#Keepgoing Story: Tony on Endurance Running & Running for a Cause


Meet Tony Constanzo

  • Age 53
  • Retired Firefighter, 34 Years
  • Founder/President, Footsteps For the Fallen
  • Endurance Runner
  • Prerace snack, good craft beer with a side of Oreos

 

What activities do you like to participate in and how did you get started?

Endurance running on both the trails and the road.

My son helped me get started when we joined the cross country team his freshman year in high school. Like most men and all firefighters, I thought I was in shape. Did I ever find out that I wasn’t! That was back in 2009, and it changed my life! In 2010 I ran my first 5k, taking 2nd in my age group. Since then I’ve gone on to finish three 100-Mile trail races, several 50-mile, 26.2, 13.1, 10k and 5k races, with the 50-Mile distance being my favorite.

Even after all these great personal accomplishments, something was still missing in my endurance running life. On October 1 -11, 2015 I found what was missing, and it forever changed my life. After a year of planning and training, I set out to run 439-Mile over eleven days, from Beaumont, Texas to Austin, Texas, all on open roads. The run honored our Fallen Texas Firefighters, EMS First Responders, and Law Enforcement Officers.

This run tested everything about me as an endurance runner, firefighter, and human. Averaging just under 40 miles/day for eleven days, my mind, body and soul went to some very dark places that I’d never imagined they could go. With the driving force of honoring a group that gave it all, it had to get done, and it did. I’m not going to sugar coat it, my body hurt and broke down in so many ways. Waking up at 4am each day, knowing I had a 40-mile day ahead of me, just crazy!

As if running 439 miles over eleven days was not enough to test the mind, body and soul, at 12 noon on September 30, 2016 I started a 24-hour journey that tested every ounce of my endurance in a very similar way. 

I know there are very few that can understand the idea of running 439 miles, but every firefighter knows what wearing firefighter gear is like. So that’s what I set out to do: Wear 50lbs of firefighting gear for 24 hours, as I walked on a treadmill.

The challenge not only tested my limits, but also the limits of the treadmill. After 16 hours of use, it died! Yes, the treadmill died! Lucky we had a backup, and the new treadmill lived the remaining time.

 

What are you training for? Do you have any specific goals, events planned?

2017, Vol State 500k, Screwed Division, is next up for me. This is a road race across Tennessee, in July, with zero support. It is up to runners to find food, water, shelter etc. It’s going to be a great vacation! We have 10 days to finish, which means averaging 31 miles a day. After doing 40 miles a day, this will be somewhat of a walk in the park.

Looking ahead to 2018, I’ve had an idea brewing in my mind. I call it the Texas Triangle. It’s something that came to me during the 439-mile run: Start in Houston, go north on IH-45 to Dallas, turn around and go south on IH-35 to San Antonio, then east back on IH-10 to Houston, all unsupported.

With a ballpark mileage of 724 Miles, and an average of 30 Miles a day, it will take 24 days. Talk about a great journey!

 

Do you have a mantra or inspiration that keeps you going?

Honoring a group of brothers & sisters that gave it all for our safety is what keeps me going! You have to run for a reason!

Do endurance athletes have egos? Sure we do. But running just for your ego makes you a miserable person to run with. Don’t go out looking for the spotlight. It will find you if it’s meant to be on you. For me, I’m just the vessel that is willing to put my well-being on the line, so that we never forget our fallen.

 

Do you have any training trips that you have learned along the way?

What works for one person, may not work for the next. As I’ve aged, my body takes longer to recover. That’s life. I’m a low mileage weekly runner, averaging 40-50 miles with some power walking and tire dragging added in. I have put in 100 mile weeks, but it’s just too hard on my body now. Plus the time it takes to put in them miles, wow!

Mind. The hardest thing to train is the mind. If you can train the mind to get past all the discomfort that will take place in a big mile run, the rest of the training is simple!

Rest. You only get stronger by resting the body so it can rebuild.

Eating. Use your training to test out what foods you can eat and not have it turn the stomach upside down. This means eating real foods like, hamburgers, pizza, PBJ’s, or whatever. The same goes for hydration, you have to get fluids in, and out. 

Gear. Nothing new on race day, never! If you have not trained with it, I would advise anyone to not use it on race day. 

Race day. Make a race plan, and stay with it. Will there be some low moments in a race? Maybe. But always remember, for every low, there are great highs! Your race, your pace! Don’t get tied up with a group of faster or slower runners thinking they will pull you along. This is part of “Your Race Plan”, stay to your race plan!

Have fun and enjoy all that hard work you have put in to get to the starting line! The hardest part of training is getting to the starting line healthy, so know your limits, and yes it’s ok to walk during any race! Remember, you are lapping everyone sitting on their backend!

  

What do you do to keep your body healthy and injury-free?

For me, I stay away from all fried foods. I like to call it a grazing lifestyle, eating on small meals all day.  Rest is also very important. If I feel my body needs to take a break, I give it one. I have been very lucky to not have an ongoing injury. But if you do happen to get injured, put that ego aside and know when it’s time to go see someone that can help. Once you get in tune with your body, you will find the smallest things can affect your performance.

 

How has Wiivv helped you #keepgoing?

As an endurance runner, keeping my feet happy is everything! Finding that shoe that feels oh so right, then adding Wiivv into them, wow life is great!

You may think that your feet are the same, not so. There are very small differences in them, enough to affect the way your feet hit the ground. This is where Wiivv can help fix most all of that. I have had a pair in my shoes for some time now, and my feet feel so much better during and after a training run or race. I just wish I would have had a pair for my 439 Mile run, but trust me I will have them along for Vol State 500k! #KeepGoing