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Williamsburg residents Mark Tompkins and Randy Hawthorne have both spent the better part of their lives serving as ambassadors for running.
While Hawthorne said some people labor through each step of a run, lamenting the decision to lace up their running shoes, Tompkins and Hawthorne have savored the years of accumulating mileage.
For both men, running is the polar opposite of labor or stress. Rather, Tompkins went so far as to say there’s “something beautiful that happens” when he runs.
With more than 150,000 miles and nearly 90 years combined between the two veteran runners, Hawthorne and Tompkins have become established running figures throughout the region.
Both men were recognized for their illustrious running careers and dedication to running when they were inducted into the Virginia Peninsula Road Racing Hall of Fame during the Peninsula Track Club’s awards banquet Jan. 16.
Ironically, Hawthorne, who serves on the Peninsula Track Club Hall of Fame selection committee, was not present for the meeting in which he was nominated.
After the meeting, Hawthorne received a phone call from Colonial Road Runners President Rick Platt, who said, “Be careful what meetings you don’t go to, you might get elected.”
Shocked by his selection, Hawthorne responded with a laugh, “Couldn’t you find anybody a little more worthy?”
Despite his best efforts to downplay his selection, Hawthorne and his wife, Shelby, have been instrumental in sustaining William & Mary’s cross-country and track and field programs.
Hawthorne has served since 1972 as the president of the Spiked Shoes Society, William & Mary’s track alumni and friends booster club. Throughout his 44 years of leading the Spiked Shoes Society, Hawthorne has helped raise more than $6 million for the various costs of running a Division I cross-country and track program, which include scholarships, coaching salaries and travel expenses.
Additionally, Hawthorne authored Track Talk, a William & Mary track and field newsletter, for 31 years and helped keep alumni informed on track and field related results and news.
But Hawthorne’s dedication went further than simply putting pen to paper. In addition to his volunteerism at William & Mary track meets throughout the years, he also made a point to practice with the William & Mary cross-country team for 40 years.
Hawthorne, who has logged more than 115,000 miles in his 60 years as a runner, ran with the William & Mary men’s cross-country team for 23 years before he could no longer keep pace with the collegiate runners. For the next 17 years, starting in 1985, he began running with the women’s cross-country team and helped create a more comfortable running environment for the athletes.
“Back then, there weren’t as many female runners and the girls would sometimes get some rude or crude comments from [drivers],” he said. “When I ran with them that pretty much stopped, because I guess people didn’t want to shout rude things at women runners when a man was with them.”
For his efforts at William & Mary, Hawthorne was inducted into the William & Mary Athletics Hall of Fame in 1989. He has also received numerous awards recognizing him as a distinguished alumni.
Tompkins, Hawthorne’s co-inductee into the Virginia Peninsula Road Racing Hall of Fame, has a decorated running résumé that includes fast times and top coaching honors.
A collegiate cross-country and track and field runner for the U.S. Naval Academy from 1995 to 1999, Tompkins took to road racing and set a number of personal milestones in the process.
As a road runner, Tompkins has achieved significant road racing goals, including a sub-15 minute 5k — he ran a 14:58 during the New England USA Track and Field Championship in 1999 — and a 10-miler completed in less than an hour — he posted a 55:09 during the Yorktown Battle Field Run in 2009.
Tompkins has continued his strong streak of running in more recent years competing in Masters division races, which are reserved for athletes 40 and older.
Last year, Tompkins traveled to Charlotte, N.C. and finished first in the Southeast Footlocker Championship with a time of 16:08. He is also a three-time winner of the Colonial Road Runners Grand Prix.
And while Tompkins has achieved plenty of accolades throughout his running career, he has also helped mentor young runners aspiring to receive accolades of their own one day.
Tompkins coached cross-country and track at Walsingham Academy from 2005 to 2008 before taking over as Bruton’s track and cross-country programs. Since taking over at Bruton, Tompkins has produced multiple All-State runners and even helped Carley Shannon qualify for the New Balance Nationals Indoor in 2013.
“I think it’s beautiful when a young athlete develops into something great and does something they thought they couldn’t do,” Tompkins said.
While also coaching at Bruton, Tompkins also founded the Greater Williamsburg Distance Running Club in 2014. Tompkins started the club, which serves more than 40 young runners, with the hopes of promoting distance running and healthy lifestyles to children in the Historic Triangle.
Both Hawthorne and Tompkins will be honored at the Colonial Road Runners awards banquet Saturday at the Windsor Forest Clubhouse in James City County.