Ken Spence, 61 of Tooele, has been running for 35 years, and for someone who didn’t start until he was 26, to now have six trips to the Boston race under his belt is an amazing feat.
Though it was the slowest of his five previous completed Boston Marathons, with a time of four hours, 16 minutes, he was still pleased.
“My other ones have been under four hours, but that’s what you expect with age,” he said. I’ve had various issues with my knees and minor health issues, like exercise-induced asthma. But, given my year, I was very happy with how I did.”
And, why scoff at being just a quarter of an hour longer — especially when six years ago he had to drop out of the race for health reasons. In 2011, Spence began experiencing back problems at mile 11 and dropped out at mile 15.
He thought the injury was in the rear-view mirror when he decided he was up for the big race.
“I didn’t know how serious [the injury] was …” he said. “I had two bulged discs and a torn disc.”
His doctor thought it may have been caused by heavy lifting, but Spence didn’t remember injuring it.
“It just kind of came on, got unbearable … by mile 11 it got kind of bad,” he said.
After x-rays and a checkup, he received injections that reduced the inflammation in his back.
Spence said he feels fairly healthy, “other than a few other minor issues with my knees.”
How did he get into running?
Spence recounted that it all started with his wife. He entered the walking portion of a Magna race as an “overweight” 26-year-old father pulling two kids in a wagon, he said, when he and his family were living there. His wife, who began the sport with some neighborhood friends, was running her first 10-kilometer race with her 50-year-old father. Spence said he decided to run after he watched his father-in-law cross the finish line.
“I began running with my wife’s encouragement. Eleven months later, I ran my first marathon,” he said.
His first was the Deseret News Marathon in Salt Lake City in 1983.
From then on, Spence has been addicted, he said.
“You have to have a little bit of OCD to keep running,” he said.
The sport has helped Spence in several ways, he said, including for weight control, stress levels and feeling more fit.
As he began training, Spence received a lot of advice from fellow runners. As he joined the Tooele Running Club, he received even more support.
If he is not training for a marathon, he will run 30-35 miles per week. For marathons, he trains 40-45 miles per week, peaking at 50 for a couple of weeks when the marathon is getting close. Then, toward the end, he throws in a 20-mile run on weekends.
“Some people do more than that,” he said. “But, I don’t. It’s the same plan I’ve had all along.”
Obviously, the plan has worked.
The most fascinating part of the Boston race for Spence is that people lined up from beginning to end to cheer the runners on.
“The entire 26 miles is lined with people,” he said.
Though he figures he has run his last Boston Marathon, Spence does see himself going again as a spectator.
“I think this year was my last [Boston] marathon I’m going to seriously train for. It’s going to be difficult for me to run another qualifier,” he said. “I love the city of Boston, but I’m not sure I will run another marathon there. We’ll see. It’s tough to run as you age.”