Jim Ney has been one of the most recognizable faces around Portland Running Company and Run With Paula Events for years. This winter Jim called time on his illustrious shoe-slinging, course-measuring career to spend more time on his other job: teaching. We debriefed Jim before he left. Read on to get to know the man behind the shades a little better.
How old are you? Weight? Inseam?
I’m 58, 5′ 10″; 165 in winter, 155 in summer. What’s an inseam?
When did you start at PRC?
I think I started working July of 2006. I worked 8.5 years. Brent [MacDermot] has worked a year more than me, Staci [Bielenberg] and Rob [Crow] came a little later.
What shifts did you work?
Usually Sundays and then one or two weekdays. A little less the last year.
How did you get connected with Dave and Paula and this store?
My friends used to work at the store and after a Sunday run I’d sometimes go to the store and hang out a little. Someone said we should get me on payroll. I emailed Dave, and that was that.
What is your other job, and why are you leaving this one?
There is just not enough free time to to spend with my family and friends. I have taught high-school and middle-school math for 35 years. I retired from full-time teaching three years ago, but now I’m back to full-time.
You’ve been involved with Paula’s events for a while; how long? What have you done for Paula?
I’ve done Run With Paula events for about 5 years. I used to race a lot, and I enjoy well-run, accurately measured events. It seemed natural to try to contribute for the organizational side. I set up directional signs and mile markers. Highly rewarding, but extremely stressful. We always worry about the leader taking a wrong turn and getting everyone off course. We breathe easier when the leaders get to the finish line.
Tell us about your running history. What keeps you going? Any races or PRs that you look back on as particularly proud moments? How has running changed for you over the years?
I ran cross and track in HS, played rec basketball at college. Started running competitively in 1980 when I started teaching and coaching at St. Mary of the Valley High School, my first teaching gig. In 1984 a friend suggested we put together a Hood To Coast team, and then I was really hooked. Only 63 teams the first year we ran the relay. Claim to fame: 1:12:58 Rock Creek half-marathon (precursor of the the Helvetia Half). I enjoy the ORRC Dual Duel, running cross country events. I’ve run 27 Hood To Coast Relays. Only four marathons; 2:42 my best. My daughter runs pretty well now; she carries the family racing mantel.
The goal now is to enjoy running and staying healthy for as long as I can. I ran about 1700 miles this year. Pretty healthy.
How has our business changed since you started?
Since I’ve started there are more casual runners, runners that have come to it late in their lives—people who see a need to change their lifestyle. I enjoy these customers the most. The Neil Young/Pink Floyd demographic. They want advice and not just shoes. I get a kick when I’m watching an event and someone comes up and says they’re doing great and thanks me for the help.
How has it been working with your daughter at PRC?
My second teaching job I went back to my old high school that I graduated from and worked with some teachers that taught me. Thirty years later I get to work with my daughter. Both experiences were really cool. I think Hayley knew more than I did about shoes and accessories after working at PRC only a couple of months. She’s a little bossy.
What do you do outside of PRC for fun and fulfillment?
I run, read, hike, and travel a lot. My partner Nancy and I have beento Europe a couple of times and we spend a lot of time at Black Butte Ranch [in central Oregon].
Most people might not realize it, but you are a famous model, at least within the PRC staff ranks. How did that get started?
Alex DeCino just started using my image from a cross country meet in some of his advertising. They all make me laugh; kinda cool. The Grease and Obama ones are my favorites. The big royalty checks are a bonus.
Why do you wear sandals all the time?
I don’t know how/when I started wearing sandals exclusively. My students get a kick out of it.
Anything you’ll miss in particular about PRC?
The customers the most. How can’t you admire people who want to better their lives? I’ve worked with some pretty cool folks. Brent and I have run and worked for PRC and RWP for a long time. Jerret [Mantalas] was fun to work with. I like working with people who are connected with the local track and cross-country scene.
What’s your favorite smell?
How much can you bench?
I doubt I can bench my weight.
You’re still going to work the sales, right? You’ll be back. They always come back.
I’ll work Run with Paula events for a while longer. May make cameo appearances at PRC, but not until the summer.