The 2023 Berlin Marathon is a significant moment for Tommie Runz. It marks his fourth World Majors Marathon and one of his first international ventures. What's truly remarkable is that Tommie only started running in 2018, at the age of 34. Now, he's aiming for a personal best under 2 hours and 45 minutes, showcasing his extraordinary rise in the running world.
To truly grasp Tommie’s story, let's rewind the clock to a pivotal moment in his life - January 11th, 2017, to be precise. The day after his final sip of alcohol, he unwittingly set foot on a path that would lead him uphill in more ways than one. From a young age, Tommie had grappled with the clutches of alcohol addiction. But on that fateful day, he made a decision that would alter the course of his life forever – he chose sobriety. Little did he realise that this singular choice would not only redefine his own life but also serve as the launching pad for a remarkable running career that would go on to inspire countless others.
Tommie recalls the turning point when he decided to embrace sobriety. “I knew I had been going in the wrong direction and it didn’t feel good physically or emotionally. I decided to make a 180 turn in my life.” To kickstart his journey, he attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, finding support and strength in their community and honesty. With each passing day of sobriety, the fog of addiction lifted, slowly revealing a clearer path ahead.
As his commitment to sobriety grew stronger, Tommie redirected his energy towards working out. He started going to the gym six to seven days a week, channelling the persistence that once fuelled his addiction into a newfound passion for fitness. This dedication set the stage for the transformation that was to come.
Around 13 months into his new journey, Tommie decided to try veganism. This decision coincided with an invitation to run the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in Chicago, coming from one of his work clients who believed in his physical capabilities. Despite not having significant running experience, he accepted the challenge, driven by the desire to raise funds for the organization "Move for Hunger.”
Though he encountered some injuries along the way, Tommie persevered, running the half marathon and experiencing a profound sense of accomplishment upon crossing the finish line. “I was proud when I crossed finish line. It was very different. It was a very big feeling of achievement.” This taste of success ignited his passion for running, setting him on a path towards more significant challenges.
In 2019, Tommie had a great time running a 25K trail race, and, spurred on by his sister's encouragement, set his sights on qualifying for the 2021 Boston Marathon. He wasted no time securing a coach, Melissa Johnson-White, and racing his first marathon within a few months, finishing in an impressive 3:13:30. Determined to qualify for Boston – he “only” needed to shave 10 minutes off his running time – he continued training relentlessly. Despite facing setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic and races grinding to a halt, Tommie maintained his focus and learnt to let go of that 2021 timeframe, instead focusing on 2022.
During the racing hiatus, Tommie kept busy. “In 2020, I started Chip Time Running, a small clothing company that printed the words RUN EAT SLEEP REPEAT across all its t-shirts and which inspired me to start the RUN EAT SLEEP show.” The podcast is dedicated to discussing those three staples – running, eating, and sleeping – and the keys to success for a runner.
As soon as Tommie could get back in the running saddle, he did. Finally in April 2021, at the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, he ran 2:48:43, qualifying him for the 2022 Boston Marathon. Fast forward to April 18, 2022, he achieved his dream, completing the Boston Marathon in an impressive 2:46:59 PR, marking a significant milestone in his running journey. “It was amazing. I had a really great time,” recalls Tommie.
Tommie's journey didn't end with the Boston Marathon. Despite a knee injury leading up to Boston in 2022, he bounced back and completed three marathons in a row over 60 days (Chicago, Boston, New York), all in under three hours, showcasing his remarkable resilience.
Tommie didn't stop at personal triumphs; he recognised the need for and importance of representation in the running world. He co-launched the PR Project YouTube show in 2022, soon to become a podcast and in-person show, aiming to inspire others by sharing his story. He emphasises the significance of sharing authentic narratives and struggles to help people realise they are not alone.
As a burgeoning influential figure in the running community, Tommie hopes to pave the way for more diverse, authentic voices. “I find myself in a position to increase representation in the space,” he says. He encourages brands to invest in meaningful representation beyond mere superficiality. His mission is to ensure that everyone, regardless of their background, feels connected and included in the running world. “Hopefully my presence inspires folks to try running or keep going if they’re already interested,” he explains.
Aside from creating fantastic content in the running sphere, Tommie also hopes to post more stories about his travels to other countries for races. “I really enjoy documenting and sharing my travels. I don’t just want to post about my race days, I want people to realise that if I can be welcomed anywhere, so can they. I’d love for my viewers to think ‘If he’s invited to run and travel internationally by brands, then I can definitely join that 5 km run just around the corner.’” Change can start just around the corner.
Tommie’s journey from addiction to athletic achievement is a testament to the power of resilience and determination. His story isn't just about running, it serves as an inspiration to those facing their own challenges, both in the running world and beyond. With a commitment to representation and authentic storytelling, he is not only a force to be reckoned with in the running community but also a catalyst for change and inclusivity. As he continues to pursue his goals and advocate for meaningful representation, the future of running looks brighter and more diverse than ever. Tommie proves that no matter where you start, you can redefine your finish line, inspire others, and change the world one stride at a time.