Prime Living: Ken Akin continues to ride amid ‘lots of great memories’ | Characteristics
A few Aiken County cyclists can put on more miles than Ken Akin from week to week, but at 80, the retiree from the Savannah River site is in a class of his own.
Some local residents know him as an employee of Lionel Smith Ltd., helping customers find their way through hundreds of wardrobe options on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Others may remember his time at the nuclear site, where he was an operator and control room supervisor, working from the 1980s to 2001.
Much more recently, he’s likely to be visible for just a few seconds, keeping fit by taking his carbon fiber bike (“all the bells and whistles”) for hundreds of miles across Aiken County every month. . The preference is to be “away from heavy traffic”, he confirmed.
“I keep a book of my mileage, every time I ride, and sometimes I can go up to 175 miles, but normally it’s probably 100-125…where I’d be comfortable and have time” , did he declare.
“Comfortable” may be a relative term in Akin’s case, as his life’s great adventures included a variety of marathons, coast to coast, as well as qualifying for a full-scale Ironman triathlon (2 .4 miles of open water swimming, 112 miles of road biking, and 26.2 miles of road running, in that order) and also participating in a Trans-American Bike Ride.
The coast-to-coast trip in early August 1993 saw him and three friends leave from Irvine, California as a relay team working in two-hour shifts and aiming to continue to ride until they reach the Atlantic Ocean, in Savannah, Georgia.
“Our strongest rider on the course, that first night he crashed and broke his hip so he couldn’t ride, so there were three of us kind of taking over. All the four hours was your time back on the bike. We ended up averaging 17 miles per hour, for the whole trip across America,” he said, recalling his team had finished fifth among the nine participating teams.
Akin’s fitness journey took a strange turn at the age of 33, when he was working in a clothing store in Kalmia Plaza and a shoplifter came out with a leather coat. leather. Akin chased to a nearby golf course – off the course and back again.
“Eventually he dropped my coat, and I went back to the store and had to lay on the floor for probably an hour and a half,” Akin said. “I was burned out, and that’s when I started racing, and I only raced for fitness, and then I got involved in the road race part, I qualified for the Boston Marathon, I’ve run seven times in Boston, I think, I’ve run the Chicago Marathon,” and again and again took on 26.2-mile challenges in locations from Washington, D.C., in San Diego and Anchorage, Alaska, he said.
Akin also became a coach for the Team in Training program, a fundraising arm of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “I would take a bunch of people who wanted to run a marathon, and I would train them…and take them to a marathon and make sure they all finish,” he said.
“I’ve never had a team that didn’t finish. Every single person has finished. There were times when I had to run back and meet them and make sure they were running and cheer them on. “
His local team, based on Berkley Street near South Boundary Avenue, includes his wife, Janice, who retired in 1996 as the Aiken County Public Schools Assistant Comptroller, and their family tree now includes two daughters, a grandson and a granddaughter. .
Akin, a few generations ago, traveled many miles with the help of Uncle Sam, as a member of the Marine Air Corps. He was a mechanic, based in San Francisco from 1963 to 1966, with two Vietnam cruises as part of the package.
“My main job was on the flight deck. When the planes were getting ready to launch, we made sure everything was working properly before they took off for sorties over Vietnam.”
Akin also found encouragement through a lifelong friendship with one of Aiken’s most prominent businessmen: Lionel Smith, the namesake of the Laurens Street men’s clothing store. They have known each other since the 1960s.
“Ken Akin is basically family — almost like a brother to me,” Smith said, in a 2020 Aiken Standard interview. “He and I started together in 1966 at Manning Owens (clothing store). He had just returned from Vietnam and I was coming across the street to Belk… Everyone is like family. All of our staff have been here forever.
Smith, whose experience includes thousands of miles on the bike over decades, was also one of Akin’s companions on the road. “Ken and I started running around the same time,” Smith said. “Ken has always been a real athlete. We started and raced for about 30 years and then we cycled for probably another 15 or 20 years. Many good memories. »