CNN’s Tom Foreman on Running Dangerously and Setting Outlandish Goals

Earlier this week, we talked about the value of the pursuit of running goals. Like they say, the journey matters more than the destination.

Amit captured this idea in the comments:

I just like achieving near impossible goals in life… slowly grinding them down, piece by piece.

Tackling those big goals (not necessary achieving them) is what’s so deeply satisfying about being a runner. Discovering the depths of your resolve, tenacity and courage reveal your inner character.

Any runner who’s been at it for years understands that running makes you a better person. The lessons learned from chasing goals helps you in every area of life.

Since this week has morphed into “goals week” here on Strength Running, I’m thrilled to share Tom Foreman’s story.

Tom Foreman Running Dangerously

You might know Tom – he’s an emmy-award winning broadcast journalist for CNN who’s been reporting for more than three decades.

He’s worked in war zones and ground zero at many natural disasters. He’s interviewed serial killers and traveled through more than 20 countries covering economic meltdowns and civil wars.

But what you may not know is that Tom is one hell of a runner. In just the last few years, he has…

  • returned to running after a 20+ year absence
  • run a comeback marathon – and then another, and many more races
  • completed numerous ultramarathons

All while being one of the most recognized faces on CNN and raising two daughters.

His new book, My Year of Running Dangerouslytells the story of how an innocent question from his daughter rekindled his love affair with distance running. She asked him:

How would you feel about running a marathon with me?

The answer, of course, was yes!

“Whether something is unpleasant or uncomfortable has no bearing on whether it should be done”

Recently I sat down with Tom to talk about this journey. The questions we discussed were far reaching:

How is it possible to train for endurance events like ultramarathons while raising a family, working a demanding job, and writing a book?

What role did Tom’s family play in the pursuit of his goals?

More importantly, what did Tom learn from diving headfirst into running after the age of 50?

Maybe it’s the fact that Tom has a degree in theater, but I found this to be one of the most interesting and enjoyable interviews I’ve ever recorded – and I’m thrilled to share it with you.

Click the button below to play it directly from your browser – or right click here to save it to your computer or playlist.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

As you’ll notice in the book, Tom has a way of capturing the thoughts, dreams, fears, and hopes of runners.

Before we spoke, I tore through his book in less than two hours and wrote down many quotes that captured what it’s like being a runner.

Here are a few of my favorites:

“Whether something is unpleasant or uncomfortable has no bearing on whether it should be done. The decision and commitment must be made… with recognition that sometimes good things require bad days.”

“What happens with today’s run doesn’t matter if it makes you unable or unwilling to run tomorrow.”

“Doubt is a constant companion of long-distance runners. We’re always wondering if we are training too hard or too soft. If we are running too many hills or not enough.

We worry about finishing too slowly, and we fret about whether we will finish at all.”

My Year of Running Dangerously is an interesting account of one busy man’s return to running and how that journey has shaped who he is as a man. I highly recommend it for the running geeks out there.

Win a Free Copy of My Year of Running Dangerously

Tom’s publisher has agreed to ship a copy of his new book to a lucky member of the Strength Running team.

So if you’d like to enter this mini-giveaway, leave a comment on this article answering this question:

What has running taught you about life?

Open-ended questions are the best 🙂

I’ll randomly choose a winner over the weekend so be sure to leave your reply by Friday night.

And please, head on over to Twitter and thank Tom for doing the interview. I know he’d appreciate it!

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Comments

  1. Shawn Burke says:

    Patience…

  2. It’s all about the journey…

  3. Nichole Lehmann says:

    Running has taught me it’s okay to take time for myself and only myself. As a working mom of three busy girls there was guilt for leaving for hours at a time. I have learned we both can enjoy our time away without guilt. Running makes me a better more patient mom!

  4. I am capable of much more than I originally thought I could do.

  5. Kat Roeser says:

    I’m 54 years old and have only been running a few years. It has become sooooo important to me! The biggest thing I think running has taught me is that life is mostly about mental attitude. I can do anything if I set my mind to and believe in myself!

  6. Running has taught me about confidence and overcoming adversity. More than anything, it has taught me a respect and true appreciation for nature and the therapeutic value of being outdoors. It has given me a more optimistic outlook on life and it gives me an escape from my worries and fears.

  7. Barb Crowley says:

    To me running reinforces what life is all about – on any run, you can experience joy and happiness, or pain and despair, you can at times feel loneliness or be surrounded by tons of people. You can feel weak and inept or strong and powerful. And what you gain from running, is the ability to handle it all.

  8. Patience and discipline. Running rewards consistency over time! As does life.

  9. Robert Wood says:

    Running has taught me to become a better person overall as it has brought out the best in me through the years. If you are always striving to become a better runner or person you will need to put forth all of the hard work and effort to get you there!

  10. Getting back into running was a trip… Just because I have always been told I have a naturally “athletic” build doesn’t mean I was a natural runner! I had to overcome some overuse issues like ITBS due to me ramping up very quickly and now I’m settling into a very healthy rhythm thanks to patience, strengthening, and listening to my body.

  11. Running has taught me that anything is possible. I grew up watching my dad as a runner for many many years. Eventually he moved away from running due to work and family obligations, but I saw his mood change and his stress rise. Over the years he has returned to running, as well as hiking (an AT thru hiker) and long distance cycling. I would love to win this book as a gift to him. We have run half marathons together and I look forward to many more adventures with my dad. After seeing my dad as a runner, I joined the high school cross country team as the only girl–and a slow one, at that. I, too, stepped away from running, only to fall deep in depression. Running rescued me from that in 2005 and I haven’t looked back. I have now completed 2 stand-alone marathons, many half marathons, a 5oK and 2 Full Ironman races. I am learning to redefine my possibilities and share that with my husband and children as we strive for a healthy, active lifestyle!

  12. Running has taught me to never give up when faced with difficult obstacles. I’m a 31 yr old father of 3 and fitting running into my life has been hard recently. I changed my routine to run late at night so that I could free up the morning for my family. The fire will always burn and the passion for the sport lives on for me until I die, no matter how slow I become or how often I run.

  13. Here goes.
    Running has taught me that, if we are lucky, life is an ultra marathon.
    Hard work, set backs, perseverence, and the eventual joys they bring, prepare us for running our best ulta.
    What a great example we can be for our children.

  14. You never know when you will be thrown a curve ball so live life to the fullest. There are no bad days especially when you can run or cycle.

  15. Jim Allen says:

    As Tom said, “sometimes good things require bad days.” I have learned, through injuries and misfortune–most recently a broken clavicle–that if something is worthwhile, there will be “bad days,” but they are part of what makes the goal important.

  16. Laurie Haibach says:

    “What has running taught me about life?” In going through a pretty rough period for the last two years (and it’s not over yet), ultra running has saved me. When trail running for 25-35 miles, a runner must really pay attention to every step, or do a face-plant. I hate face-plants. I truly watch every step, and I listen to my body so I can keep making adjustments, the entire time. This leaves no brain-space to worry about my life troubles. Step, hop, go faster, left right slow down, breathing too fast, not pushing hard enough, whoa – low branch, why did they plan a trail over these rocks, oh these pine needles are so soft underfoot, what a gorgeous sky today, jump!, that creek is cold but felt so good, faster, time for a walk break, so glad I did all that hill-work in training, left right jump, damned side-stitch – gotta squeeze it out, flat rocks are slippery in the morning, face-plant – so embarrassing! Regular life takes a back seat! It just has to sometimes. I will get back to it after the race – it’s there waiting for me. And I will be ready.
    Some folks solve life’s problems when running. I can only take a break from them. But that can be 10-12 hours without those thoughts crowding me, rushing my mind along at such a break-neck pace. A break from the confusion, worry, fear, anger. doubts, and mental exhaustion. But I tell ya, I LOVE the physical exhaustion – I know I’ve done a great job for mind and body when I am done with the race. Smiling and crying at the same time. It’s just beautiful.

    • Jeanne Benson says:

      Laurie, I am laughing out loud with you! Why do they always put a trail over rocks?? I, like you, did a face-plant after the toe of my shoe encountered one of those rocks. Luckily, no one was near me to see it happen; I was so embarrassed! Got pretty banged up but I got back up & ran some more. I’m new to trail running & I see it is a whole different animal. I better be watching my steps or else!

  17. Running has taught me that anything is truly possible for the person who is willing to make a commitment, work hard, and persevere through the challenges and pains that accompany the journey.

  18. Running has taught me mental resilience

  19. Running has taught me the truth of “you eat an elephant one bite at a time.” Really really big goals ( like running 50 miles, and I hope one day 100) are doable just by putting your head down and doing what needs to be done today. Mentally wrapping your mind around the whole thing from the beginning isn’t necessary or particularly useful. Do today what needs to be done today and don’t waste mental energy worrying about tomorrow.

  20. Michael Liptrot says:

    Days are more complete when you wake up before dawn and go for a run.

    Run streak : 28 days!

  21. Carla Pickrel says:

    Running has taught me to be grateful for every step on every mile, for legs and muscles that work, for heart and lungs that power on, for the ability to just do it. Running is a luxury — the ultimate expression of life and joy. Too many consider it a chore; if they lost the ability to run, god forbid, they would mourn those lost miles. I run for the six-year old I used to be, who ran and ran and ran just because she could.

  22. That if you really commit to something the results will eventually follow. It might take some time and you might experience a couple of bumps on the road but ultimately you’ll achieve your goal.

  23. When life seems overwhelming, with too many projects and too many items on the to-do list, I remind myself that ‘water wears away at stone.” Stone seems immutable and unchanging, and certainly more durable than water. But one drop at a time, water will erode the stone. Each step of running is one drop of water that brings me closer to achieving my goals, and even if I don’t quite reach them, will result in a lifetime of health and fitness.

  24. Running has taught me that even when something instinctively seems impossible, much of the time, that something can be done. AND, afterward, what I originally dreaded, was actually enjoyable and the highlight of the day! Also, and related, no matter how difficult something is while I’m in the midst of it, if I persevere and focus on the end goal, I can get through and be successful .

  25. Finishing a Marathon taught me that I could pretty much accomplish anything. Job searching has always been my hang-up because I always felt like I wasn’t good enough. Running has taught me that I can accomplish anything to various degrees as long as I at least try. Speed running has given me such confidence to hold my head high in a number of situations.

  26. Running has taught me that I do better work when I take care of myself by running.

  27. Simply put, running has taught me that I can do hard things – that I can persevere and push through discomfort and do things I never thought possible.

  28. Running has taught me that my body is capable of doing hard things. I have some physical challenges that, for much of my life, I thought meant I couldn’t do much physical activity. Running has proven that wrong.

  29. Vera Nelson says:

    Some of the greatest moments of my life were created by putting one foot in front of the other and hitting the open road or trail. What a great time to reflect, create and enjoy all that life has to offer. Running reboots my brain in a way that nothing else can and it makes me appreciative that I have the ability to move, dream and love.

  30. Running has made me believe that there is nothing I cannot not do.

  31. Joseph D Norcott Jr says:

    Running has taught me how to harness my own internal power, Very important as a Bi Lateral Above knee amputee. How to train and more importantly to schedule and make better choice’s in my own life. what is it that I truly want, to create goals and dream again of my future. how to face doubt head on and not get side track and stay the course ..

  32. John Nett says:

    After turning 50 this year, I have become a bit discouraged in my running routine. I am learning to live with a longer post-run recovery time and nagging aches. Tom Foreman’s experience is encouraging. I look forward to reading his new book.

  33. What running has taught me about life is, no matter how hard it is at the moment, feel it and own it. You made it through and it gets you closer and closer to achieving what you want. And no matter how impossible it may seem, in the end you will find it wasn’t impossible afterall.

  34. Running has taught me that I can do a lot more than I thought I could as long as I am willing to take the time to work at it.

  35. Running has taught me that a getting outside to run can make any problem seem not as stressful as I thought. Makes me a happier person able to accomplish things at first look seem impossible!

  36. I started running again, after a 32 year absence, at age 50. 3 years later, I have learned so much from running. Listen to your body–don’t fight with it, learn to work with it while pushing it. Work hard, consistently, and you can achieve amazing things. And the one I like best: be real. You can’t fake running. If you’re a 10 minute/mile race guy right now, you’re not going to run a 27 minute 5K no matter how much you talk about it or pretend. You will have to work hard, and maybe get there eventually. No shortcuts and no B.S.

  37. So much in marathon training can be a metaphor for your life: in the absence of a plan or a goal to work towards you won’t be incentivized to make good choices; sometimes you gotta forget about the big picture and just focus on one step at a time; everyone needs a coach from time to time; drink lots of water; be considerate and pay attention to the people around you; you get out of it what you put into it. Running really is everything.

  38. Running has taught me that I am far, far stronger than I ever thought. I’ve done things with running that I never would have thought possible just 10 years ago, and that confidence has spilled over to so many other parts of my life. This single thing has made my life so much richer, so much more fulfilling.

  39. Aparna Vijayan says:

    What long-distance running has taught me about life is that life is about perseverence, not perfection. Life is like a marathon or an ultra-marathon. It requires us to be prepared, determined and perservere in spite of all the hardships and all the times you want to give up and throw in the towel. Running has made me confident and stronger in handling life’s challenges.

  40. Don’t let fear control your decision. The one with the most guts comes out ahead.

  41. Running was a major motivator for me as one song kept pushing me to strive harder and harder during a 1500m. At times even my father was in my mind and I was peaking to the extent of almost lapping the furthest competitor. Before I knew it I was in the dash for the last 100m when an old friend was suddenly right beside me, it took my all (although I’m not good at 100m), and I had to ensure my stride length and the fact I just had to keep running and using the momentum in my legs to finish the race at that time; as I collapsed on my knees I realized how embarrassing that was, although others gave me motivation to get up the final say was I got first place.

  42. Melissa Knous says:

    Running originally taught me the benefits of self-discipline when attacking a goal. As I have matured, it has shown me that bringing others into the sport (I coached my first couch to 5k – Run for God program this fall) and looking to the divine purposes of running make it much more meaningful. I have come to realize that “myself” and “self-discipline” may not be enough to realize my running goals. Running with the purpose of bringing light to others and using the time to center myself has made the transition back to “being in training” enjoyable and fun again.

    Looking for wisdom beyond myself brought me to this website ad to my personal training schedule. I have already run 3 10k PRs and 2 half marathon PRs in over 3 years. The 10k PRs were during training runs, not even races. I look forward to continuing to use Jason’s schedule to plug away at my goals. This is why I am a runner.

  43. Running has taught me that you have to work for what you want in life. Things don’t come easy espically if you don’t put the work in. Knowing that has helped me become a better athlete and a better student. Running has helped me in multiple ways but this is the most important way it has helped me.

  44. Lisa Compton says:

    Running has taught me that the buzz you get from a personal sense of achievement for individual effort is far better than any feedback from others.

  45. Melissa Terrell says:

    I was looking for my limits but have yet to find any. Each race I feel like next time I could push a little farther and I do. I’ve returned after 10 years and three kids to discover its never too late. Better yet its the best example I can set for my children. They see me coming in sweaty to wake them up for school and they usually are there to cross the finish line with me in all of my races. I like being their hero in this simple way, setting out into the scary dark of the morning, promising to return still energetic enough to set their day off on the right track.

  46. Lynne Wardle-Ransom says:

    Running has taught me not to believe in the limitaions that others have placed upon me. When I was 5 years old I had polio that affected my lungs and my parents were told that I wouldn’t be able to participate in any aerobic activities. I listened for another 45 years but when I was 50 I signed up for a learn to run clinic and now at 61 I have completed several half-marathons, a full marathon and two 1/2 iron man races. The feelings of empowerment are FANTASTIC!

  47. Tina Helmick says:

    What running has taught me……
    It has taught me patience and perseverance. Patience to keep running consistently and the rewards are there, you have to wait for them. I have seen my mileage increase, times get better and finishing races that I never thought I could finish.
    Perseverance to keep going even on those days that my legs feel like 50lb. weights have been added to each one, days that my time is horrible, and days that you don’t feel like getting out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to get the run in before anyone gets out of bed.
    Those are 2 things that running has taught me!!

  48. Jonathan Finer says:

    Running has taught me humility. No matter what façade we have on at the beginning of a run or a race, whether we look like elite pro’s with matching colors and brands, or a weekend warrior with a rag-tag appearance, all of that disappears over the course of the journey in the run. It doesn’t matter what we look like or what we say; what matters is our actions – when we let the race and our time speak for itself. Running has taught me to love it for the pure joy derived from doing so. Running shows that we’re all different with all levels of ability But the finishing time or your pace doesn’t matter as much as your drive and persistence to reach for goals seemingly out-of-reach; both in running and in life.

  49. Jake Knaus says:

    Running has really taught me the truth of the saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I am a solid middle-of-the-packer, in any race, at any distance. When I used to look at the folks at the front of races, running 5-6 minute miles, I would get discouraged. Now, the only emotion I allow them is wonder, amazement, and awe. I’m happy with where I am as a runner, and that attitude has spilled over into the rest of my life, changing me for the good.

  50. Running has taught me how to cope with things in life. My daughter had to have a bone marrow transplant in order to survive the continued loss of her bone marrow. Each week while she in the hospital ( a month stay) I would would still take some time to run as a coping mechanism.
    Running has taught me how to have and keep friends even as an adult. My running group has been there for me for 15 years. Imagine the friendships that you develop when you meet with people for a couple hours of uninterrupted conversation.
    Running has taught me to dream. Having no real athletic ability in grade school and high school, I still dreamed of completing a marathon and when I mastered that the dreams kept coming….and I kept working on them.
    Finally running taught me to be happy. There is no greater euphoria than crossing the finish line with so many people cheering you on. Makes us mere mortals feel like kings even if it is only for a few minutes…..but it keeps you coming back!

  51. Amy Kochan says:

    You are never too old to pick up a new hobby!

  52. When you truly put your mind to it, you can accomplish so muck mote than you ever thought possible. Perseverance and discipline to stay on track. Just win the always present battle that takes place between your right and left shoulders! Your body CAN handle it!!!

  53. Jeanne Benson says:

    Running has taught me to live in the moment. As in life, the past (training) is behind you. All the worrying in the world & what-ifs will not change one iota of it. The future (race) is unknowable & all the planning in the world can’t control what may happen around the next bend in the trail. You just have to focus on your next step & stay in the moment as you run the race; just the same as when you run the race of life.

  54. Craig Todd says:

    I’ve found that running is the closest thing to the “fountain of youth”. As an ER physician, I’ve found that the healthiest people coming into the ED are lifetime runners, often appearing 20 years younger than their actual age, on few medications, and grounded in life. I know that being able to still run consistently in my mid-40’s has made me feel that I’ve delayed the inevitable aging process, and when I look at some of my friends who have let themselves go, I’m proud of my persistence and consistency with my passion – running.

  55. Running has taught me that I can always push and challenge myself harder, and achieve what I thought I couldn’t.

  56. It has taught me that, anything is possible with the time and dedication to achieving your goals (in running and life). That you don’t have to be perfect (you can run and still achieve your goals but your time doesn’t have to be the best) and that we all have up and down days ( like good runs and not so good runs) and that that’s ok.
    I’m a busy mum of 2 little kids and wonder how my running goals can be achieved without sacrificing family and family time…. I felt when I was training for my first half (completed last Sunday) that family was sacrificed no matter how hard I tried for it to not be… How does Tom do it???
    Cheers
    Rachael

  57. That no matter how many times you get knocked down (a/k/a injured), what counts is that you get up again and keep moving forward.

  58. Swee-Chuan Khoo says:

    It taught me that anything is possible. After completed more than 10 full marathons, it is still not easy at the starting line of the next one. It taught me about grit and facing any challenges i face head on.

  59. Running has taught me to be humble……..Because running can bring you to your knees and humble you in an instant.
    Having taken up running just 10 months ago at age 60, having run a 30km race and two Marathons and qualifying for Boston just last Weekend is pretty humbling.

  60. It’s taught me to love people more. The self induced isolation gives you time to think. And while being alone you feel good in the lonely pain. However when you “return” to society you are s different person as a result of what you put yourself through. Running taught me that character isn’t something you’re born with its something you EARN.

  61. Justin Shaw says:

    Running can seem impossible to some, until you just get out, do it and reflect back on what you accomplished. That’s where the constant need for more comes in. Running is a motivator in itself.

  62. ALL OF THE ABOVE!

  63. Ivan Milosev says:

    For most of my life I lived without the runnig and I had a simple yet a rather good life.
    But somehow I tok it for granted, almost as I did not pay enough attention or appreciate at least the good parts. Simpy life was …
    Running changed everything. Life became a constant battle. For the first time I noticed that my body is weak and limited, the life itself was limited, framed like a nice picture but everything that I wanted to be was out of that frame. Nothing comes easily. You nead to fight for every even small achievement. Now every good moment is like a precious water drop in the desert. You know it is not going to last long so you enjoy while it lasts.
    It seems to me almost as in the joke about the simple peasant wearing very tight shoes all day and when they asked him why, he replyed: “Well there is no greater pleasure than took my shoes of in the evening”!
    But I think it is not that simple, who knows maybe it is..

  64. To run through the walls. Some we build for protection, but instead imprison our self. Some are imposed by those around us who fear that our strength will elicit change. Others are erected by greater society to instill conformity, mediocrity and control. At times we conquer the wall by going around, under or over. As a long distance runner I have learned to face the wall and go through.

  65. Celia Tang says:

    Success takes time.

  66. That you don’t have to be good at something for it to enrich your life.

    No one, including my loved ones, would say that I’m a “good runner,” or “good at running.” But they do call me a runner. And I’ve never won a race — not even an age group. And I’ve been humbled time and again by running — I’ll get the slightest bit cocky and start talking about qualifying for waves and BOOM, turns out I hadn’t trained as well for that race as I had thought.

    But it showed me that I don’t have to win anything to feel like I’ve won. Running because I can–me! Even me!–became such a gift. That I didn’t have to have hand-eye coordination, or bags of money and equipment, or hours set aside for a class or game time–it was all a revelation to this clumsy, modest-living gal with terrible time-management skills. I run because I can, and it makes me feel alive and independent and free.

  67. Running has taught me that it is possible to get closer to a goal in one way and further away from it at the same time

  68. I’m a 57 yo man who remembers being a good athlete, although it was in my twenties. I’ve blossomed to be 40lbs ow. I like running and started a couple of years ago to help reduce stress and some of the 40. I tried to do too much too soon and now I have a recurring calf injury and ITBS. The discipline that comes from running along with the afore mentioned bennys are what I yearn for…..I’m going to start again tomorrow with some strength training for runners and a brisk walk. you have a great site Jason I can feel your passion. good luck to you.

  69. Junk in, junk out:)

  70. Running has taught me that I my body is capable of amazing things. Growing up as a sprinter/hurdler I never imagined running a marathon…but after 5 months of training there I was crossing that finish line! It may not have been the fastest time, but I did it! I joined “the club.” Also, there is no better feeling than “the runner’s high.”

  71. Kellee Offley says:

    You are always stronger than you think, you are always more resilient than you think and it is ALWAYS worth it!

  72. Patience, humility, mental strength and at 57 I can still feel pure childlike joy when skipping.

  73. Lane Andrews says:

    Running had taught me that the first mile is always a liar and that I am capable of so much more than my expectations.

  74. It has taken me back from the brink of bad health to the healthy man I am today. Running is so simple but effective!

  75. Running as in relation to life.
    As far off track you may be.
    With some work and determination
    you can always get yourself back or
    maybe even pass where you once were.

  76. The destination you seek in your running journey isn’t always the one you reach, sometimes it’s way more amazing!

  77. Running has taught me that I can do things that I never thought I could!