Tom, a beautiful big hazel eye’d baby, the second of Des and Anna’s four children; a brother to Sadie Martha and Paddy. He was a small, quiet and bright child, a deep thinker and had good dry sense of humour. At school Tom loved Geography; at one stage he could name all the world’s capital cities and he knew the flags of each country.
By the age of eight he developed an interest in running; that took over from football. He was an extremely keen runner; focussed, and he trained hard. He joined the City of Edinburgh Athletic Club. Before long he knew all the clubs in Scotland, the colours of their running vests and the time stats of the top runners.
His passion for running remained throughout his life; he was a part of the running community. Tom read copiously about running and with such enthusiasm; about all aspects of the sport from endurance running to training techniques and regimes to follow.
One New Year in Holyrood Park when aged eleven he went along to an Orienteering event and was hooked; running and reading a map to follow a route, that was just such a brilliant thing to do, especially as it would take him into the wilds.
His friend Seamus Keaney recalls Tom’s enthusiasm for getting off the beaten track. A run to Tom was more than just a start and a finish, it wasn’t just about a particular pace or time…it was the journey that really mattered to him. As an orienteer Tom would seek out rewarding routes; dirt trails, steep ridges, walls to jump and would occasionally trespass through Edinburgh’s private estates and golf courses.
Tom had the courage to be different, be an individual, take risks and speak his mind. He didn’t hide his struggle with depression, a credible and courageous thing to do, with all the stigma and judgments out there. Tom was quiet but at times chatty, competitive yet modest. He was talented, friendly, popular, and funny, he was an exceptional young man.
I am, like all those that knew him, extremely grateful for having had the privilege of having had his companionship and to have explored alongside him a few of the thousands of miles he would have run during his life.
Tom’s friend Oleg Cheplin recalls that as well as studying sport science at University Tom loved the social and competitive side of the sport. He represented Scotland both at junior and senior level. Tom was a team player, running not only for local clubs, initially Edinburgh Southern Orienteering Club before moving to Forth Valley Orienteers, but also a Swedish club called OK Tyr. Oleg ran with Tom in some of the biggest relays in the World. Tom’s determination and commitment to the sport were truly inspiring and can be summed up by one of his famous phrases which was “I have miles for breakfast.”
Tom wrote this about running.
“Choose to start young. Choose to not fear burnout and junk miles. Choose to ignore Vo2 Max and Lactate thresholds. Choose to leave the HRM at home. Choose to put down Runners World.
Choose to throw away the motion control shoes. Choose to Run. You never know you might enjoy it.”
It was at Stirling University Tom joined FVO; he is remembered by Jon Cross who said; “Tom joined Forth Valley in 2010; his very first competition for us was a brilliant run in the JK Trophy relay that year; he brought us right through the field into 4th place on the second leg. Later that year he helped us to second place in the overnight Harvester Relay and to a win in the Compass Sport Trophy Final. In the summer he ran the last leg for us in the world’s biggest relay, Jukola in Finland. Tom always made the effort for team competitions and continued with some great results, both as a runner and an orienteer; he was a valued member of the Scotland team.
He was a strong proponent of the old school training approach – miles, miles and then more miles.
James Tullie reminded me the other day of a classic moment on an FVO training camp that summed up Tom’s attitude to training. The training camp was up in Speyside and it snowed heavily overnight; it was up to my knees in places – so you can just imagine how deep it was for Tom. This made the morning session pretty tough. After two hours of running Tom was struggling and never one to overdress, he was pretty cold too. Later, back at the accommodation, James was horrified to see Tom shivering over a minimalist lunch and took him to task with; “you need to eat more, what did you have for breakfast?” His reply; “breakfast – I have miles for breakfast”.
The last occasion I spent some time with Tom was when we made the long journey together to southern England and back for this year’s Harvester Relay, Tom’s favourite British race. He gave everything on his leg of the relay and was even leading the entire race for a while. I know he relished that race and experience; we enjoyed sharing it and many others with him as a team-mate.
I came across these words the other day: “The five attributes you need as an athlete are stamina, speed, strength, skill and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit”. Tom had all of these and in particular he had that spirit in abundance. It was a pleasure to have such a talented and committed athlete and friend in our club. We will remember him and we will miss him.
Tom’s mum Anna and the family recognise just how important Tom’s friends were to him; they inspired him, truly helped him, perhaps more than they realise.
It’s the positive things about Tom’s life he will be remembered for, by all who knew him.