On Running into Himself
That revelation came to redefine Tommy’s understanding of suffering, both in life and in endurance athletics, as a training ground for hardship. For him, suffering during the run is an opportunity to feel out the shape of himself, to test the scope of his limits, and apply that knowledge of malleable, surpassable boundaries to aspects of his life outside of training and competition. That includes aspects like lymphoma – or simply learning to perform basic motions again.
In the course of a year after being declared cancer-free, Tommy went from relearning how to swallow, use his hands, and walk to completing the New York City Marathon. He may have finished north of 4x his PR, but he finished.
It was a reminder that, though he wasn’t invulnerable, he was in charge of making decisions in whatever circumstances he found himself. “Humans are incredible,” he wrote on Instagram following the race. “We are truly good, and powerful, and strong. At least we are always capable of those things. Every day and every moment the positive aspects of our universal humanity are within our reach. Individually and collectively, there is always goodness and greatness within our potential.”
For Tommy, the key is simply recognizing and exercising the choices available to you within the scope of that potential. Lymphoma and its aftermath? Out of his hands. Dedication, attitude, rising pre-dawn and getting out on the road? Absolutely in his hands. And through those controllable factors, he confirms his own capabilities. “If you are moving,” he recently told the New York Times, “you are still alive.”