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Squamish doctor finishes his 60th marathon

At 78, Ken Schellenberg completes the San Francisco marathon, his 60th in total.
Ken Schellenberg at SF marathon
Ken Schellenberg running the San Francisco marathon marathon on Sept. 19..

A local doctor recently finished his 60th marathon in San Francisco on Sept. 19.

A self-proclaimed “semi-retired” physician since he continues to work casually at the walk-in clinic, Ken Schellenberg ran the marathon at 78 years old, an achievement that was not lost on him.

“If you need a heading for the article you can use The Rime of the Ancient Marathoner,” he joked, a play on the poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Schellenberg said that running marathons was born out of his career as a family practitioner and anesthetist, which he practiced from 1974 to about 2018.

“When I was growing up all the doctors I had were out of shape, overweight guys,” he said. “With my patients, I’ve tried to set a better example.” But, Schellenberg admitted he wasn’t always in the best shape either.

“There was a time when I was overweight and I’d bend over to take somebody’s blood pressure and I would be out of breath,” said Schellenberg.

“I thought, you know, I’m not going to live very long if I don’t smarten up. So, I lost weight and got into running and the wife was an inspiration in that she actually started running before I did.”

Once Schellenberg started, he said it gradually became a habit.

“My wife and I were doing a lot of 10k’s, 5k races and I thought I’d try a marathon one time. I did the Vancouver marathon and kind of got really interested in distance running and sort of stuck with it.”

Marathon running, he said, has taken him all over the place: Honolulu, New Orleans, Alaska, Vancouver, Portland and more. He said if there’s one marathon he’d suggest it would be Big Sur, which heads down a highway along the California coast.

“Your senses are overwhelmed by sights and sounds,” he said of the run. “The scenery is just indescribably beautiful.”

Nonetheless, Schellenberg said he’s gotten lucky. He said he’s had many running partners throughout the years who’ve had to stop running due to joint or back issues.  

Somehow, he said, he’s been fortunate enough to escape those problems, even joking that he used to show off his knees to a colleague that was an orthopedic surgeon.

Still, Schellenberg said he wasn’t sure how many more marathons he would run, but he was grateful for the opportunity to step up to the starting line all those times.

“I always feel, especially in life, the victory is getting to the start line.”

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