TODD VINYARD: On your mark, get set … run the Gum Tree

By Todd Vinyard/Journal Interactive

TUPELO – This Saturday, I’ll check something off my life list of things to do. I plan to run the Gum Tree 10K in Tupelo with others to complete something I’ve needed and wanted to do for a while.
You’ll be able to find my time in the Daily Journal on Sunday. Just do what I do when I’m looking for my beloved Chicago Cubs in the National League Central baseball standings – start at the bottom and go up.
Seriously, my journey Saturday is much more about finishing than running a particular time. During my time as a sports writer I was at the finish line of many races to talk to the winners. This time, I’m going to cross it.
It all started when Daily Journal senior sports writer Gene Phelps asked me if I wanted to participate in something called Marathon Makeover. Luckily, I didn’t give it much thought before saying yes.
Nathan Hall and Bryan Miller have been great coaches during this 40-week program that ends in October and seeks to take people off the couch to completing a marathon. I have to admit in the beginning when they talked about running some of the distances I had my doubts. But they’ve always given the good advice of “don’t look at it like running 26 miles. Look at it as running a mile 26 times.”
I’ve known for some time I needed to do something to get in better shape. A couple of years ago when my son Josh was born, I was very supportive to my wife Johanna. You might say a little too supportive in the eating department. Even after Josh came I was eating like I was eating for two or three or four!
Finally, it all caught up with me when my doctor told me I might be pre-diabetic. I made some diet changes and headed to the NMMC Wellness Center, lost some weight and thankfully things improved.
But to keep it that way, I knew exercise had to be something I did regularly. Along came Marathon Makeover – a great program all over Mississippi put on by Mark and Robin Simpson.
I think it says a lot about Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi that a group of folks from here have been getting together regularly to run on Saturdays and improve their fitness. Hats off to all the Marathon Makeover Tupelo team members. It may be corny, but to me that is the kind of can-do spirit you see in this region all the time. Northeast Mississippi was a “Just Do It” place long before Nike in my opinion.
My Marathon Makeover started with 10 weeks of walking and then the running building up over time. This past Saturday I ran/walked 8 miles, by far the most I’ve ever done. I’m still a work in progress as a runner, but I’m making progress.
Next up – the Gum Tree on Saturday. It is great for our community to have this event and the GumTree Festival. Lots of volunteers work long hours to put on these fun events for our community. My family and I plan to do both while hoping the weather is much better this weekend than the last two Northeast Mississippi has suffered.
There will not be any “Chariots of Fire” music and I will not be first, but I’ll keep in mind this quote from John Bingham, running writer and speaker: “If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.”
I’ll be a runner Saturday. Not the fastest or the best, but a runner who is running the race and enjoying it. See you at the starting and (hopefully) finishing line.

Todd Vinyard is the online editor for Journal Interactive, including the Daily Journal’s website You can reach him at Read his blog on the Marathon Makeover experience by clicking here.

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