In 2007, a Dallas accountant quietly made history as the first Black person to complete marathons on all seven continents (including Antarctica, where fur seals nipped at his heels all the way to the finish line).
That accountant is Anthony Reed, MBA, MS, CPA, PMP. That’s a lot of credentials for an inner-city kid who started out all dream and no direction! He never planned to run a marathon or the IT department for the Superconducting Super Collider. Like everyone else in the St. Louis projects, he just wanted to move out, move on, and move up.
Kid in a Candy Store
In 1968, Reed went on a long-scheduled class trip to Washington, D.C., the day after Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. Upon visiting the Capitol, a group of white students was ushered ahead on the tour while the waiting Black kids were diverted to the lesser-known Smithsonian Institute and Library of Congress. This slight, however, proved fortuitous.
Young Tony Reed never forgot the artifacts of Thomas Edison and Alexander Bell on display — how cool to be important enough to have a personal possession enshrined for posterity!
Thirty years later, Reed found himself back at The Smithsonian on a family vacation. The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum displayed an exhibit of everyday items shaped like stars, from Lucky Charms cereal to starfish.
What caught Reed’s attention was a pair of star-shaped sunglasses belonging to Bootsy Collins, the bass player for Parliament-Funkadelic and Bootsy’s Rubber Band.
“These were two of my all-time favorite groups,” he said. “I thought if Bootsy Collins could have his sunglasses in the National Air and Space Museum, anything is possible.”
On March 5, 2012, a letter arrived from the newly planned Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture:
Dear Mr. Reed,
Our sports curator is interested in your running shoes, jersey, and any other documentation such as film footage or photographs that you may have and are willing to donate. I know you offered the running shoes on our collection information forms, but could you also include any of these additional items? We would like to tell as much of a complete story as possible.
On September 17, 2016, looking dapper in a dark suit and tie at the pre-opening for artifact donors, Tony knew he had fulfilled a childhood fantasy. CNN was there to interview him, and a three-hour documentary of his life would forever be on file in the Library of Congress.
“Hills Build Character”
Tony recites this mantra while running and repeats it at speaking engagements. His story has many hills: How he started running to stave off diabetes, how he was mocked for being too heavy to race, how he rose to run large IT departments only to see the lowliness of racism in action.
His track record and training methods are well documented in Runners World, as well as in his own books. By his account, he simply never met a challenge he couldn’t overcome.
Since his first Ft. Worth Cowtown Marathon in 1982 at age 27, he entered one race after another, immersing himself in the world of running. Today, Tony’s one of about 50 people ever to achieve the “marathon hat trick,” finishing at least 100 marathons in each of the 50 states and all seven continents. No goal has ever been insurmountable in his mind.
The same goes for his accounting career.
“You say Blacks can’t manage billion-dollar budgets,” Tony said. “Just watch me.”
And he did just that. He also ran 5,000 steps over the Great Wall of China.
Tony jokes about suffering from “RWB”: Running While Black. This involves dodging cans, spit, and other objects hurled at him. He’s been called racial slurs, followed, and even cut-off by cars while running. He’s constantly on guard. While white runners may primarily find relief in their outside jobs, it’s not often as leisurely for Black runners.
But that didn’t — and doesn’t — stop Tony Reed. He’s all about getting things done no matter the obstacles. And overcoming racism in a sport he loves is no different.
To learn more about Anthony Reed and his accomplishments, visit http://www.Running toLeadership.com. Download the eBook or order the paperback on the same site.