NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — More than 30,000 runners crossed the finish line at the New York City Marathon this year. One marathon is a feat, but how about running four marathons in four days at the age of 71?
The man considered a “real-life Forrest Gump” is the focus of this week’s Snapshot New York with Steve Overmyer.
“In a few minutes, I’ll be starting my 100-mile run… Three marathons here in Central Park around the Reservoir… The last leg of my 100 will be doing the New York City marathon,” said legendary ultramarathoner Tom McGrath.
He’s run in six-day and thousand-mile races, all for charity. Now, at 71 years old, he’s doing it one last time.
“The toughest run of my life. I’m fighting age,” McGrath said. “The legs are talking to me.”
“What are they saying?” asked Overmyer.
“That I’m tired. They’re getting heavy,” said McGrath. “You gotta listen to the body. When they talk, you listen… When they start to roar, then you got to double listen.”
McGrath’s running story started on his wedding day in 1977.
“I said to my wife to be, ‘I’m gonna run across America,’” he said.
“You got married on a Sunday. You starting running the next day. What’s the symbolism here?” Overmyer asked.
“A lot of people said, ‘You’re a wise man! You didn’t waste no time. Off you go,’” McGrath said with a laugh.
So, he ran, from sea to shining sea. Mena, his new bride, was with him the whole way – because they go together like peas and carrots.
During his journey, he spread joy, met some people and dodged some obstacles. Sometimes he had company. Sometimes he was alone. When he got tired, he rested. When he got hungry, he ate. But he kept running – all the way into the history books as the fastest man to run across the US.
“I broke the record by 12 hours and 5 minutes,” McGrath said.
“Many people consider you the inspiration for ‘Forrest Gump,’” Overmyer said. “How do you feel about that?”
“Well, I’m sorry that he didn’t call me and ask me permission to run across America,” McGrath said. “If I ever meet him, I’d straighten him out.”
McGrath isn’t just a man who tests the limits of human endurance. His is a story of determination and salvation.
“It’s tough for me to say to you, Steve, especially since you’ve been so good to me. But I am a full-blown alcoholic,” said McGrath. “Running saved my live. I was on my death bed because of alcohol.”
“How close?” Overmyer asked.
“A week to 10 days the doctors told me I would be dead,” McGrath said.
At the age of 60, McGrath started running again. The first three legs of his 100-mile run are at the Reservoir running track at Central Park for 25 miles a day, culminating in the New York City Marathon.
His runner’s high reawakened.
“You’re living healthy. You’re living the way you’re supposed to live. Life! Not drinking life, but running life,” McGrath said. “The high is when you know you’re doing good. It’s a permanent high.”
For decades, McGrath inspired countless people by running thousands of miles for charity. He carried the Olympic torch, threw out a first pitch and earned his blessings.
His finish line treat is a box of chocolates, which he happily shares. He may not be Forrest Gump, but he could probably be his best good friend.
McGrath released a new film documenting his life as a runner and overcoming alcoholism called, “Saved By My Feet.”
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