When Tommy Craft competes in the Carmel Half Marathon on April 9, it will be his 135th 13.1-mile race.
“I have run 10 full marathons, but the half is my favorite distance,” Craft said.
Craft, 51, ran his first half marathon in 2015, but reaching 135 finish lines hasn’t always been easy, especially after he learned he had prostate cancer in August 2019.
“It came as a complete shock. I had no symptoms and no family history of it,” said Craft, a cross country coach at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky. “I immediately went on medication, but I continued running various half-marathons on Sundays while coaching my runners on Saturdays. My running times slowed significantly. I went from a half-marathon time of perhaps 1 hour, 55 minutes to around 2 hours and 30 minutes. The meds just slowed me down as I wasn’t able to get the oxygen I needed into my muscles like I had previously been able to do. At least, that’s what my doctor told me. I generally took Fridays off but running was a part of my journey the other days of the week until I had my prostate removed in November 2019. Once I had surgery, I took off six weeks from running to heal. In January 2020, I ran my first 5K since having surgery. I ran 18 marathons in 2020.”
Craft had earned a personal record and was running as well as he ever has.
“Things were fine, I thought, until I had routine blood work, which showed an increase in my PSA (prostate-specific antigen),” Craft said. “After a few tests, I learned that my cancer had returned, or maybe it didn’t fully go away. I started 36 rounds of radiation in late June (2021) and finished in mid-August after the school year began. I am still on meds, which affect my pace, but I’m still able to run a half-marathon, which is what I’ll be doing at Carmel. I won’t be running a full marathon again until after I finish my meds around September. Therefore, my return to the full marathon distance will be the Indy Monumental.”
Craft, who still managed complete 23 half-marathons in 2021, said he wants people to know that it is so important not to give up after receiving a cancer diagnosis.
“It won’t be easy, but you can choose to fight it,” Craft said. “I have days that I’m too tired to run, and during radiation, it was a struggle at times, but I never gave up. I kept moving, and my doctor, whom I fully trust, said that I needed to run long, run strong, so that’s what I did. People need to stay on top of things. Get those routine checkups. Know your body. Keep active and keep going.”
Running in 50 states – again
Carmel resident Craig Thompson became a member of the 50 States Marathon Club in 2016 after completing a marathon in each state.
“I started going around a second time, and I am halfway through,” Thompson said. “I found it so fun the first time I’m doing it again. It really struck a chord, and I developed a love of traveling. Now I’m also trying to visit all the national parks in the United States. I found it to be a lot harder than running a marathon in all 50 states because many of the national parks are hard to get to.”
Thompson said several members of the 50 States Marathon Club are planning to meet at the Carmel Marathon.
Thompson, 50, has completed 125 marathons. He is one of five people who have completed the Carmel full marathon every year. A member of the Carmel Runners Club, Thompson has lived in Carmel since 2001. Thompson took 18 Carmel Runners Club members to Alaska, and they ran a marathon there together in June 2021.
“What is neat about the whole process is, I think I’ve sparked excitement in people to travel, explore and run,” Thompson said.
Some Carmel Runners Club members are planning an October trip to Maine with Thompson to run a marathon and visit a national park.
The love of running
Karen Murray and her husband, Glen Anderson, both 55, met at the Rehoboth Beach (Del.) Marathon in 2014.
“We kept running into each other and probably started dating on and off in 2017,” Murray said. “We started planning our marathons together at that point.”
The couple, who now live outside Charlottesville, Va., got married in November 2020.
This will be the first Carmel Marathon for both. It will be the 406th marathon for Anderson and 268th for Murray.
Murray ran her first marathon in 2012 and completed her first round of 50 states in 2016. Murray had a goal of completing all 50 states by age 50. She completed it three days before she turned 50.
Murray is working on completing 50 states for the fourth time while her husband is working on his seventh round.