Interviews · Singapore

Run Around the Earth? If You Are Thomas Picard, No Compass Required!

by On Sep 13, 2015
Run Around the Earth? If You Are Thomas Picard, No Compass Required!

It’s not every New Year’s Day that a guy decides he’s going to run around the earth's circumference and then make good on his resolution, but American-born runner Thomas Picard—a single dad of four—had no doubts that he could finish 1,000 miles each year for 25 years (that's over 1,600 kilometres!). After all, anyone who’s a single parent to four kids knows a thing or two about challenges. We spoke to Thomas last year and today, we talk to him again to find out about his progress as well as understand more about his mission.

Is Picard’s balanced attitude and perspective the result of living over half of his life in Asia (17 years in Tokyo and 12 years in Singapore) after leaving the U.S. in 1984? Possibly. When a man is willing to take a truly long-term view, 1,000 miles a year seems eminently doable.

RS: Could we ask you to flash back 25 years? What made you fall in love with running?

Thomas: After finishing graduate school in 1989, I lived in Battery Park City at the lower tip of Manhattan. Back then, that area was still relatively undeveloped. I began running along the Hudson River each evening to enjoy the peace and quiet. A year later, when I relocated to Tokyo, I began daily runs around the Imperial Palace, a beautiful, 3.5 mile course. I was hooked. On January 1, 1991 I decided to set a goal of 1,000 miles a year for 25 years and I'm close to realising that dream.

RS: Your discipline is admirable—how have you managed to keep track of your miles over 25 years?

Thomas: I post each distance on a simple spreadsheet. This software is useful because it not only logs totals but keeps re-calculating how much more I need to run daily to hit the annual 1,000 mile mark by year’s end.

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RS: Did you ever consider giving up or changing your target?

Thomas: No. The only time I stopped running was for about five weeks after spinal surgery in 1999. I hated not getting in my workouts and was greatly relieved to get back into the routine once I healed from my surgery.

RS: Between work, family and your running commitment, how do you manage to balance it all?

Thomas: I stick to about 30 minutes of running per day. When I get busy with work or when I travel, that requires a bit of planning; like making sure I stay at hotels that have gyms and so on.

Run Around the Earth? If You Are Thomas Picard, No Compass Required!

In Hawaii with my three sons (Robert, Andrew, Jonathan)

RS: Have you identified the race that will bring your 25-year-long journey to an end? Why that particular race?

Thomas: I plan to run the half marathon at the Standard Chartered KL Marathon in Kuala Lumpur on October 4th. I chose it because it’s convenient to my home in Singapore and because, according to my projections, I will hit my 2015, 1,000-mile mark around that time. Since the Standard’s distance is 13.2 miles, I will pace myself, accumulating 986.8 miles before the race, so when I cross the finish line on the 4th, I will have completed 1,000 miles exactly for 2015 - and 25,000 miles for the 1991-2015 period.

RS: As you look back, what is your most memorable race and why?

Thomas: Undoubtedly, it’s the San Francisco Marathon, which I ran on July 31, 2011. The course is fantastic. It starts on the waterfront near Fisherman’s Wharf, crosses the Golden Gate Bridge and returns. The route then circles around the Presidio and Golden Gate Park before heading through the Haight-Ashbury district and back to the waterfront. I highly recommend the San Francisco Marathon to every runner. Expect beautiful scenery, perfect weather, and for long-distance runners, this will be an unforgettable experience.

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RS: You generously run at charitable events. Why is it important to run for a cause?

Thomas: I wish I could take credit for my philanthropy! My son Robert came up with the idea of running to raise money for good causes—which I thought was great—and now, he runs some of these races with me!

Run Around the Earth? If You Are Thomas Picard, No Compass Required!

At the Bali Marathon on June 21, 2013 with his son Robert

RS: What is the hardest decision you have made in your life? Why?

Thomas: I imagine the hardest decision I've had to make was leaving the U.S. and moving to Tokyo to look for a job after I graduated from college. I had never before been outside the U.S., much less lived in another country, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect. It worked out well though—I’ve been living mostly in Tokyo and Singapore ever since, and it’s been a great experience, personally and professionally.

Run Around the Earth? If You Are Thomas Picard, No Compass Required!

Christmas dinner with his four children (Jonathan, Andrew, Laura, Robert)

RS: Will you hang up your running shoes anytime soon?

Thomas: Not a chance. Running has become an integral part of my life and I am convinced that the longer I keep it up, the healthier I will stay in the future.

RS: If there comes a day you cannot run any more, what will you do instead?

Thomas: (laughs) Learn to do push-ups and chin-ups I suppose—I’ll need to get those endorphins from somewhere!

Do you have what it takes to run in Thomas Picard’s shoes—to set a daunting, multi-year running goal for yourself—or does the whole idea of making a commitment this grandiose scare the athletic shoes off your feet? Be honest!

Aidan is the Editor-in-chief of RunSociety. His focus is to oversee RunSociety’s Creativity Channel, spanning a wide range of inspirational and enriching topics daily to the running community. Get in touch with him if you something to say, or want to weigh in on an interesting topic at hello@runsociety.com.

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