Rocking Runner of the Week: Tony Varney

Varney, after the LSM R2T Ultra 50k

Varney, after the LSM R2T Ultra 50k on January 12, 2013

I haven’t done a Rocking Runner of the Week since mid-December but here I am back with a new Rocking Runner for 2013.  The first Rocking Runner of 2013 is well-deserving of this title because he is fairly new to running and has made a significant transformation since he began running just a little over a year ago.

As you will learn, he is quite an amazing person.

So, without further adieu, let’s meet 2013’s newest Rocking Runner of the Week…


Name: Tony Varney

How long have you been running?:
Since January 2012, so I’ve been running for about a year.
What brought you to running?:
When I started running I was focusing only on weight-loss and not really planning on finding a new hobby. I was working 40+ hours a week & playing World of Warcraft ~30-40 hours a week. Initially, my goal was to get down to a maintainable weight without buying into the voodoo science of dieting. I don’t believe a diet can work without changing the bad habits and lifestyle that got me to my heaviest weight of 240 pounds.
What do you get out of running?:
There are several motivations that keep me running: the physical challenge, bragging rights, and the ability to eat awesome food without feeling guilty.
The physical benefits can’t be overstated, but the challenge of running & breaking through barriers that I once found impossible is a huge motivator for me. When I first started running on the treadmill, I was completely gassed after barely a mile. I was ashamed to run outside because I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. Nobody wants to be “that fat guy” running around Daffin Park feeling like every set of eyes is judging you. I know they don’t, but that’s how I felt at the time. So much has changed since then. I didn’t just lose a bunch of weight; I gained lots of confidence. Now I can maintain a consistent pace of 11min/mile for 25K. I’m not fast, but I’m determined – and I feel like I can go forever at that pace. I recently discovered I can’t, but learning my current limit gives me a new challenge to work through.
I get a lot of satisfaction of knowing that I’ve run farther than almost everyone I know, even my boss who was a competitive runner & triathlete. I’m a little on the OCD end of the spectrum, so I have a hard time with moderation. I started doing really low miles just to get fit, but now I want to train to push my body as far as it can go and still have a relatively low risk of injury. My coworkers think I’m nuts, and they’re probably right. At the end of the day, I’d rather run a lot of relatively slow miles and ensure that I’m able to continue running for many years to come.
Last, but not least is food. The dinner table is a symbol of family and togetherness for me. Unfortunately this relationship with food put a huge strain on my body. Getting off the computer and into a pair of running shoes resulted in shedding almost 70 pounds. I’m eating mostly whole foods, pasta in moderation, and very few processed ingredients. Now that I’ve accomplished my weight-loss goals, running allows me to eat the foods that I love in healthy portions, and maintain my current weight.
Tony at 240 pounds

Tony at 240 pounds

What kind of runner are you?:  

I don’t really orient on specific events, per se. I am always looking for new and interesting challenges 

that will keep me motivated to run. Having an event on my calendar also keeps me from eating that 

pint of Ben & Jerry’s – Chubby Hubby in one sitting (which I’ve been known to do in the past). If I had to 

pick one phrase to describe my approach to running, I’d call myself a challenge-seeker. My philosophy is 

this: if someone is capable of running a particular distance, so can I. With the proper training and diet, I 

know that I can accomplish anything. I might not be the fastest, but I’ll make up for it with sheer 


Trail running or Road running?:  

I enjoy the challenges of both, but I more often choose to run on the road. The surface is more consistent which I think minimizes my risk of injury. This is especially true on my longer runs of 10+ miles.

Do I race?:
I try to race at least once per month except during the dog days of summer. Savannah’s summer heat makes me a bit crazy, so June through August, I’m more likely to get my miles done in the comfort of my home. Late Spring 2012, I started focusing on 5K events, but those are over so fast, I really wanted something that was a bit more challenging. In the Fall, I started doing 10K events and I really felt like this was a comfortable distance that still provided enough of a challenge to be rewarding for me. Now that I’ve done my first ultra, i know that the half-marathon & marathon distances are within my reach.
What is your favorite Race and why?
2012: Enmark Savannah River Bridge Run 10K
2013: Ledesmo Sports Medicine Rails-to-Trails Ultra 50K

The Enmark Savannah River Bridge Run was the first event that I explicitly trained for. I wasn’t just running anymore, I was training. I had my pace down to where I wanted to be and knew that I would do well. By race-day I was so amped up and energized that I blew nearly my whole fuel tank in the first couple miles and suffered through the rest of the race. Why was this my favorite for 2012? Because of the lessons I learned to help me become a better runner: be consistent, push hard, and don’t try to keep a pace my body is not ready for.
My first race of 2013 set the bar impossibly high for any of the following events this year. The Ledesmo Sports Medicine Rails-to-Trails Ultra 50K was a blast! So many dedicated endurance runners came out to support Savannah’s inaugural Ultra Marathon. The aid-stations were spaced at great intervals, the variety of food at the aid stations was like nothing I’d ever seen, and the staff/volunteers were always
ready/able to help whenever needed. Moreover, the event was a resounding success and everyone I know had an amazing experience. Was it painful? Sure, but pushing through and making it to the end was such a satisfying reward.

How many times have you run that race?
Since I’ve only been running for a year, I’ve only had an opportunity to run those events once, but I’ll definitely be running both again. In 2013, I’ll likely do the double-pump Enmark Savannah River Bridge Run.
If you could run any race in the whole world which would it be and why?
The Spartathalon in Greece follows the epic journey of Pheidippides from Athens to Sparta, covering 250KM in 2-days. If I had the opportunity to run this race (assuming I was conditioned properly), I’d jump at the opportunity.
How many times do your run per week and what is your average weekly mileage?
I generally run 3-5 times per week. During the work week I try to get in 3-4 5-mile runs, and 1 10+ mile run.  I usually run about 30 miles per week, but I try not to slump below 25.
Do you have any training tips to share?:
So much of running is mental, try to identify some mantras to repeat in your head (or out loud) for longer runs when your will is starting to falter. Something really hokey and cliched is okay, but have it ready before you go. Maybe, “Pain is just weakness leaving the body”, “Do or do not. There is no try.”, or something equally trite actually helps to push through.
A running milestone?:
Survive the…5K on Isle of Hope was a beautiful run, it was the first time that I really felt like I could do this forever. Prior to this event, I was just running to lose weight. Afterward my mental focus was to actually go out and compete.
Specific running goals?:
A new goal that I’ve identified is to work toward doing a triathlon. I’ll likely start out with a sprint distance, but if I enjoy the event, it’s possible that I’ll do one of the longer distances.
Any inspirational runners?
  1. I can’t even think about the word “inspirational” without Kelly Luckett coming to mind. Her work ethic,
    physical ability to push herself beyond all expected limits, and absolutely never making an excuse. How
    the hell can I justify not getting off my couch?
  2. Masumi “Chuck” Herota – this dude is a beast! Months ago I was reading about his 15+ mile treks to
    Tybee and thought to myself, “Chuck has lost his mind!” I never thought I’d be running the distances
    he’s running, but I’m so glad that I can say now, that I have (admittedly less frequently). I’d go a step
    farther beyond “inspirational” and say he’s one of my primary motivators to work harder and build
    toward Ultra running.
  3. Dimitris Newton – he is another no-excuses type of person. He sets challenging
    goals, works hard, and accomplishes the task set before him. His example is one that I try hard to follow
    because it’s not in my nature to do these things. If I can latch on to a good enough excuse to keep me
    warm in my bed, it’s almost impossible to get out on these cold mornings. Knowing people like Dimitris
    that don’t let excuses keep them from working toward their goals helps me immensely.
Favorite quote: 

“Human beings are made up of flesh and blood, and a miracle fiber called courage” – George Patton –
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Tony during the Savannah River Bridge Run 10k 2012

Tony during the Savannah River Bridge Run 10k December 2012

Tony during the LSM R2T 50k

Tony during the LSM R2T 50k on January 12, 2013

I’ve only known Tony a few months and in those few months I’ve witnessed the metamorphosis of a novice runner to a truly amazing and inspirational runner.  Tony has done everything right in his quest for a healthier life.  He has programmed himself into a healthy life style by incorporating a very sound, realistic exercise regiment along with a good healthy diet.  He seems to be incredibly disciplined in his workout and diet regiment.
I always say that if you truly want to lose weight and live a healthier life and have extra energy to boot you have to approach it by changing your diet as well as incorporating an exercise regiment into your life.  And, you must, must, MUST have discipline!  Tony possesses all three of these and that is why he has shed so much weight in such a short period of time and, hasn’t suffered any illnesses. He’s doing it the right way!
And, a couple of weeks ago he went out and did something pretty darn impressive…he ran his very first ultra marathon, – a 50k!  That is an amazing achievement for someone that has only been running a little over a year.
There you have it, the Rocking runner of the week.  Tony is very well deserving of this title.
All the very best,
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4 comments for “Rocking Runner of the Week: Tony Varney

  1. 2013/02/04 at 9:50 am

    Let’s run together.

  2. Dimitris Newton
    2013/06/11 at 7:44 am

    Thanks for the kind words Tony!! I can’t wait to get a few miles in with you this summer bro!!! Keep up the awesome work!

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