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Member Spotlight


Tom Ryan

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself.


A: I was born in Auburn, NY in 1955 and moved to Binghamton when I was entering 5th grade. I attended Chenango Valley High School, Broome Community College and SUNY Binghamton. I worked for NYSEG and its parent companies for 40 years. Part of this career, 2002 to 2012, was spent in Portland, Maine where I became friends with, trained with and competed with some of the most talented master’s runners in New England and the United States. Since my retirement in 2015, I’ve developed the Empire Road Race Series and currently serve as its director. I am also the race director for the Saint Patrick’s Day 4-Miler and the ERRS 10K and Harper’s 2-person relay. I am married and have four children.


Q: How long have you been running and how did you get started?

A: I began my running career in 8th grade. As a non-starting member of the Chenango Valley JV soccer team, I was encouraged to join the Cross-Country team. I was the #1 runner on the team during my HS career and qualified for states each year. At BCC I ran in my senior year and qualified for nationals which were held in Eugene, OR. In my late-20’s I lived in Elmira, NY, trained with Molly Huddle’s dad Bob. I was a fast 5k runner, 15:15 [PR] and he encouraged me to train for my first marathon with the goal of qualifying for The Boston Marathon. I made my first attempt to qualify at the inaugural Wineglass Marathon. I trained with Bob for an entire year, but failed in my attempt to qualify. I quit running after that.
Fast forward to 2001. In the spring of 2001, my daughter Katie was a junior at Boston College on a running scholarship. I decided I would attempt to qualify for Boston to show her how much I appreciated her accomplishments of getting her college scholarship. After many years of not running, I took my first run in March of 2001 and found that I could not even run a mile without stopping. By September I was running well, and I did manage to qualify for Boston at the Steamtown Marathon. I ran The Boston Marathon in 2002 then shortly after moved to Portland, ME. Once there, I almost immediately got connected to the master’s running community.


Q: Would you rather run with a group or alone? Trails or road?

A: Because I just love to run, it doesn’t matter to me. I enjoy running alone, or with my wife, or running with different running groups that have formed over time within our running community. For many years I loved roads, track or trails. Due to a knee injury in 2017 during a cross country race, I have since eliminated trails from the list.


Q: What is your favorite distance or race? Any pre-race rituals?

A: I think of myself as a 5k specialist. I have won the USATF National Championship at this distance in all categories: Track, Road and Cross Country. I do not have a favorite race. I find it hard to pick between Boston, NYC Marathon, Beach to Beacon, Chris Thater or Saint Pat’s because they are all great races! When I was competitive, my pre-race ritual for a 5k was to drink a cup of dark roast coffee and eat half of a plain bagel with honey for breakfast. I would get to the race at least an hour prior to the event so that I could concentrate on my race plan. My race plan took into consideration the weather conditions, wind direction, competitors, and mile splits based on my fitness level. I would do a 2-3 mile run to warm up usually 30 minutes before the race. With less than 10 minutes before the start time, I would put on my racing flats and singlet. I’d head to the start line, say hello to friends and do a series of strides.


Q: What's the most rewarding thing about running and how do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?

A: For me, running keeps me fit, allows me to eat just about anything I want, keeps my stress level under control and provides me the opportunity to run with those I enjoy being around. I am a goal driven runner. When I was a serious competitor, my goals were all I needed to get me out the door to train regardless of the time of year or weather outside. Now that I do not train competitively, I am not as motivated to “get out the door” as much. However, I thank my wife for helping me stay motivated to run with her.


Q: What is your favorite running memory and any goals for the future?

A: This is an easy one! When I qualified for the 2002 Boston Marathon, my plan was to run it with friends and when we were to pass by Boston College where my daughter Katie was in her final year, I was going to stop to give her a hug and a kiss and say THANK YOU! That isn’t what happened. I started the race with five friends. As the miles passes, one by one, they dropped back except one friend. When we got to the 19 mile mark my daughter unexpectedly jumped into the race and asked if she could run with us to the finish line. My friend suggested that Kate and I run ahead and enjoy to rest of the race together, so we did. I was feeling good so I said to Kate, let’s pass 1,000 runners before we hit the finish line. She said, “are you kidding me”? I wasn’t - so off we went, over Heartbreak Hill, past BC where all of her xc teammates and coaches were out cheering on runners, through Cleveland Circle and Fenway – passing runners all along the way! When we finished, she said, “Dad, that was the best 7 mile run I have ever been on in my entire life”!! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Oh, and we put 1,792 runners between us and my friend we left at the 19-mile mark. My competitive days are behind me so my focus now is the stay healthy and run for its social benefits. As the director of the ERRS I plan to run in all races of the series every year. In 2020, there will be 10 races in the series, a very exciting line-up awaits.


Q: Who inspires you most?

A: My wife inspires me the most to keep running.


Q: What advice do you have for new runners?


A: Wow – where do I begin?

Let’s start with gear. Running shoes are very important. They must “fit” the runner’s needs including structure and purpose. Running shoes are made to be worn for running. After your run, put them away until your next run. Shoes should be replaced every 200-300 miles. Purchase gear which will protect you from harsh weather so that you can run if you want to brave the elements. This is consistent with the adage, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.”

I have seen so many new runners and sometimes not so new runners, want to make significant improvements in their running performance too quickly. I would advise new runners to be patient if they aspire to improve their running performance.

If they do want to make improvements, I would suggest that they work with someone, a coach, to develop a training plan which includes the right balance of training effort, miles and REST. It is very exciting to make improvements in performance. However, experiencing an injury caused by doing too much too soon, takes a toll on a runner’s motivation. Stringing together a couple years of injury free running leads to significant improvements in performance.

One of the hardest things for a runner to do is to put on your running shoes. When you don’t feel like running but you know you should, force yourself to put on those running shoes and head out the door.

My final advice to a new runner is to find someone to run with. This connection will cause you to feel inspired to run and accountable to someone else.


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