Ron Marinucci - February Column

Ron Marinucci - February Column

Provided by RMDC

John Tarkowski has been a fixture around the running community of Southeast Michigan for many years. He volunteers. He runs with several running clubs. Of course, he runs and he races. And he races well, very well, often placing high if not winning outright the seniors division and/or his age-group. At age 65, he still is running 5Ks a few ticks above or below 7:00 pace.

Tarkowski “didn’t run competitively” in high school or college and only began when he was 30 years old. It didn’t take long, though, before “running became my primary sport.”

“I probably began running about 35 years ago.” Mostly, he recalled, it was to try to stay in shape for team sports. “I used to play a lot of softball and basketball.”

He was also a bit late getting into racing. “I didn’t run my first race until 1993. A co-worker talked me into entering a 10K. That turned out,” he admitted, “to be quite the humbling experience. But eventually I started to have some success.”

He has run races of all distances, from one mile up to the marathon, more than 560 in his running career. “For me, it was always great to beat a time goal I had worked so hard and so long to reach.” He’s finished 40 marathons, the last one four years ago. One of his favorite memories was “winning my age-group at the Chicago Marathon” in 2008. He also posted his marathon PR in that race, 2:58:54. Now, though, “I race distances from the mile to the half marathon.”

Over the years he’s developed some favorite events. He cited the Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon, the Northville Road Runner Classic, the Novi Memorial Day Race, the Day of the Dead Run (Detroit), the Crim 10 Mile, and the Livonia 5K park runs. But he added, “I know I’m leaving some out.” Then he chuckled, “I just realized many of these races include beer at the finish.” I suppose there’s some motivation in that, too.

Until recently and an injury from which he is bouncing back, Tarkowski has been running and racing at a high level for a long time. In 2017 at the age of 64, he ran the Stroh’s Legend Run 5K in 19:13, a 6:11 pace, finishing 10th out of 1522. A week later he was 7th out of 162 at the Novi Memorial Day Run 10K. There he ran a 41:58 (6:45 pace). Even while nursing an injury, he managed a creditable 5K time of 22:59 (7:23 pace) at the Red October 5K. That was good for 21st place out of 763 finishers.

He credits his success to several factors. “I’ve been able to train fairly hard and consistently without serious injury.” He spreads the credit to others, too. “I’ve also been fortunate to be able to run with great clubs such as the Ann Arbor Track Club, Northville Road Runners, and Motor City Striders.” His “training is usually ongoing.”

For instance, until a slight injury set him back a bit this winter, “I had been doing Tuesday night speed workouts with the Ann Arbor Track Club.” Optimistically, he figures “I’ll probably resume again in the spring.”

Tarkowski runs alone as well as with his running friends. “I love the Northville Road Runners group runs.” And, with others, he has competed in the mixed team division of the Great Lakes Relay and with the Ann Arbor Track Club in the USATF National Team Championships.

He uses both racing and the track workouts “to help with my speed. He tries to get in “a longer run” each week, too.

He said, “I love racing and the fun and camaraderie that go along with racing events,” adding, “I often will run races or the Livonia park runs [most] weekends.”

Several times a week, the 65-year old cross-trains. “I’ll do some core exercises along with some weight lifting. And, if I’m running by myself, I’ll do some stretching exercises when I finish.”

In keeping with his enjoyment of running with others he noted, “Some of my favorite memories include the people who run.” He mused, “Maybe it’s because they lose their hostilities and work out their issues while pounding the pavement and trails. Runners are truly some of the greatest people around.”

After both Tarkowski’s longevity and success, other runners can learn lessons from him, his training, and his racing. “We’ve all heard it, but for me it’s true. Just getting out the door is often the hardest [part]. Once I get out there, I almost never regret it. I find that getting outdoors and running in different and sometimes difficult weather conditions and varying terrain helps to make me feel better.” But, he also noted, “The treadmill doesn’t work for me.”

Of racing, he added, “Whenever I have a bad race or workout, I try to come back as soon as possible.” /He then quipped, “Failure can be a great motivator.”

When he turned 65 in November, Tarkowski told himself, “Welcome to a new age-group!” With the injury problems behind him, look for John Tarkowski to continue to make running and racing splashes in Michigan races in 2018