Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, April 23, 2017
The entire New Jersey running community was shocked to learn of the sudden passing of legendary runner and coach Tom Fleming on Wednesday, April 19th. Fleming who twice placed second at the Boston Marathon and who twice won the New York City Marathon was at a track meet with his athletes from Montclair Kimberly Academy.
Joel Pasternack of Clifton trained with Fleming for over 15 years and remembers how Fleming would tell others, “Joel Pasternack is the person that I ran the most miles ever with in my life.”
According to Pasternack, he and Fleming would run together at a leisurely 6:40 to 7 minute pace. Pasternack was a 5:30 mile pace marathoner while Fleming was a 5 minute pace marathoner. Yet they were comfortable running together.
“He’d run with me twenty miles and then do a ten mile run [later in the day] in sixty minutes,” said Pasternack.
“In the years from 1970 to 1979 he averaged 140 miles a week, twenty miles a day for ten years,” said Pasternack.
Dean Shonts, former owner of the Sneaker Factory store in Millburn, was the coach at William Patterson College during Fleming’s junior and senior years and confirmed Flemings drive.
“Tom was the hardest worker I ever saw,” said Shonts. “He was an incredibly hard trainer. The amount that he could train was incredible. “He’d come down here to the Jersey shore and run three ten mile runs at 5:30 a mile,” said Shonts.
“He didn’t do that every day, but he had to do that to get 160 and 170 miles a week.”
With that kind of mileage Fleming accumulated 124,000 miles in his career that ended at age forty.
“He told me at forty he was tired of punishing his body,” said Pasternack. “He was just going to become a jogger.” He didn’t want to become a masters runner.”
Pasternack has hit 125,000 miles but he adds a disclaimer when telling about his 125,000.
“I had some more years on Tom to get that number in,” he said. “Tom did it in a shorter time.”
Pasternack recalled how Fleming would invite Marty Liquori and Bill Rodgers to go out for a run with them.
“I’d be running with them, talking to Bill, talking to Marty,” said Pasternack. “Tom would be thirty yards ahead of us. Marty and Bill would yell at him, Tom, where are you going?
We’re here to run with you, to talk with you and visit.”
“Tom’s way ahead, pushing the pace a little bit. Always being competitive when Marty and Bill are around,” said Pasternack. “It was so funny hearing Marty Liquori, one of the fastest milers in the United States and Bill Rodgers, winner of the Boston Marathon telling Tom, ‘You’re going too fast, you’ve got to slow down!’”
“A piece of running New Jersey is gone,” said Pasternack. “You never saw Tom in a bad mood, or unhappy. He was always happy and smiling. He always had nice things to say about everybody.”
“Tom lived his life,” said Shonts. “He loved track, he loved running. He was at a track meet. He died doing what he loved.”
GRONER DID IT
Roberta Groner of Randolph placed 16th woman in the Boston Marathon this past Monday. Her time of 2:36:33 met was under the Olympic Qualifying A standard of 2:37. With cooler temperatures that time would likely have been lower.
“The weather conditions were not ideal but I still wanted to try and race the plan I had discussed with Coach Matos,” wrote Groner in an email.
“I hit the half way point at the time I wanted but was not able to execute my negative split plan,” she said.
She ran part of the race with a teammate through the hills and she said that really helped her along the way.
“Obviously the crowd support is tremendous and that too carried me through the last few miles,” said Groner.
Readers might be surprised to learn that Groner is taking ten days off to fully recover. She’s relaxing before starting to do some short distance training and speed focus.
Her next race is the Newport 10K in Jersey City on May 6th. She’ll also do the Ridgewood 10K on May 29th. In September she will start training for the California International Marathon with hopes to qualify with a Standard A time for the Olympic Trials.
TWO GOOD RACES NEXT WEEKEND
The Woods and Lakes 5K and 10K in Mountain Lakes and the Clinton Country Run 15K are both taking place this coming Saturday, April 29th. Woods’ is a local favorite while the Clinton race draws teams.