To my knowledge, she’s not British and she’s never hosted any spring break shows from Fort Lauderdale, but she does share a moniker with a former MTV VJ. Folks, meet Downtown Tammy Brown. Or at least that’s what some people call her. And by some people, I mean me. Tammy is one of the elites in the Louisville running scene, frequently collecting age group awards in the races she runs.
I’d met Tammy just once right before my first-ever 16-mile run on a blazing hot morning. I was training with two friends, Dawn and Howard, and the heat was beating us into the ground. At the halfway mark of the out-and-back, we ran into Tammy as she was starting her run. She was injured, so she was only covering a few miles. She ran with us for a little ways, but she turned back and we kept going, I didn’t expect to see her anymore that day. Instead, she showed up on our course, bringing us cold drinks and treats while she checked on us for the rest of our run. Good egg, that Tammy Brown.
How long have you been running? And why did you start?
When I was a little younger, I jogged here and there, but I didn’t really get started into structured running until I was in my mid 30’s. A mutual friend of ours, Eileen, asked me to join her on some of her runs after work for exercise. I remember my first race, the old Run for the Sun 4-miler held down on River Road. Eileen gave me my first race tip that day. She said, “Now, when they shoot the gun off… just let them go.” It still makes me laugh today! She was trying to stress the surge of runners at the start of a race and for me not to get caught up in it. I always hear that in my mind now at the start of every race. Gosh, that must have been about 15 years ago.
You’ve qualified for Boston like a hundred times. I may be exaggerating. How many times have you run it?
I’ve actually only run it twice. It’s such a special race. I feel that it loses some of its importance if you run it every year. I’ve been very lucky to have made the qualifications. I know other runners who have it tougher meeting the strict time constraints. It’s so hard to get in now with the time limits and the new registration process. Since I’ve experienced running the Boston Marathon, I don’t want to take the place of others who’ve not had that opportunity. Nothing wrong with running it every year if you can, it’s just a personal decision I made.
You didn’t participate this year. Any plans to get back there for another one of those cool blue and yellow unicorn jackets?
I would love to go back again, and I hope to one day. Since the bombings last year and having friends there and in peril, the race has taken on a whole new meaning. It embodies the spirit of the running community and the unity we have—and that’s as strong as ever. I would love to go back and help represent that.
What advice would you give to someone who’s been running for awhile but wants to get faster?
There are so many different approaches to running these days. I think it comes down to your personal situation and what your body can handle. I know friends who do well putting in tons of miles, and others who do better focusing on key workouts with less mileage. My best advice is to find what works for you. We’re not all the same body type, though I wish I could be a Kenyan for a day and run their training schedules!
For me, I didn’t really see any improvement in my marathon finish times until I added cycling into my training regime. I think it helped my quad strength and stride cadence a lot. But running hills and doing track work are probably the best ways to get faster. It’s also good to find running buddies that will always challenge you, be it in a race or on your shorter runs.
Let’s just assume the zombie apocalypse happens. Do you think it’s more advantageous for a living human to be able to run short and fast (like a 5k PR) or slower and longer (like a 3:30 marathon)? Explain.
Very funny! Well, I think if one is to survive the zombie apocalypse, one would need to run slower and longer. You would need to outlast the attack, right?! Eventually, a leg or two would fall off of your attackers, and they would be ground crawling!
Who’s your favorite runner? Why?
There are so many great runners to admire, but I think my favorite runner, and one that had an impact on me, is Deena Kastor. Her 2004 Olympic marathon run was such a tactical run, and so inspiring. Though she initially dropped very far behind the lead pack of elite runners in the beginning, she didn’t panic and stuck with her strategy. In the second half of the marathon, she picked up the pace and began passing runners throughout the final miles. She eventually moved up to third place and won the bronze! It was so exciting! A great day for U.S. women’s running.
It really taught me the importance of patience and sticking to your own plan if you’re to run your best and meet your own goals, whatever they may be at that moment.
What’s your favorite race you’ve ever run? Why?
Well, Boston of course holds a soft place in my heart as does my PR race at the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, New York. But I truly have loved every marathon I’ve done. I hope that doesn’t sound like a copout. Each one has been a favorite for different reasons, be it the course and scenery like Big Sur and Napa, or just enjoying fun times with friends and fellow runners like I have in New York, San Francisco and Kiawah. These have been the best times of my life seeing the country by foot and experiencing it with all my friends. Don’t make me choose, Glenn!
For your 50th birthday, you ran a 50-miler. Have you run any other ultras? Do you see them in your future?
The Land Between the Lakes 50-Mile Ultra (LBL), was my first and only ultra to date. Since I ran LBL, I’ve had some unrelated health issues that affected my running this past year. But today I feel healthy and back on track. I’m looking forward to running my first marathon in over a year this fall. So, yes, I would love to run another Ultra, and I hope one is in my future.
They’re so different than marathons. For me, marathons can be very competitive, and I tend to be more focused on finish time. But in ultras, you definitely have to think about the distance and finishing safely. A lot more goes into it, nutrition and pace wise. There’s such camaraderie between the runners in ultras. Everyone is very supportive and willing to help each other throughout the whole race—so much more of a relaxed atmosphere. I have a great respect for athletes that run them. I would love to experience that again one day.
*All photos courtesy of Tammy Brown.