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5 best Tommy Rivers Puzey Instagram posts

A look back at the very best posts from the runner who's known for storytelling

Tommy Rivers Puzey is the beloved American ultrarunner and marathoner who is being treated for a rare and aggressive form of lung cancer in an Arizona hospital. His brother Jacob has been providing the running community with updates. Rivers Puzey is known for his storytelling via Instagram. On his social media, he would address everything from his injuries to his most memorable running days, to the stories behind some of his best (and worst) race performances. Here’s a roundup of some of his most impressive social media posts, with an anecdote for every kind of runner.

If you’d like to help out, the family is accepting donations for medical bills via a GoFundMe page, which can be found here

RELATED: Tommy Rivers Puzey diagnosed with cancer

For runners who are missing out due to injury

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It’s been a minute. Sedentary life does not suit me. It hurts my heart more than the pain I feel in my body. The emotions I absorb have a difficult time finding an exit and a way to metabolize and so they sit, and stagnate, and then begin to rot. An ache begins to build and it pulses in my chest. But my callouses soften a bit and I see beauty in things that before were blurred backgrounds. Music softens and I find myself listening to tunes that remind me of home. Amarillo by morning and misty eyes with the sound of that melancholy fiddle. I’m reminded of why I do what I do and where my fire comes from. Lyrics and verses and poems come clear and reshape with new meaning. The reverend King has been whispering lately, reminding me to do what CAN be done. “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” I can’t fly these days. Or run. But I can walk now, slowly and that fills me with an overwhelming gratitude that wasn’t within me just a few weeks ago. That’s the odd thing about challenges and detours. They teach you to value what you had and urge you to remember that value when it returns. What a gift it would be to glimpse scarcity and then be able to return to plenty, but with new eyes and a heart that could be full, if only we knew how to see. There’s been some clarity – damage to my meniscus and a tear in the short head of my biceps femoris (yes, runners have biceps – the ones that thrive in us just happen to be in our legs). There is progress. Every today is better than each passing yesterday. I’m in the saddle again, & my withered back and wings are building amid the sting of chlorinated eyes and the meditative trance of black lines and searing lungs. My heart is strong, but achy, but it feels good to feel. This one hurts, but mostly because of the timing. Just over a week before that start in Atlanta. The one that I won’t be at. But damn, I’m fired up to watch our guys and gals from Flagstaff burn those roads down. We’ll be back. Para siempre adelante & ever onward. Let’s rage y’all 🏴‍☠️ PC: @pontus_palsson #craftsportswear

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Rivers Puzey sustained an injury over the winter that sidelined him from the Atlanta U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in February. He knew he’d be unable to compete in his goal race (a place no one wants to be), so here’s what he wrote ahead of the event: “I can’t fly these days. Or run. But I can walk now, slowly, and that fills me with an overwhelming gratitude that wasn’t within me just a few weeks ago. That’s the odd thing about challenges and detours. They teach you to value what you had and urge you to remember that value when it returns.”

For runners who like to run ambitiously 

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The day before @chevronhoustonmarathon this year, I had a chance to sit down with reporter Dale Robertson (@sportywineguy) from the @houstonchron. We talked about last year at Houston and hopes for this year. Although the circumstances for this year’s collapse were a bit different, the essence was the same, and I feel he did a good job of capturing that. I know I’m gonna get hell for my approach. I always have. There’s a time for prudence and a time for caution, but that does nothing for me. But swinging big, and really chasing what I’m capable of, that sets my soul on fire. Mary Oliver sits on my shoulder like a guardian angel most days, and the most common words she whispers are these, “There is nothing more pathetic than caution when headlong might save a life, even, possibly, your own.” And so it is. I will always, always chase my personal 100% on that day. Go big, or go home. To hell with prudence. Prudence can await me in the grave. Call it a foreshadowing or a glimpse into what inevitably would be, Dale captured it well. Feel free to read if you’re into that sort of thing. I’ll post a link to the full story in my bio. . . “Thomas Rivers Puzey doesn’t look anything like a marathoner. His bushy beard alone appears to weigh as much as the spindly East Africans he’s going to chase in the Chevron Houston Marathon. At 6 feet and an almost burly 170 pounds, he’ll be easy to find among the early front-runners, and that’s a good thing because Puzey’s penchant for testing his limits to the extreme, for keeping the pedal to the medal until he’s ready to literally drop, makes him a fan favorite wherever he’s racing. In his Houston debut a year ago, the gregarious free spirit from Flagstaff, Ariz. won the city’s heart by selling out totally for the first 18 miles, running at a clip far faster than his personal best… “The lights went out,” he said. “But it wasn’t the first time it had happened to me. I’m a big guy. It takes a lot of energy to carry this much meat for 26 miles. And, when you exceed certain thresholds, there are systems in the body that just shut down.” It wouldn’t be the last time, either…” (Link to full article in bio) . . PC: @houstonchron

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At the Houston Marathon in 2018, Rivers Puzey went out extremely hard and maintained a pace way beyond his PB for 18 miles before hitting a serious wall. While he acknowledges this approach isn’t for everyone, it’s the way he likes to run. He writes, ” I know I’m gonna get hell for my approach. I always have. There’s a time for prudence and a time for caution, but that does nothing for me. But swinging big, and really chasing what I’m capable of, that sets my soul on fire.”

For runners who are looking to take care of the little things

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Master the basics. It doesn't have to be complicated. It shouldn't be complicated. The key to achieving results and creating positive adaptive changes in our bodies is based in consistency, not in secret workouts. . . This is a side plank. It doesn't get any more simple. This is part of my "Every Day" routine, meaning I don't go a day without doing it. Typically 2 – 3 times on each side for around 60 seconds each. One of the muscles this targets is your Quadratus Lumborum, which is a key muscle for low back function. When I was 15, I got tossed by a "would-be" steer who didn't belong with the spring calves and wasn't interested in giving up his cojones to the cowboys. I don't blame him. I'd do the same if some little punk cowboy was trying to cut off my cojones with a pocket knife. Long story short, the bull won and I ended the day with a few ruptured disks. One point for the bovines. That stuff is never going to fully heal. So since that day, I've worked to MANAGE (not cure) the daily pain in my low back. That is the main reason I've had to work my core so consistently over the years. Remember, "Abs are for show, not go". Sorry to disappoint, but having shredded abs is NOT going to make you a faster runner. At least not directly. Having a strong core WILL make you more durable and less prone to injury, and avoiding injury while consistently maintaining your optimal training load, WILL make a faster runner. So if adding side planks to your "Every Day House Keeping" helps in that way, then these are a worthy addition to your life. Start small. First shoot for correct form, then build. "Straight as an arrow, stiff as a board." is a good cue for this…and so many other things in life 🙂 Build up to 15 seconds each side, then 20, then 30, and so on. This isn't going to give you overnight results. But if you add it to your "Every Day", you may start to notice changes down the road. Don't think days. Think weeks. Rage on 🏴‍☠️ . . . PC: @trailjunkiephotos w/ @evolveflg #run #runner #

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Rivers Puzey does side planks every day, and he recommends other runners master the basics as well. “It doesn’t have to be complicated. It shouldn’t be complicated. The key to achieving results and creating positive adaptive changes in our bodies is based in consistency, not in secret workouts. This is a side plank. It doesn’t get any more simple. This is part of my “Every Day” routine, meaning I don’t go a day without doing it. Typically two to three times on each side for around 60 seconds each.”

Runners looking for Boston advice

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Boston- Part 4: Volume is important, but if you’re racing on the road, then road specific durability in your legs is more important. You can build a V-8, but if your suspension can’t handle the load, then it will do you no good. You’ll be there at mile 20, with that big old motor intact, gas tank full, broken down and deflated as you painfully crawl along in the right lane. And that’s what happened. I willed with all I had but my legs were shredded and there was nothing I could do. It wasn’t cramping, or poor nutrition, or dehydration, or anything else. It was simply not enough race pace miles on asphalt roads. Micro-tears build up and become as debilitating as if macro-tears. At mile 13 I knew exactly what the outcome would be. I knew each mile would progressively get slower and the pain in my legs would increase. More effort wasn’t going to get me there any faster. The only option was the shrug it off and enjoy the second half of the race as much as possible. That doesn’t mean I quit trying. That second half was agonizing – way more painful than the first half. But also way more fun. You can’t avoid it. It’s an odd kind of torture. Like being caged in a tiny space with literally a million people screaming your name at the top of their lungs, standing there in the rain, pouring their hearts out in support of this odd endeavor that you’ve dedicated your life to, and you can’t manage to run any faster than the slow miles of your easiest days. It feels like one of those dreams where you’re trying desperately to escape, but you can’t run. Except that it’s not danger that makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s love & praise and the inability to reciprocate that back to the masses, at least through running to your full potential. Instead you smile, and blush, and cry and grind your way to the end with everything you can. I’ll be back. I’ll learn from this one and come back smarter. That’s what we do as human beings. We see our mistakes and learn from them. And then we make more but hopefully they’re new mistakes, smarter mistakes, better mistakes, more advanced and evolved mistakes. That’s how we grow and learn and improve. Thats why we do this. PC: @trailjunkiephotos

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When Rivers Puzey ran Boston in 2017, he found that he hadn’t done enough training on the road to handle racing on the road for 42.2K. He writes, “Volume is important, but if you’re racing on the road, then road-specific durability in your legs is more important. You can build a V-8, but if your suspension can’t handle the load, then it will do you no good. You’ll be there at mile 20, with that big old motor intact, gas tank full, broken down and deflated as you painfully crawl along in the right lane.”

For runners who have fun while they race

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Boston Marathon 2017: (12/22) I pass mile 23 and wonder again how long before the wheels fall off. At the last two marathons I have run this year it had been at this point. I had come through 23 at 2:16 pace in each of these, but had somehow managed to tack on another two minutes over those last few miles. I keep waiting for it to happen again, but it doesn’t. I come up on a small Kenyan runner. I realize just before I catch him that it is Mutai – the same one who I awoke this morning with my laughter at seeing Erin’s margarita photo. I remember her note saying that I could beat him. The whole irony of all of it causes another fit of laughter. The crowd to my left sees it and begins to cheer. I can’t stop laughing but raise my finger to my lips, asking for a hush – both out of respect for Mutai, but also because after my exchange with Erin I really, really want to beat him and it seems a “sneak attack” is the best option. #BostonMarathon PC: @djlemma

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Anyone who’s running the Boston Marathon takes running seriously – you’ve trained hard enough to get there, meaning that your running is very important to you. Rivers Puzey gives a good reminder that even if you find yourself in the elite race in Boston, it’s important to have fun. He tells a story about coming up on Geoffrey Mutai (a 2:03 marathoner) and passing him: “I come up on a small Kenyan runner. I realize just before I catch him that it is Mutai – the same one who I awoke this morning with my laughter at seeing Erin’s margarita photo. I remember her note saying that I could beat him. The whole irony of all of it causes another fit of laughter. The crowd to my left sees it and begins to cheer. I can’t stop laughing but raise my finger to my lips, asking for a hush – both out of respect for Mutai, but also because after my exchange with Erin I really, really want to beat him and it seems a “sneak attack” is the best option.”