Q&A with Ultra Runner Tom Hurd

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Tom Hurd hated running. A little undersized to play other sports, he used cross country as a way to chase a varsity letter in high school. Hurd describes it as “pretty miserable.” Even after joining the military he only ran when he had to and calls his younger self a “functioning fat guy.”

The El Salvador native, now a Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army, plants everything firmly on the foundation of running. He runs a successful race series in his hometown of Southern Pines, NC and has shared his devotion to the sport with his family and fellow soldiers.

Hurd’s route to running may not have been typical, but that just seems to make his devotion to it that much stronger. (You can also read Tom's full profile here).

You hated running growing up, how did you get into it as an adult?
It was while I was deployed in Iraq back in 2008. A friend in the navy asked me to help her train for a half marathon. I ran the half (in Iraq) and wasn’t too sore. I figured I could run a full so I signed up for the NYC marathon.

What’s your favorite training trail?
The All American Trail. It’s on the outer border of Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne. Their nickname is the “All Americans.” It’s a tough 22 mile trail. It’s got hills, sand, hard pack; a mix of everything. There’s a gas station at the 10 mile point so there’s opportunity for aid.

When do you typically run?
That’s the great part about being in the Army. You get, really, as much time as you want in the morning to dedicate to physical fitness.

You founded SPUltrarun , an ultra-running group in Southern Pines. Why do you think group runs are important?
Running used to be something very personal for me. You get to that uncomfortable state (in a race) and see how far you can go. Now it’s about community first. We (at SPUltrarun) welcome everyone to the group. No matter how far they run. It helps to be held accountable. If you’ve got some buddies waiting on you, its gonna make you go,”

You’re a father to 4 children, ages 12, 10, 9 and 2. You have a demanding job and you direct a run club and nine races that sell out each year. How do you make it all fit?
Fortunately I have a very supportive wife. She’s very active in the run club. She created our website, does the marketing, and did the T-shirt designs. My kids volunteer at the races. They work at the aid stations or check in runners. As my daughter says “It’s a family business.”

Are your kids into running?
All the kids are into running. My 10 year old has run 2 half marathons. Even the 2 year old. We take him to the trail and he knows exactly what time it is when we get there.

Why do you think running plays such an important role in your life?
To be a soldier, it’s all about what you endure. Do you have the endurance to sustain the fight. At work I’m in charge of a group of 30 guys. Running is the foundation of everything they do in the Army. If you want to be healthy there’s only one way. The secret to living a long life is building a strong heart, you can do that through running.

What do you like to do after a long run?
Without a doubt, I like to have a beer. In Southern Pines I like the Growler Station and Triangle Wine Company. I also like to hit a local diner to have breakfast food for dinner.

Do you have a favorite place to gear up?
Great Outdoor Provision in Raleigh. Hands down they’re exactly what I’m looking for.

What’s on your running bucket list?
I spent a week in Colorado and fell in love with it. I was lost in the scenery. So Leadville is the big one.

Since that first half in Iraq you’ve run several marathons an eight 50 milers. What’s your motivation to gut out a tough race?
Initially I was inspired by professional runners. Those guys go out and run, like, 300 miles. And I’m feeling sorry for myself when I’m running 35 miles? That thought would push me through. Now, more than anything, it’s my family. I really want to be a good role model for them. On the course I think “would I give up on them?” I wouldn’t. I’ve thought about that a lot.


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