The Running Man
What does it take to become a long-distance runner? Dedication. But, for 59 year-old Edmond resident, Tom Parrott, that word is an understatement.
It's dark outside. And while most of us are still sleeping soundly or sipping that first cup of eye-opening coffee, Parrott laces up his running shoes and begins his "before sun-up" daily morning routine–a seven to nine mile outdoor sprint with a 50 mile per week average. All before heading off to work as an oil and gas landman. In the past, he's run a whopping twelve miles per day, over 80 miles per week.
Come rain, snow, sleet or the unforgiving Oklahoma wind, Parrott hits the pavement almost no matter what the weather.
Although Parrott joked that he may have an addictive behavior, he commented that adopting an active lifestyle and finding solace are the keys to his serious commitment and drive to run.
"The main motivation is fitness and health," explains Parrott. "It's an opportunity to be out alone and have peace of mind and do a lot of thinking and planning your day."
Parrott started running in his mid twenties, when he was an active Physical Education teacher and coach. He explained that he and a fellow coach and friend realized they needed to continue their conditioning to demonstrate some of their coaching and P.E. activities. Simply stated, they needed to practice what they taught. From there it turned into a lifestyle for Parrott.
"Myself and another coach started one summer with a daily one mile run and short swim and it progressed and I never stopped," said Parrott.
During his early running years, in the late 70s, Parrott was one of the founders of the Edmond Running Club where he served as president. According to Parrott, the club was defunct for many years and was revitalized and began functioning again a few years ago.
Throughout his lifetime, Parrott has run an impressive 87,000 miles. He's run in many marathons across the country where he has often placed in the top 200. When you consider that according to www.geography.about.com, the circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,901.55 miles, Parrott has run approximately three and one-half times around the earth! If you walked a steady speed of 5 kilometers per hour non-stop day and night, it would take you an entire year to walk around the equator.
When asked how many pairs of running shoes Parrott goes through a year, he said, "If you asked my wife, she'd say far too many." Parrott goes through five to eight pairs per year which he usually ends up donating as they still have a lot of general wear left in them. He can get about 400 to 600 miles out of each pair.
Parrott likes a lightweight flexible trainer, generally Nike. Like any runner, he buys shoes that give him a proper fit, flexibility and his number one requirement–comfort. "I guess you learn all those things after years of running. You become picky and sophisticated."
After all those miles he's clocked running, Parrott has had his share of injuries and surgeries. Stress fractures. A muscle avulsion. Three arthroscopic knee surgeries. Two of the surgeries were minor and one was for a cartilage tear. But, he takes all these temporary setbacks in stride.
"They haven't slowed me down or changed my attitude. The injuries could have been there from lifestyle in general. I see people suffering from the same ailment who haven't run yet."
As well as injuries, Parrott has incurred another challenge. Dogs. Parrott says he's been chased by big dogs from mixed-breeds to a Doberman Pincher even though he says there are few stray dogs in Edmond. You'd think a huge dog would be a likely attacker. But for Parrott, it was an unlikely canine that went into attack mode and bit him. "The dog that bit me was a Chihuahua. A battle scar you don't brag about," he says with a chuckle.
As any sport, running requires a lot of energy from food sources. Parrott has no magical nutritional formula. To him everything in moderation is good. "In the early years it was M & Ms and nachos. Every now and then, he cycles in and out of the food he craves. "I'm fortunate my wife is a very good cook. She makes fish and rice. Salads. It's not so much what we eat; it's that we don't overeat. I'm always grazing. Sometimes, I snack on jelly beans and animal cookies and pop for more energy," says Parrott.
Along with running in Oklahoma, Parrott's routes have included places as far away as the beaches of Costa Rica. Stateside runs have taken him to cities such as Boston and even Chicago where he ran under the subways. His favorite runs are in the mountains of Colorado where the altitude helps him run longer and stay energized.
For Parrott, running is a way of life. "When I don't run, I definitely miss it. I think there is an award every day to be outside and be in touch with nature. You're pushing yourself to the limits. Some people don't have that motivation."
If you are interested in running but not sure where to start, Parrott says not to be intimidated. Start slowly and to set basic attainable goals. He also suggests running or walking a minimum of four times per week for optimum health.
For more information, questions or coaching, you can reach Parrott by e-mail at Parrott28@sbcglobal.net.