Let’s Get to Know . . . Tom Held

If you follow endurance sports in Wisconsin, chances are you’ve read an article by Tom Held. We’re a fan of the way he covers everything from running and cycling to swimming and skiing, plus countless other topics related to endurance sports on his website, The Active Pursuit.

Here, we get him to open up about why he started running, how he balances training with being a father of twin girls and the reasons he loves running in MKE.

Tom headshot two (2)

Tom Held

Owner of The Active Pursuit

Age: I turned 50 in May

Years running: It’s been about 17 years. I ran cross-country in high school, took a long break through college and got back into it around 1996, mainly to build aerobic capacity for mountain biking, a sport that got me off the golf course and onto the trails.

Favorite distance to race: Each distance has its own unique challenges, so that’s a tough one. If pressed, I would have to go with the marathon because of the epic history and stature; and when it all comes together for 26.2 miles, a PR or just a strong race, it’s a special sensation of accomplishment.

Favorite song to get pumped up pre-race: “Chocktaw Bingo” by James McMurtry. There’s a little refrain, ‘gonna have us a time’ that primes my competitiveness, plus the song has some propulsion to it.

Favorite post-race treat: Beer, bananas, and/or peanut butter and honey. Definitely beer.

Running gear you can’t live without: Nothing comes to mind.  I don’t focus much on gear, but I still wear the shoes from my first marathon (Grandma’s, 1998).

firecracker four photo

How did you get started with running?

I started in high school, mainly because I realized my football prospects were pretty slim at 115 pounds. As I noted, I took a long break from running through college, then picked it up in my early 30s. There are so many benefits that keep me going: exploring new routes or cities on foot, the physical sensation of propelling yourself, the sense of accomplishment and the shared experience. It takes work, but you know that you’ve earned all the rewards. There are few things in life where you truly control the outcome.

Do you have a quote or philosophy that inspires your running?

Enjoy the journey. It’s easy to put too much emphasis on a particular goal and overlook the joys of training and the time spent with friends.

What does a typical training day look like for you?

Nothing’s been typical for the last couple years, and my training has been less consistent than I would like. When it comes together, I’ll knock out five or six miles on the Oak Leaf Trail along South Shore and toss in a couple miles at a 10K tempo.

How do you balance being a father of two-year-old twins with being a runner?

I have to take my opportunities to run where I can find them – far less volume than I’ve done in the past (a 20-mile week is a treat). My wife runs, and we have some very special outings, with all four of us doing six to eight miles along the lakefront, ending with a stop at the South Shore Farmer’s Market. I like to push the girls in the stroller and have tried doing the day-care pick up on foot a couple times. That presents its own unique challenges. I did manage to train for a marathon last year and found the key is quality over quantity. One long run, one speed session and one or two moderate runs each week, with strength training, works wonders.

tom firecracker fourHeld pushing his twin girls at the Firecracker Four race in Hales Corners

Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?

The Oak Leaf Trail from South Shore Park to Sheridan Park, and to Grant Park if I’m going long. (16 miles out and back). I also love the Lakefront loop on the east side. Above all, the Ice Age Trail in the Northern Kettle Moraine is my favorite place to run within 90 minutes of home. I love getting out and playing in the woods.

What are your favorite Milwaukee races and what do you like about them?

The Superun in Lake Park. It’s like a reunion for the running community, and a 5K that really tests you. I also like the Bear Trax and Prowl the Peak at Lapham Peak. Once a cross-country runner…

In general, what makes Milwaukee a great place for runners?

Milwaukee has fantastic places to run, a very encouraging and growing community of runners and plenty of race options across the various distances. I think we sometimes overlook the incredible asset we have here in the paths along Lake Michigan, and those in the surrounding communities.

I’ve been very impressed in recent years by the various groups that have formed in support of charity causes and other runners. I think beginners in particular should feel very welcome and less intimidated than in the past.

And while some may disagree, I think the weather is great. We get to enjoy the beautiful colors and temperatures of fall, claim victory over cold and snow in winter, relish the blossoming flowers of spring and pour out some well-earned sweat in summer. A routine run on a familiar route can be dramatically different from one month to the next.

Happy Monday, Everyone! We hope this week will be full of great miles for all 🙂

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

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5 thoughts on “Let’s Get to Know . . . Tom Held

  1. Pingback: The Drop Bag: Just punishment? Ice Age Trail, and a blogger revealed | The Active Pursuit

  2. Great interview! Hi Tom! It’s nice to hear from the ‘other side’ of the interviewer… and I was curious about Tom’s running history.

  3. Tom has been a huge asset and inspiration for the Milwaukee running and outdoor community for years. Thank you for featuring him!

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