Tom Black has made it his life’s work to help people find the motivation to cross the marathon finish line. We spoke to the ultramarathoner and run coach about what it takes to keep pushing forward when your brain fights back.
Why do you run?
Running is not just a form of active meditation, but also a liberating and expressive experience for me. When I run, I feel like myself. I can express my individuality through what I wear, what I listen to, where I go and what I think about. Whether I'm running through a busy city or a peaceful trail, I feel a sense of empowerment that allows me to push my limits and achieve anything I want. Running has taught me that I am capable of so much more than I ever imagined, and it's a feeling that I carry with me in all aspects of my life.
What did your first marathon feel like?
It's hard to describe, but it was a feeling that's tough to replicate. When I was younger, I always gave everything I had in whatever I did, and that's how I approached running. Whatever I put into it, I got out of it, and crossing the finish line of my first marathon was a realization that all my hard work and dedication had paid off. It was an amazing feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that reminded me that with determination and effort, anything is possible.
Do you have a self care routine? What does it consist of?
Ever since I can remember I have been prioritizing taking care of myself by making sure I exercise daily, being conscious of what I eat and also using products that are not harmful to my body or the environment.
It's great to have a support system when setting your sight on a big goal like a marathon. How has your support system impacted your running journey?
Having a support system has been incredibly important for my journey into this sport. Running can be a very selfish pursuit, but I think because of the way it's impacted my life and others around me, those in my circle have given me a lot of positive reinforcement to keep following the dream!
Many people dream of running a marathon, but they're often intimidated by the distance and the commitment required to train for it. What advice would you give to someone who is considering taking on something like a marathon?
My advice would be to start small and build up gradually. Running a marathon is a big challenge, but it's one that's achievable with the right mindset and training. So, begin by setting small goals for yourself, like running a 5k or a 10k, and gradually increase your distance and intensity over time.
Another important factor is to what I like to call "run your own race," we all have different athletic backgrounds, advantages and disadvantages, so you have to unlock that motivating factor internally and do your own version of whatever it is your training for. Find a training strategy that works for you physically and mentally. I spend a lot of my time helping others do this exact thing, figuring out what works for them and finding ways to "enjoy the process."
Running a marathon is not just about crossing the finish line; it's really about the journey that gets you there. Embrace the ups and downs, celebrate your small wins, and remember to have fun along the way.
But more than that, bringing people into your life has shown me the power of vulnerability and that opening up to others can be really beneficial. I used to keep a lot to myself, and still do by trying to be self-sufficient or figuring it out on my own but that could be stressful and at the end of the day people closest to me really want to help. We are all human and all go through highs and lows and for me, and my running, it's really important to stay balanced and my support system helps me with that process.