Recently I had the privilege of presenting awards at the Mayor’s Conference hosted by the Georgia Municipal Association. The awards ceremony occurred over lunch and while I was sitting at my table greeting everybody the gentlemen to my right, Tommy Smallwood from Wilkinson County Georgia, was telling me about his bad habits with running, or stated differently how much he loves running. Wilkinson is a small county south of Atlanta near Macon Georgia with a population of roughly 9500 where Kaolin mining and processing is the principal industry. The valuable white clay is used in many manufacturing products including paper, paint, rubber, make-up and medicines. Nonetheless, its ironic how I meet runners everywhere I go or is it because there are so many of us, there are 40 Million runners in the US, according to runners world.
So I was excited to meet Tommy who is a Council Member from Southern Georgia that loves running so of course I had to hear more about his accomplishments. He’s been a council member for 20 years and running even longer, so I settled into lunch and got to know Tommy.
I asked Tommy why he started running, Tommy replied “I started running because I was very competitive, in fact I use to race motorcycles but I couldn’t get sponsored so I started to run instead.
Tommy went on to tell me that he has completed 9 Marathons – St George – UTAH being the most enjoyable and he came close to qualifying for Boston, within 4 Minutes. He went on to share with me his accomplishments:
Savannah, Ga. 1/10/1981 – Time 3:57:57
Macon, GA. 1/6/1990 – Time: 3:50:54
Pensacola, Fla. 2/24/1990 – Time: 3:35:32
Jacksonville, Fla. 1/5/1991 – Time: 3:52:18
Savannah, Ga. 2/6/1993 – Time: 4:06:52
Nashville, Tenn. 3/18/95 – Time: 4:04:09
St. George, Utah, 10/7/1995 – Time: 3:34:58
Kiawah, Island South Carolina 12/14/1996 – 3:54:57
So I asked Tommy what inspired him to run, Tommy replied, “I love to be outdoors and exercise, no matter if the weather is 30 or 115 degrees, to stay in shape so I can run road races or run with my Grand Kids and friends. The best reason is it gives me the time to Pray and talk to my GOD, my Savior, and my best FRIEND in the world! It also makes me more relaxed and so THANKFUL for all of life.”
Tommy went on to tell me, “I was 38 years old when I started running on April 2nd, 1977. I ran 1 mile for my first recorded run in a time of 8:33. My last recorded run time and distance was 3.1 miles in a time of 29:53 in March 2014 and I ran it in the Cherry Blossom Road Race and got second place in my age group.” Replied Tommy.
I went on to ask Tommy about the logging of his miles, Tommy replied ‘In November of 1978 I recorded my most miles in a month with 307, along with that year’s total being 2,535 miles which was my most in a year’s period.’
Tommy told me his last road race was 1996 and he kept a journal of his running activities since 1977, wow that is true dedication.
Thank you Tommy for sharing your story and it was truly an honor to get to meet you and your wife at the Mayors Conference, may you both continue to thrive and inspire others. I hope to see you at the annual GMA Convention in Savannah in June!
Whether you are 40 or 80 years old it’s never too late to start running or walking, for many it’s a way to explore the outdoors, meet new friends or spend quality time with family members – why do you run? Share with us your story..