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In this episode, Jon and I speak with the author and founder of the National Black Marathoner’s Association Tony Reed.

Tony has had an amazing life. Born in St. Louis with what he calls a fast twitch body and a slow twitch mind, he’s dedicated himself to distance running and promoting the sport. He had a successful career as an IT executive while running over a hundred marathons, at least one marathon in each US state, as well as being the first African American to run a marathon on all seven continents. Tony is an advocate for small marathons, and has now created the Five Island Challenge, which encourages runners to complete races on five different Caribbean islands.

What stood out to me, however, was Tony’s approach to life and to getting himself and his employees out of their comfort zones. He makes a strong case that how you live your life outside of work affects how you do your work, and while I’d never heard it explained the way he does, I think he’s right.

This was a far-ranging discussion, from Martin Luther King Jr to Antarctic penguins to the mental aspect of being a good bowler. I think you’ll find, Tony has something to teach us about pretty much everything.


We talk with Tony about his journey as a runner who has 11 top 50 marathon finishes (and run 10 marathons with fewer than 50 participants)!

– Why Tony says he has fast twitch muscles but a slow twitch mind
– His joining the cross country team to avoid playing football and his quitting the cross country team to avoid getting arrested for running on the local golf course
– The connection between Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination and Tony getting into the African American museum in Washington DC for being the first black man to run marathons on all seven continents
– What stood out to Tony about his experience running in Antarctica and what we might not realize about penguins
– How his doing sports in high school controlled his weight and kept him from going on insulin, and the lifetime goal he set for himself while in college (and has maintained since then)
– Why Tony loved bowling and the 800 meters: the mental game, and how our fathers would try to use it against us

Lessons from a Lifetime Running
– Just as school courses have aspects in common that we can use to better understand them, running provides valuable lessons in other areas of life
– Why it is so important to move outside your comfort zone and pursue your bucket list items, and how that also changes the way you work
– Tony’s use of the question, “If you died, how many people in your staff would check on your spouse a year later?” to guide his priorities
– How an experience being afraid of not making it to the long jump pit taught him the role of fear in both holding us back and achieving big things
– How we have to dive into the things we don’t know and aren’t comfortable with to get to the level we need to achieve
– Why it is better to run smaller marathons than the large major ones

The National Black Marathoner’s Association
– How he was originally inspired to create the NBMA after his 47th marathon
– Their original goal to fund scholarships for black high school distance runners and to meet once a year at a marathon in the US
– How learning about Marilyn Bevins and Ted Corbitt made him realize how little everyone knew about black distance running history, which ultimately led to them creating the Black Distance Running Hall of Fame in 2013
– A story about the amazing small-world connections between Tony and Ron Gregory, an inductee into the Hall of Fame in 2017
– His project to create the Five Island Challenge series of marathons across the Caribbean islands
– And how for Tony, Go Be More means to take a risk and try opportunities you aren’t used to doing

If you liked this episode, check out our interviews with Alisa Harvey and Khadevis Robinson.

And, you can now get these show notes sent directly to your email. Sign up here!

Recorded July 31, 2020.


UCAN panel on Race, Representation and Running – YouTube

National Black Marathoner’s Association – homepage

Five-Island Challenge – homepage@fiveislandchallenge

Running Shoes are Cheaper than Insulin: Marathon Adventures on All Seven Continents by Tony Reed – Amazon

From the Rat Race to the Road Race: Essays from a Black Executive Marathoner by Tony Reed – Amazon


Tony Reed


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