Minnesota runner has taken quite the road in reaching career No. 600 at Fargo Marathon
Tom Perri has withstood a cancer diagnosis to continue to do what he loves best
FARGO — Talk about a busy week. Tom Perri ran the Sugarloaf Marathon and the Pine Tree Marathon, both in Maine, on Sunday and Monday respectively. He drove to Fargo on Wednesday with plans to run a marathon in Breckenridge, Minn., on Thursday.
Then it’s back to Fargo for the Essentia Fargo Marathon on Saturday.
That will be career No. 600.
“Running has always been easy to me,” said Perri, who has won 176 races of different distances. “I’ve never done speedwork, I’ve never done any of those crazy workouts. If I’m hurting, I take a day off.”
He’s done all that without letting a prostate cancer diagnosis in 2018 detour his efforts. It was a crossroads of sorts on whether he wanted to continue with his passion. He remembers the day and how the decision came about.
“I sat down on my couch with a six-pack of Hamm’s beer and a bottle of bourbon and made a decision to do my life as is,” Perri said. “Every day has been the same.”
He’s run 124 marathons or ultra-marathons since that day. To put that in perspective, in an educated guess, there may be less than 10,000 people in the world who have completed 124 in that time span and Perri accomplished it dealing with medical issues.
The ability to be a pacer has been the catalyst to 600. Those are the runners who carry signs to help runners target their finishing time.
It’s an art. Moreover, the 60-year-old Perri, who lives in Maple Grove, Minn., has the ability to be a pacer for a multiple of finishing times. On Saturday, he’ll pace the 6-hour group but has done pacing at 4 hours and faster.
“Some people have a natural pace, I can do a variety of pace times,” he said. “I’ve paced everything from the super fast to the super slow. To me, it came real easy. I knew how to run 7-minute miles or 6-minute miles. I knew by my effort and breathing.”
His first 26.2-mile race was in 1993 at the Twin Cities Marathon. In a unique twist, the Sunday race came the night after his brother’s wedding.
“It was one of those things where I showed up at 1:30 in the morning, sitting in a car in my tux,” Perri said. “I changed, went and did the marathon and went back to watch the opening of gifts.”
The thought of frequency came at a 2002 marathon in Omaha when he found himself sitting with a table of guys who combined had about 2,500 marathons to their credit. They were working on their “50 States Marathon Club” status, a feat that requires a marathon in every state.
It’s one reason runners do the low-key Breckenridge run on Thursday, since the course flip flops between North Dakota and Minnesota over the Red River and can be counted in one of the two states.
Perri is an entrenched member of the 50-state club. He’s done all 50 five times. He has Vermont remaining to do all 50 six times and the plan is to knock that off in July.
He has 10 left to do all 50 seven times and 22 remaining to do them all eight times. That is his plan. Perri’s original goal of doing all 50 states 14 times has been modified.
Since the inception of the Fargo Marathon in 2005, he’s missed it only three times.
“It’s a fun atmosphere,” Perri said. “Everybody there puts on a spectacular race and in the 50-stater, Fargo is one of those that is on the bucket list.”