“I don’t consider myself an athlete,” says Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey. “I just like running marathons.” Despite Mayor Towey’s humble remakes, he’s got an impressive track record. Since he started running in the early ‘80s, he’s run 40 marathons, completed countless mini-triathlons, and scores of locals races.
“I was always curious as to what your mind and body goes through during a marathon,” Towey says. Mayor Towey says he got into the sport because of weight problem. He paired with a longtime friend and runner from Washington State University, and fell in love with marathons at his first race, the Coeur d’Alene marathon.
Mayor Towey has run all the local marathons in Portland, Seattle, Coeur d’Alene and Las Vegas several times over. But it’s the races in New York and Dublin, Ireland that are uniquely memorable. He says running through neighborhoods such as Queens in New York is like making your way though a movie set. In Dublin, he ran through luscious parks and old castles, and eventually found his Towey family homestead.
“During little races you’re just trying to suck up enough oxygen to get to your head as fast as you can,” he says. “Marathons you can do at a nice easy pace, talk to people from all across the states, and take in the scenery.”
It didn’t take long for Mayor Towey to combine his love of running and community service. He’s currently training for his 10th run with Law Enforcement for the Special Olympics. The race, comprised of local law enforcement officers and public officials, carries the torch all the way across Washington State.
Three days later he plans to run the Windermere Half Marathon. This area is truly lucky to have so many local races,” he says. “I try to get out whenever I can … running changed my life, but these days I don’t always have the time for it.”
After all the years and all these marathons, Mayor Towey is still in love with the 26.2 miles. He rattles off the names of races and details of mile 7, mile 15, and mile 20 as though they are old friends. “I don’t do it for time, I run comfortable just as long as I cross the finish line,” he says. “Some people go out like a rabbit, I go out like a turtle.”
And according to Mayor Towey, there’s plenty of rabbits and turtles waiting to race among him. He’s positive anybody that wants to run a marathon is completely capable. It takes 95 percent of your mind and 5 percent of your body to run a marathon, he says. “It’s all about getting to the point where you tell yourself you can do it.”
Mayor Towey says the best advice he can give to a beginning marathoner is to learn and train with someone who has already completed a race. After that, all you need to do is pick a race like Portland or Las Vegas that is compatible for first timers, he says.
This season, in between city council meetings, ceremonies and preceding over Spokane Valley, Mayor Towey is training for one of his favorites—the Portland Marathon. “I’ll just keep doing them until I can’t anymore,” he says. “I told my wife I’d hang up my running shoes when I’m 99 years old.”
Here’s the gear you’ll catch him running in:
Shoes: Mayor Towey buys a new pair of shoes once a year. “I’ve tried just about all of them but I keep coming back to Nike Air shoes,” he says.
Socks: Anything that keeps his feet blister free. “I put so much Vaseline on my feet that I’d slide for a mile if I fell down barefoot.”
Pants: Nothing special, just anything he can run in.
Shirts: Mayor Towey says he prefers loose fitting shirts and old sweatshirts he can take off and toss aside when the race warms up.
Sweatbands: Mayor Towey wears sweatbands on his wrists and head. When it’s especially sunny, he’ll wear a hat.
Music: He listens to radio headphones when the race allows. He says he listens to “oldies but goodies.”
Souvenirs: “Every single race I bring a camera and take pictures along the way,” he says. “I look like a tourist. Oh, and my wife makes quilts out of all my race shirts!”