One of Tony Reed’s first experiences with marathons came in an ice storm in 1979. He was a student at Texas Christian University and could not understand why so many runners would be out in such terrible weather. He soon realized that they were participating in the Cowtown Marathon, and, three years later, Reed became a marathon finisher for the first time at the 1982 Cowtown Marathon.
“I decided after that I would run Cowtown each February, and then I started running White Rock each year as well. This meant that I was training consistently through the fall and the holidays, which worked well since that’s when it’s easy to gain weight,” says Reed, who is a Dallas-area runner and member of the Dallas Marathon Board of Directors.
Fast forward thirty years and today Reed is a finisher of more than 100 marathons, including becoming the first black runner to finish a marathon on each of the seven continents. He is also the executive director of the National Black Marathoners Association, which will be gathering at this year’s Dallas Marathon.
Reed’s running adventure started at a young age when he was diagnosed with a pre-diabetic condition as a child and told that he would be on insulin by the time he was a teenager. Mandatory participation in sports and physical education classes during high school helped him keep his weight under control and personal experiences with acquaintances who died of complications from diabetes encouraged him to take his own health seriously.
“I’m 57 years old, and I’m still not on insulin,” Reed says. “In 1974, I set a goal of averaging three miles each day. Then I started realizing I was spending as much time getting ready to run and showering afterwards than I was actually running! So I decided to run every other day and run six miles.”
Once he started running six miles, Reed began to entertain the idea of training for a marathon. But he didn’t start out planning to run across the globe. His first goals kept him a little closer to home.
“I decided to run fifty marathons in one state. I was economically-challenged at the time and it was hard to rationalize traveling to run marathons.”
In 2005, as a little less economically-challenged almost fifty year old, he set a goal of running one marathon—each in a different state or country—each month leading up to his fiftieth birthday. In order to wrap up this goal on his actual birth date, he had to choose from races in Colorado or Australia. He traveled to Australia and during the trip decided to attempt to run a marathon on each of the seven continents.
“Australia was my second international marathon. My first was during a business trip in Europe. I ran the Tailwinds Marathon in Denmark, got lost during the race and came in dead last!”
He completed the seven continents in 2007 at the Lewa SafriCom Marathon in Kenya. Reed, an information technology (IT) executive, has applied the the lessons learned from training for and running marathons can apply to a lot of situations in everyday life. Today Reed travels and speaks to professional groups about implementing these skills into the workplace.
“One of the major problems today in IT is change management—getting people out of their comfort zone. In order to finish marathons, you have to get out of your comfort zone and learn to deal with uncontrollable factors.”
During his travels, Reed also speaks to elementary school students about running. As someone who benefited from school-based fitness programs, he feels that there is a correlation between the lack of physical education and an increase in childhood obesity. However, he feels that there are other beliefs and attitudes to blame.
“Kids seem to think that you can either be a good athlete or a good student, but you can’t be both. I try to show them that you can be both and that there’s nothing wrong with doing both. I tell them that a strong body results in a strong mind.”
Reed has kept an active running log since 1978 and by the end of December 2011, he had logged 36,000 miles. He says that despite being what some may consider a “larger” runner who weighs more than 200 pounds, he has been very fortunate and has had no injury issues or knee problems. Having conquered all the continents, Reed is now well on his way to completing a marathon in each of the fifty states and hopes his experiences will encourage other black runners to get involved with long distance running.
“We have a lack of black role models who are distance runners. We want to let people know that long distance running can be a lifestyle. Let them know that there are more sports than football and basketball that they can do into their 60s and 70s,” says Reed. “I believe a “running boom” will happen and more black runners will be finishing marathons. But that will only occur if we have more black marathon role models.”
For more information on Reed, including his books “Running to Leadership: What Finishing 100+ Marathons on All Seven Continents Teaches Us About Success” and “Running Shoes Are Cheaper Than Insulin: Marathon Adventures On All Seven Continents,” and his speaking engagement calendar, visit www.reed-cpa.com.
More information on the National Black Marathoners Association is at www.blackmarathoners.org, or at their Facebook page.