A five-year-old Labrador Retriever named Quinn is about to become the first canine member of Run 169 Towns Society (Run 169) to run a race in all 169 towns in the state of Connecticut. The goal of each member of Run 169 is complete a timed race in all 169 towns in the state. In the last three years, Quinn has raced in 168 towns, and she will run a race on October 20, 2019 in her 169th town. As luck would have it, the Michael E Walsh Memorial 5K that she is scheduled to run that day raises money for a rescue charity called the Protector of Animals.
Quinn’s guardians (married couple Katey Baruth and Rick Shoup) completed the feat years ago, but they are even more excited to see their best friend accomplish it. Quinn loves to run, and the people she has met in the running community love her right back. Katey describes her as a social butterfly who is adored by all the people who “run” in the same circles. In her 300-350 or so races, Quinn has raced on the other end of the leash with at least 45 people, ranging in age from 8 years to 73 years. In one race, she was passed from runner to runner so that she ended up being a teammate of 12 different people during a single event. Those racers effusively thanked her guardians for sharing Quinn.
Being versatile, as many dogs are, Quinn is equally comfortable running at a pace of 6 minutes per mile or 12 minutes per mile and everything in between. She is comfortable tackling a variety of distances and has raced four half marathons as well as some 20Ks, some 15Ks, a whole bunch of 10Ks and 5Ks, and the mile, too. Her best 5K time is 19:11, her best half marathon is under 2 hours (1:54), and she can do a sub-5-minute mile. Her racing has inspired many people to stick with it on race day when they felt like they couldn’t do it, and she has led quite a few people to run their fastest races. Katey and Rick know that Quinn could go even faster if they themselves were up to going Quinn’s speed for a whole race.
Quinn started racing when she was 15 months old at the White’s Woods Cross-Country Summer Race Series in Litchfield, Conn. in July of 2015, and the experience has changed her for the better. Katey and Rick noticed right after that race that she had an extra spark about her and they could see how into racing she was. Her fundamental sweetness has been a constant, but so much else about her is different. As a puppy, she tended to be cautious and reserved—often on the timid side and certainly not outgoing. Racing seems to have built her confidence and given her much higher self-esteem. Now, she is as social as they come and quite comfortable in a variety of social situations, even in crowds. When she first raced, she didn’t have the gusto she does now. Her motivation is high and she likes to push the pace.
Quinn’s racing has changed Rick and Katey, too, most notably when Quinn ran in her 100th town at the Sharon Sunset Trot in Sharon, Conn. in July 2018. The local newspaper story describing the event gave kudos to “Quinn and handler”. There was no mention of Rick, who ran with her that day as they placed second in the race. After that, Rick, who has a history of signing up for races under humorous fictitious names, began to register for races as “Quinn S. Handler”. It was then that Katey and Rick realized how perfectly content they are for their identity to be “Quinn’s people” to so many people.
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Though each race has had something special to offer, the most memorable race Quinn ran was an obstacle race called Terrier Tough that she and Katey did together. It is a 5K event with 20 challenges that required them to climb under nets and over walls, go through a mud pit, swim through a pond, go up and down hills and walk across a log. Katey and Quinn received so much support from other competitors and were so pleased with how accommodating the race organizers were. Since Quinn does agility, the obstacles were not too daunting to her.
When Quinn is running, she is so happy, with ears up and tail going. Katey says that when she runs “her soul is smiling” and that “everything in her world is right”. Luckily for Quinn, her guardians get her out running in all kinds of weather. She runs 3-5 miles most days, though runs of 10-13 miles are not unusual, depending on the season.
Quinn’s favorite part of race day is the food—no surprise there. Sometimes she wants to skip the finish line and go right for the food, but they prevent her from doing that. She does the next best thing, which is to head directly from the finish line to the snack table. She also approaches many of her human friends and even people who she is meeting for the first time to “sniff-search” them. Quinn is an extraordinary dog living an extraordinary life, to be sure, but in the end, she is a dog like any other, and she loves her treats!
There is more to her than just being a runner. Quinn regularly brings cheer to people during visits all over the state. She has been helpful in temperament tests of other dogs because she is so emotionally stable but “will not put up with any puppy shenanigans”. Besides being the beloved dog of Katey and Rick, Quinn is the sister to Bulldog Piper, who also runs many races. Piper is not quite up for doing 169 of them in different towns, but is rather speedy herself with a best 5K time of 21:52.
A community is fortunate when many people in it feel a special connection to a particular dog. (Because Quinn is so social and hangs out with everybody, it’s easy to forgive a new member to the running group who had to ask, “Whose dog is this?”) The “everybody’s dog” phenomenon is rare but special, and as Katey says, “It is hard to put into words exactly what Quinn means to so many people in the running community and vice versa.” Quinn’s community just got a little bigger, because now even more people are rooting for her. Go Quinn!
Below, Quinn can be seen running with Katey, running with Rick, at the starting line with Rick, with Rick and Piper, and sporting a medal.
October 22, 2019 Update
Quinn completed a race this past weekend in her 169th town in Connecticut, making her the first Canine Queen of the Run 169 Towns Society. (Kings and Queens are those members who have completed an official race in each of the 169 towns in Connecticut.) So, what’s next in Quinn’s illustrious racing career? She will do what most members of the society do—start over and work towards round two, finishing a race in each of the towns again.
Congratulations to Quinn (and guardians Katey and Rick)!