Quincy Fast

Finding success in the 800m to the ultra marathon — all in a summer

Quincy Fast has always been, well, fast.

Now 22 years old, Fast played soccer as a youngster. He never quite mastered the ball handling skills required to excel in the sport, but he stood out as the player who could run and run and run.

So when Fast started Gr. 9 at Walter Murray Collegiate, staff encouraged him to join the cross country and track teams. Running was fun — and he was good at it. Fast soon joined the Riversdale Athletics Club in addition to the school teams and devoted himself to training. He credits Walter Murray coach Janet Christ and Riversdale coach RossAnn Edwards for helping him develop his potential in the sport.

Initially, Fast competed in cross country and the 3,000m. But he tried the 800m in Gr. 10 and set the city record for his age group, which led him to focus on that distance. “It was really enjoyable to have success come quick in something,” Fast recalls. “That was something that helped build the passion for me.”

Quincy Fast races at the 2023 Canada West Track & Field Championships. Photo by Electric Umbrella/Derek Elvin
Quincy Fast races at the 2023 Canada West Track & Field Championships. Photo by Electric Umbrella/Derek Elvin

Fast’s success earned him a track scholarship to the University of Montana and he started training with the school in 2019 after graduating Gr. 12. “It was a no-brainer because the NCAA was kind of the highest level I could take my running at the time and, for me, I just wanted to keep taking it one step further,” Fast says.

Fast trained with the University of Montana Grizzlies for three years while studying integrative physiology. In his third year, he qualified to compete in the 800m at the NCAA West Preliminary Round, which only accepts the top 48 student athletes per event. “That was a very good experience because I was one of the last people to qualify. Just being there was kind of a bonus and having the opportunity to race at that high of a level was a lot of fun,” he says.

Fast has no regrets about his time with the Grizzlies, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing; there was steady turnover of coaching staff and, by the time Fast wrapped up his third season, the track program was facing funding cuts. Fast had always planned to return to Saskatchewan for graduate school and decided to accelerate that timeline. In the fall of 2022, he transferred to University of Saskatchewan to finish his undergraduate degree.

Quincy Fast competes on the track.
Quincy Fast competes on the track.

In Fast’s first year as a Huskie, he played a key role on the cross country team — an opportunity he hadn’t had in Montana — and took home gold in the 1,000m at the Canada West indoor championships. He also set the Saskatchewan 1,000m record in February, running 2 minutes and 22.13 seconds.

While the NCAA system has a “huge aura around it,” Fast says he appreciates the flexibility offered by USPORTS — “and the competition is just as good.”

“In the first couple years of college I was only thinking about running,” Fast says. “With USPORTS, I think people approach it with a more academic way of mind than the NCAA … which is kind of nice, because I am transitioning to a more career-focused way of life.”

Fast finished his outdoor season in late July by competing in the 800m at the Bell Canadian Track & Field Championships in Langley, B.C. He finished sixth in his heat and did not advance to the finals.

“I didn’t have the greatest race and it was kind of a frustrating moment because, once you get older and you sacrifice work and the potential to make money during the summer to compete at this high level, it’s kind of a bigger hit when you don’t race as well as you want to,” Fast says.

Hiking was part of Quincy Fast's training for the 2023 Edmonton Marathon.
Hiking was part of Quincy Fast’s training for the 2023 Edmonton Marathon.

The following week, Fast and a friend met up with runner Brent Senger, an ultra trail runner from Saskatoon who now lives in Canmore. The three went trail running and covered 28 kilometres, the furthest Fast had ever run.

With Senger’s encouragement, Fast decided to devote the rest of his summer to endurance feats. First up was the Edmonton Marathon, happening just three weeks after nationals.

Fast had incredible fitness, but had never done marathon-specific training. In the weeks before his 42.2km race he hiked, went trail running in Waterton, Alta. where he spent a lot of the summer and did threshold work, including immediately after big hikes. The 28km trail run was the farthest he ran before the Aug. 20 marathon.

The race kicked off at 7 a.m., which was the earliest Fast had ever raced. “I remember not being super amped up and I didn’t know how to properly eat and drink before,” he recalls. Despite starting conservatively, his stomach was uncomfortable and he had to use the Port-a-Potty in the first 15km. After his pit stop, he picked up the pace to catch the pack he’d been running with and realized running faster made his stride more efficient. His pace dropped from 4:05 per kilometre to 3:35. He began to focus more on rhythm than pace and kept speeding up, getting closer and closer to the lead pack.

“The last 5k was definitely a sufferfest, but it all ended up working out. I think I boinked at the perfect time and only had 10 minutes left to hobble through,” Fast says. He crossed the finish line in two hours, 36 minutes and 16 seconds for fifth place — a 10 minute negative split.

“I didn’t think I would be emotional about my first marathon, but I was so exhausted, my calves were cramping up and — right when I came across the finish line — I sat down on the curb and my eyes started tearing up and I had no idea like why I was like acting so emotional, but it definitely is like a very fulfilling feeling to finish a race of that magnitude,” he says.

Quincy Fast on a run in Waterton.
Quincy Fast on a run in Waterton.

Fast took a day off after the marathon, but was back to training and racing not long after. He travelled to Montana a week after the marathon to race a four-mile (6.5km) road race with former teammates and then returned to Waterton to hike and trail run. Over the Labour Day long weekend he set his sights on an ambitious feat: setting the FKT (Fastest Known Time) on Waterton’s three most iconic hikes: Akamina Ridge (18.2km), Carthew-Alderson (19.2km) and Crypt Lake (17.5km).

The total distance, by the time Fast ran from trailhead to trailhead — including wading through Waterton Lake to start Crypt Lake — was 61.7km with more than 2,800 metres of elevation gain. It took him 9 hours and 12 minutes.

Fast says he was careful to pace himself for the effort. “I knew if I boinked as hard as I did at 39k in the marathon, it would probably be a really dangerous situation,” he says. Still, by the end of the Crypt Lake run, he was “pretty fatigued … my head was kind of foggy and spacey and I wasn’t as strong with my footing as I was at the beginning because I was just so neuromuscularly fatigued.”

Fast is redshirting this year as he finishes his undergraduate degree in kinesiology and will be applying to start graduate school in Saskatchewan next fall, when he hopes to use his last year of USPORTS eligibility. He will use the coming months to work on his running form before returning to structured training with the Huskies and Coach Jaimie Epp in the spring. While he plans to stick to the 800m instead of targeting the 3,000m, which is the longest distance offered at the USPORTS level, Fast says the summer of endurance running has set him up to be a stronger athlete over any distance.

“I’m really happy that I challenged myself this summer because I don’t think I’ll ever be the runner I used to be,” he says. “It just showed me that my limits are way further than I thought.”