally runs the 800 and 400 as well. The Senior Olympics and Navy Mile make up most of his middle distance running.

“If you want to be inspired, go out and see one of those [Senior Olympics events] and see the older folks doing their thing,” he says. “It’s just gratifying when people come up to you and say, ‘I want to be like you one day’ and it makes you feel like you’re doing something positive and inspired.”

Although he is done with marathons, Quincy is far from finished running.  Apart from the lack of races, the recent coronavirus situation has not affected Quincy’s running. “I run several routes including the WO&D and that hasn’t changed much. I stay away from people, which isn’t hard for a runner when you’re running during the week.”

If anything, Quincy says maybe is intensity level may be the only thing that has changed with the virus.

“Your training becomes a little more intense when you’re working toward a race, so mine is a little less intense since I’m not working toward any races,” he said.

Quincy tries to run every other day and cycles on the days he is not running.

The last race Quincy was able to run before the novel coronavirus pandemic was the Reston 10 Miler, where he ran 2:02:37. He was originally signed up for a 5K on each of the following two weekends, just as races started to be canceled.

When asked why he keeps running after all these years, his answer is simple: “I enjoy it!”

He also cites the portability of the sport. “When I was employed, I used to travel a bit and running is a great sport where you can take your equipment with you. I would go running and if there was a race, I’d enter it and if not, I’d just go running.”

Quincy counts friends like Chan Robbins and Maynard Weyers for keeping him in the sport. 

“We all aged together and ran together … [I] look forward to seeing everyone at the races and talking and we email back and forth with stories,” he said.

“As you climb the age ladder, there are less and less competitors and you sort of join a bond or a fraternity if you will,” he. “That’s a big value to me.”

There’s a lot of mutual respect there.

“Ken is the consummate competitor – running races of all distances and running them often (and during all seasons),” Weyers said. “He always shows up early for the races in his little white pickup and stays late to pick up his usual award. He is a real pleasure to know and race with.”

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