David Freeze: Gotta Run

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 22, 2018

An amazing performance

It isn’t often that I see something in a local race that is simply amazing. It does happen on occasion, but I can’t remember the time that I saw a better performance than Tom McCormack’s win in the 21st Annual Greenway 5K last Saturday.

McCormack, of Jonesborough, Tennessee, blitzed a quality field rather easily with a time of 17 minutes and 57 seconds, a blistering 5:47 per mile pace, while outdistancing a top five that included a 15-year-old, two guys in their early 30s and one who just turned 51. McCormack is 64 years old. He had been to Salisbury before to run Winter Flight, but McCormack was especially impressive over the certified Bare Bones/ Greenway course. He was also an interesting interview.

I asked McCormack how he can still achieve at such a high level. He said, “I enjoy the competition and have been blessed with some natural talent. I do not consider myself old and at each race I go out to try to win the overall race. For me, age is just a number, until I look in the mirror and think “who is that old man looking back at me?” He has an ultra-healthy resting heart rate of 36 beats per minute.

McCormack has been running since he was 16 years old, a total of 48 years. He said, “One of my schoolmates started running some races in high school and he started winning. I realized I was as fast as he was so I started competing and had some success. All that I have today is because of my running. I am originally from Ireland and in 1973, I was offered a running scholarship to East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee. I arrived in Johnson City on September 19, 1973. I had been running 45 to 50 miles a week in Ireland and was very successful with that amount of training. Upon arrival at ETSU, that mileage went up to 120 a week. I ended up getting injured and was injured on and off during my four years in college. The one-size-fits-all that my coach used did not work for me. But having said that, I met my wife of 42 years and have had a successful professional career. I also became a US citizen and I am blessed to live in this great country.”

McCormack worked seven years as a policeman followed by 25 as a fireman.

McCormack was the 60-64 age group USATF Masters National 5K Road Racing Champion in 2014 and set a new age group USA record of 16:58 at Syracuse, NY on October 5th that year. On November 16, 2014, he won the USATF National Champion in the 60-64 age group for the 12K road racing championship, held in Alexandria, Va. He ran a new U.S. age group record for the distance with a time of 42:55.

Over the years, McCormack developed a training plan that works for him. He said, “I run six days a week and always take Fridays off and Saturday is normally a race day. If not, I try to get 5 miles in at a pace of 6:20-6:30 per mile.” McCormack has devised a training plan that works for him with the one day off, a race on Saturday and just over 30 total miles per week, all of it quality running with specific time goals.

I asked about his upcoming running and racing plans. McCormack said, “I turn 65 on September 1st of this year and would like to win some national age group championships. But my main goal is to be able to continue to run as long as I can, even if I don’t compete any more. “

McCormack is proud of his family. “My wife is Teresa Gill McCormack. We have been happily married for 42 years and she is the love of my life. We have two sons, Neil and his wife Grace, who live in Toluca Lake, California and Brian and his wife Emily, who reside in Nashville, Tennessee.” Teresa also ran the 5K.

Not only is McCormack a very successful runner, but he has the proper perspective on what it takes to put on a great event. We talked after the race about all the work that goes into the many details of planning and succeeding with a quality race. McCormack said, “Most runners have no idea what it takes to do this. This race is done the way they all should be.”

I invited both McCormacks back to Salisbury soon. Their presence made a quality event even better.
Next race up on the local calendar is the 2Day 5K in downtown China Grove, starting at 11:59 p.m. on July 27. Carson and South Rowan High School athletic programs benefit from this unique event.

Other events can be found at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org