Friday, October 12, 2012


It's hard for me to believe any runner, ever, would be voted 'most athletic' in high school over a future NFL Hall of Famer.  So when I heard rumors that Tom Tisell had beat out Deion Sanders for this high school award, while growing up in Florida, I had to get to the bottom of it.  Obviously, the 45-year-old St. Paul resident is a talented athlete, having won the first three Minneapolis marathons.  In addition to racing for Run 'n Fun and Fitsok, Tisell also recently began pacing marathoners for Clif Bar.

When and how did you get involved with running?
I started in 8th grade in North Fort Myers, FL. My first coach, Jeff Sommer, is an amazing guy who is still coaching and who I still remain in contact with.

I heard a rumor years ago that you went to high school with Deion Sanders and that you once beat him out for athlete of the year. Is that all true?
Yes it’s actually true. In our senior year I was chosen ‘Most Athletic’ over Deion for our yearbook. He was a great athlete in high school of course but the teams that he competed on weren’t tops in the state. Since I was in sports where you also competed as an individual I was able to win several state titles in cross-country and track.

Did you run in college and can you briefly recap some of your other accolades?
I competed at the University of South Florida in Tampa. For cross country I was a Sun-Belt Conference runner-up individually and I was a member of the 1989 team that qualified for Division I nationals.

In high school I was a 4-time state champ in track and cross country and qualified for Kinney (now Foot Locker) Nationals my senior year.

I also competed in the 1996 Olympic Trials Marathon.

You’re also the winner of the first three Minneapolis Marathons. You won those events by a large margin, but this year you found yourself battling it out with 2 other runners. Eventually, you finished in second place, running 2:40:29, just 9 seconds behind the winner. Were you expecting this year’s race to be so competitive and how did it play out?
Obviously you never know who is going to show up but I knew pretty quickly that it would be competitive when the pack of four of us hit the first mile in 5:58. At the 10 mile mark we were still all together but I had to take a bathroom break. I lost time there and slowly caught everyone but the leader. I did make up almost all of the gap but when he noticed that I was catching him with a half mile to go he found another gear and I couldn’t match it.

A couple of weeks later you ran Grandma’s Marathon in 2:37:45. What were your expectations heading into that race and were you pleased with the outcome?
I was just hoping for nice weather and to run smart. I figured on a good day I should get under 2:40 so I was definitely pleased with my time. Plus my pace was even between the first and second half which tells me I ran smart. I have to say though it was humbling finishing 4th master nearly 10 minutes behind 3rd place!

While we can always find your name in the marathon results, it seems your rarely race any shorter distances. Why is that?
I enjoy the marathon distance and have had some good results. Also, with us having four kids, I find it tough to justify the time away and the added expense of running shorter races.

What goals do you have for the rest of the year?
I’ve been banged up a bit this summer so I haven’t been running a ton. Right now I’m gearing up to pace three marathons in October. This is my first year as a pacer for Clif Bar and I really enjoy that role. The pace I run is slower than my normal training pace so the effort really isn’t too difficult.

What is your training philosophy?
I don’t subscribe to any particular philosophy. I’ve learned that my best races have come after long periods of consistent training. Just getting out the door and running nearly every day is what is most important. It doesn’t necessarily have to be at a fast pace.

I read that you commute to work by running. How does that all fit into your training program? I mean, are you able to do workouts while commuting or do you save those for other days?
I’ve been somewhat surprised by my running success these past 5 years because my training has become very basic. Because the majority of my running is done as my commute the only fast stuff I ever do are tempo runs from time to time. I have not done a track workout in well over 5 years. Again what I’ve found to be most important for race success is simply consistently putting in the miles week in/week out.

What are your PRs?

5K: 14:45
10K: 30:21
Marathon: 2:21:16
Masters Marathon: 2:34:19

What do you consider your strengths? Weaknesses?
My biggest strength is my ability to get myself out the door almost every day for a run. My biggest weakness is probably diet. I like my sweets!

What is your fondest running memory?
I’ve had so many wonderful experiences. Qualifying for Division I cross-country nationals as a team at USF is one. Having my mom & dad come up from Florida and see me qualify for the Olympic Trials at the Twin Cities Marathon in 1994 is another. Now seeing our oldest daughter run cross country and track and seeing our other kids take to the sport is amazing.

If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
Our kids. I love sharing the joy of running with them. I hope it becomes a lifelong activity for them as well.

Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
Nothing. I’ve enjoyed so much of it I hate to think of the experiences I would have missed out on had I known certain things early on.


Adam said...

Great read ... thanks for the great insights as always Chad. Tom - I'm encouraged by your work/family/running life balance. Keep rolling!

Old Man said...

Nice interview. Tom is a great guy and I hope to run with him sometime. Will I have to get hired by where he works to do that?

Stacy said...

Wow! Recently started running again and getting inspired by blogs like yours....Thanks!

Tami Bowen said...

It's great to hear that a former classmate is doing so well!