Tommy Rivers Puzey Update: Health & Latest Achievements
American Tommy Rivers Puzey, otherwise known as Tommy Rivs, is a runner who appeared to have the world in the palm of his hands as he ran his way through life.
Ultramarathoner, marathoner, father, husband, physical therapist, it is amazing to consider how he balances all of the irons he has in the fire.
Who is Tommy Rivers Puzey?
Born in rural New Mexico, Tommy Rivs is an elite athlete who entered the running scene with a vengeance in 2015. His accolades spread across about 5 years when he fell ill.
It took doctors some time to figure out exactly what was ailing the running great. His diagnosis and care were delayed in a world forever changed by the Covid-19 pandemic because his symptoms seemed similar to those of someone suffering from Covid.
Tommy Rivs’ Illness: NK T-Cell Lymphoma
Looking at his accomplishments, you might think that his biggest challenge to date was running-related. You would be wrong. It was the summer of 2020 when he started to feel ill. He was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive lymphoma called primary pulmonary NK T-cell lymphoma.
Experts say that it was unlikely that he would survive this disease and the aggressive treatments Rivs went through. His endurance, body, fight, and sheer will to live had other things in mind.
Although he spent 2 1/2 months in intensive care, had to relearn how to walk and do basic things for himself, he never gave up. His muscular body went from 170+ pounds to under 100 over the course of his treatment. Still, he never gave up.
What Are Tommy Riv’s Running Achievements?
- 1st Place – Paatuwazatsi 50K Run (2015)
- 2nd Place – Flagstaff Marathon (2015) Time: 3:16:42
- 1st Place – TransRockies 120 Miler (2016)
- 6th Place – Run Rabbit Run 100 Miler (2016)
- 1st Place – Arizona Rock & Roll Marathon (2016) Time: 2:19:57
- 2nd Place – Mesa Phoenix Marathon (2016) Time: 2:18:29
- 16th Place – Boston Marathon (2017) Time: 2:18:20
- 2nd Place – Flagstaff Extreme Big Pine 54K (2018)
- 1st Place – Flagstaff to Grand Canyon 55K (2018)
Tommy Rivs’ Life Philosophy
Tommy Rivs does not just say the words “go big or go home.” He lives them. Not at all looking like other elite marathoners in a racing field, Rivs is over 6 feet tall, tips the scales at over 170 pounds, and has a long, bushy beard as his trademark look.
Determined to leave it all on the racecourse, he leans into the pain so hard; he has collapsed more than once.
In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Tommy Rivs said, “What gets me most exciting about running are the possibilities of reaching my full potential. There’s a quote from George Eliot I like: ‘It’s impossible to know your full potential without going too far sometimes.’
So last year was probably the most important race I’ve ever run because I learned that I could do 18 miles at a 5:06 (per mile) pace. So rather than that being a failure in my mind, it was an epiphany instead.”
Tommy Rivs’ Training Routine
When researching his training programs, you will find very little. The reason is that he does not publish his workouts on any social media or tracking device.
When friends and training partners discuss Rivs, they comment that they aren’t even certain he wears any GPS for his running.
Digging into his past, I learned that at one point, his 24-mile commute to and from graduate classes was down entirely on foot. You heard that correctly. He ran to and from class every day.
When Rivs was battling cancer, and his brother decided to replicate one week of his commute as part of a #runwithrivs challenge, one thing was for sure: he did not wish to do it again.
Says Rivs, “I never felt like I was training because it was simply my mode of transportation to and from school.”
Rivs spoke in an interview about his Vuelta del Taco Run. He ran 10 miles away down a dirt road to Del Taco, ate a burrito, washed it down with a Powerade and ran the 10 miles back home. He did this 5 days each week.
Rivs said he would do most of these runs at a low heart rate, with some strides in the last couple of miles.
Some of his other training savories include Day in the Canyon, a 5,000-foot climb down then back up again. He also participates in some group runs with training partners, working on tempo or speed.
What Does Tommy Rivs Eat?
When discussing diet, it becomes clear that Tommy Rivs is smart about listening to his body. He recognizes that his body requires 100+ miles a week to keep his weight down. Sure, he could modify his diet – but why would he?
While many people find their body craving certain food and either give in, assuming their body is telling them something or ignoring the craving, Rivs has a different approach.
He has learned to identify his cravings. If he craves something sweet, he knows his body needs carbohydrates. “So I could eat a bag of Swedish Fish, or I could eat a banana. And if I eat a banana, I will feel better.”
Recognizing that a craving for fat could derail a diet with a choice of BBQ ribs, he instead reaches for avocado. Salty cravings have him reaching for a pickle instead of potato chips. He also finds that the less meat he eats, the better he feels.
This has him focusing on a plant-based diet.
What Is the Status of Tommy Rivers Puzey’s Health?
The 37-year-old athlete is now in remission. He fought like hell to get himself off of life support, learned to walk, and then learned to run. Sadly, there is a 90% chance that this cancer will return. Because of the damage done to his body, he is not a candidate for a transplant.
As he worked on rehabilitating his broken, battered body, he set a goal for himself: to run a marathon. That brings us to his latest achievement.
What Was Tommy Rivs’ Latest Marathon?
In November of 2023, Rivs again toed the line at a marathon. Once a 2:18 marathoner, it took the great Tommy Rivs over 9 hours (9:18:57 to be exact) to travel the 26.2 miles.
His Instagram post captures his thoughts beautifully, “Oh my goodness. That was the single most difficult athletic achievement that I’ve ever accomplished. NYC, you are pure magic. So much love out there yesterday.
I don’t yet have the words to begin expressing how I feel. I don’t think big enough words exist. But thank you to everyone who carried me to this point and throughout the day. And I love you. I do.”
If you want to be inspired, you can follow him on Instagram at Tommy_rivs.
Some closing words from Rivs himself, “Keep moving. You’re still here. As long as you’re moving, you’re still here.”
Keep moving, friends.
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