This is a conversation filled with wisdom and persistence. Tony Reed takes us back to how his childhood commitment to three miles a day (running, walking or crawling) as a way to beat his pre-diabetes prognosis ignited within him a life-long love of the sport. Tony embodies the growth we can achieve if we have the courage to pursue our dreams and challenge ourselves along the way. He shares his story of being a runner parent and his experiences in the corporate world. Tony is someone with incredible wisdom about what it takes to work hard toward something you believe in, even it’s the least traveled path.
Tony was the first Black runner in the world to finish marathons on all of the continents, including Antarctica. He is one of fifty people worldwide who completed the marathon “hat trick” which consists of finishing (1) at least 100 marathons, (2)a marathon on all seven continents, and (3) a marathon in each of the fifty states. He is also the co-founder and executive director of the National Black Marathoners Association.
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In this episode we cover…
- Running marathons was secondary to Tony. He started running and walking three miles a day after learning he was pre-diabetic and that exercise might help. He’s kept his commitment to three miles a day throughout his life.[29:15]
- Tony has run 131 marathons. He shares that it’s easy for people’s initial reaction to be awe, but he reminds us that it took him 40 years. We so often look at the snapshot but we don’t look at either what goes on behind behind the scenes or how long it took. [07:20]
- Tony’s mother introduced him and his brother to collecting postage stamps, which sparked a love of travel. “Our mission was to see the world, it was to get out of the project, was to get out of the ghetto and literally to travel to see the entire world.” [29:30]
- Music is part of Tony’s running. He picks a theme song for every marathon and has songs associated with all the marathons. “At the Hartford, Connecticut Marathon we had 5.5 inches of rain during the race. I found myself singing the lyrics to Parliament’s Aqua Boogie funk song… And so he talks about dancing underwater without getting wet. And I visualized myself running this marathon and the raindrops were partying.”[14:23]
- Tony says there’s something in his mind about not wanting to run the perfect race. During the Dallas White Rock Marathon he had a mile and a half left when he realized he hadn’t stopped to walk during the entire race. So, he stopped and walked 25 yards, then he picked it back up. [16:55]
- When Tony started running marathons, the internet wasn’t around so there were few ways of finding out how to run a marathon. During his quest for information, he discovered Ted Corbitt and his accomplishments. After learning that Corbitt was Black, Tony decided to find a way to recognize the accomplishments of Black distance runners and co-founded the National Black Distance Running Fall of Fame in 2013. Marilyn Bevans and Ted Cobitt were the first to be inducted. (Bevans was recently interviewed an episode of Running Realized) [21:40]
- Ted Corbitt is actually the person who came up with the concept of the five borough race in New York City. He was also one of the first presidents of the New York Road Runners Club, as well as other e Road Runners Club of America. He was the first Black runner on the Olympic marathon team in 1952, and was an ultra runner. He is the person whom they generally call the father of distance running in the U. S. [21:40]
- National Black Marathoners Association is working to improve distance running for Blacks throughout the country including scholarships and mentoring. Anther project is getting Ted Corbitt on a national stamp. You can join in supporting this initiative here. [59:50]
- Tony shares that he hopes the pandemic is giving people an opportunity to reflect on why they run. Are they running for the medals? Are are they running for their health? Are they running to relieve stress?
- “I like to say one of the things that running taught me was to go through to a self analysis to look at my weak points. So again looking at what is a real or perceived weakness and then doing something to prove that this is indeed a strength.”
Resources + People Mentioned
Learn more about Tony
Ted Corbitt Black Heritage US Postage Stamp Project
National Black Marathoners Association
Marilyn Bevans interview on Running Realized
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Thank you to Tony, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.