A True Iron Man
Company Vice President Has Strong Work Ethic
by David Jenkins
Most 49-year-old heart attack survivors avoid strenuous activities—Tom Randolph competes in triathlons. The executive vice president of Randolph-Bundy in Norfolk, Va., is a relative newcomer to the sport. When asked why he decided to take up such a demanding hobby in his mid-forties, Randolph said the reason was simple—he was trying to impress a girl.
“My wife Amy got me into the sport before we married,” Randolph said. “Since 1998, we’ve trained and entered all events together.”
A triathlon is an athletic competition consisting of three distinct components—swimming, bicycling and running. Amazingly, Randolph was not experienced in any of these activities when he first started competing.
“Initially, swimming was the hardest, because it’s not on land and you have to conquer your fear of water,” he said.
Randolph was forced to conquer another fear when he suffered a major heart attack two years after his triathlon debut. Although several doctors advised him to give up the grueling sport, Randolph was determined to compete again.
“The first three cardiologists I saw told me not to participate in multi-sport events, but the fourth gave me clearance—he understood my passion,” he said.
Following his heart attack, Randolph had to train for a full year before he was fit enough to enter a triathlon. In addition, because of his heart disease, Randolph could no longer go “all out” during a race.
“I compare my racing style to the tortoise from the tortoise and hare story—slow and steady can win the race.” Pausing for a moment, Randolph added, “Now, I’m not saying I run as slow as a tortoise, although I’m certainly no hare.”
When asked to name his favorite athlete, Randolph did not hesitate in giving the honor to Lance Armstrong—fitting for a man who has made such a remarkable return following a potentially fatal illness.
“Lance came back from testicular cancer—something that should’ve killed him—and is back competing, better than ever.”
Like Armstrong, Randolph has improved his athletic performance following his medical scare. The heart attack survivor has progressed to Olympic distance triathlons, comprised of a one-mile swim, a 25-mile bicycle ride and a six-mile run. This past June, Randolph competed in a TriAmerica event, placing 5th in his age group with a time of 2 hours, 32 minutes—a 17-minute improvement from his previous best. Yet, such statistics are not Randolph’s primary motivation.
“I don’t compete to win or place—I participate for the fitness benefits of training and the sense of camaraderie at the events.”
Randolph says that triathlons have taught him “anything worth having is worth working for,” and based on his training schedule, Randolph does indeed work for his triathlon success. Each week, he swims twice, takes two bike rides (each 20-30 miles long) and goes on three runs (each 3-7 miles long).
Randolph says triathlons have also taught him the value of hard work and that perseverance pays off—two lessons that he has applied to the business world.
As he nears 50, Randolph has no plans of giving up the sport.
Next year, Randolph hopes to race at the half iron distance, which features a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13-mile run. As for the iron man, which is the longest triathlon (roughly doubling the distances of the half iron), Randolph says, “You can never say never.”
Based on his accomplishments thus far, one should never underestimate Randolph’s “heart.”
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