Run In Peace, Tommy Leonard - Thoughts On Tommy From Some Of The Sport's Legends


image1.jpegTommy Leonard and Jeff Benjamin, photo by Jeff Benjamin

Tommy Leonard was one of those wonderfully colorful and eccentric people in our sport, that, if you met him once, you would never forget that meeting. My first visit to Falmouth Road Race was in 1985, with Kim Wrinkle, Dan Ferrera, and we slept on the floor of Coach Bill Squires the night before. Meeting Tommy Leonard with Coach Squires was one of those life moments. Falmouth Road Race weekend was Tommy Leonard's weekend, as he was the indominatable spirit behind the race that exemplifies the New England summer race circuit.

image2.jpegBill Rodgers with the Tommy Leonard adult beverage, photo by Jeff Benjamin

Tommy Leonard passed away on January 15, 2019. We asked Jeff Benjamin to reach out to friends to provide thoughts on Tommy and his place in the history of New England road racing.

image3.jpegTommy Leonard painting, photo by Jeff Benjamin

Run In Peace Tommy Leonard - Thoughts On Tommy From Some Of The Sport's Legends
By Jeff Benjamin

One would guess that to those who never met or heard of the indefatigable New England Bartender Tommy Leonard, That Perhaps The Best way to explain him would be by the following mathematical formula -

Baseball = Cooperstown NY
Football = Canton Ohio
Road Racing = Tommy Leonard

It was Tommy's dream and hope that, having grown up in foster homes, that running would not only be his salvation, but the motivating passion which he led to spread that salvation to millions of runners.

His Falmouth Road Race creation back in 1973 with less than 100 runners is without a doubt his greatest legacy which he has passed on to every runner and local road race which has taken place with numbers big and small every weekend (and some weekdays& weeknights!) throughout America ever since.

Here are what some of our Running Legends Had To say about Tommy:

Frank Shorter

"Tommy Leonard was a totally believable person who led an incredibly unbelievable life.
I met him 44 years ago and immediately sensed he had no hidden agendas.
I think this is a big part of why I and so many others agreed to help him over the years in any way we could.

Saying "sure" was a reflex because we knew it would always be fun and along the way so many people would benefit. I also came to realize he had an absolutely heartfelt ability to downplay and minimize the enormous credit he always deserved.

For forty-four years, this man remained genuine in my eyes and well as in the eyes of so many others who now miss him dearly.

Good bye Tommy....
God Speed!"

Bobby Hodge

Boston sportswriter and friend, Joe Concannon, called him the "Guru" and he drew people to him with his light as a friend of long distance running, Athletics, and a lover of the Boston Marathon,as its official greeter.

I first met Tommy in February 1975 at the Amherst 10 miler. I drove out there from Boston in my Buick Skylark with the passenger door that didn't open and I still remember GBTC teammates Billy Rodgers, girlfriend Ellen and Vinny Fleming climbing through the window to get in and out of the car.

This was prior to Billy ever having won Boston or finished third in the World Cross Country, both of which happened only weeks later. Vinny had been telling me about the Eliot and Tommy but I still had never been. It was beginning to become a clubhouse for the Greater Boston Track Club then and that was because of Tommy and his love for running, runners and the Boston Marathon.

After the race in Amherst, we went to a local pub and I met Tommy who, when I told him I was from Lowell he said "Jack Kerouac!". "Yes, Tommy I am aware." He told me I had to run Falmouth and I had to come to the Eliot on marathon day.

The Falmouth race, Tommy's baby then, was what brought me back to running after a brief hiatus I had read about the 1974 race with Will Rodgers beating Marty Liquori and the rest of the top ten mainly GBTC runners.

This was definitely the beginning of something special and Billy and Tommy were the catalysts, but that day in Amherst, I just felt motivated to become a better athlete. I had no idea that Boston and the Eliot was about to become a mecca and Tommy it's leading light.

I am happy to have had Tommy as a friend and confidant for all these years. Be a good boy, Tommy.

Soundtrack, Tommy can you hear me...

Rod Dixon

"Very sad 😢
I'm in Hong Kong 🇭🇰 and was at a school XC running program when I received notification. I was so overwhelmed.

Dear Tommy Leonard, all those amazing memories and years he was just the light and life of the Eliott Lounge - Boston Marathon - Falmouth RR - Quarter Deck - Litchfield Hills RR - and just everything Running in our World."

Craig Virgin

"Tommy Leonard will be best remembered for his personality as well as the Falmouth Road Race and the Eliot Lounge in Boston."

Kathrine Switzer

" Friends: Along with thousands of Tommy Leonard's friends and fans, I am saddened by the passing of a guy who was a real Legend in His Own Time. He was a lovable bartender who loved running and loved runners and loved holding court for the original hard-training athletes who flocked to his establishments for post-run conviviality. His creation of the Falmouth Road race--originally a jolly jaunt from one bar to another that became a world class event-- is part of what makes our colorful running history. And heaven knows that Tommy Leonard was one colorful guy! Thanks,Tommy!"

Bill Rodgers

"Tommy Leonard didn't drive or own a car. He didn't own a house . He wasn't driven by money. But he was patriotic. He was a US Marine and A Boston Marathoner. He was the Founder of the Truly Iconic Falmouth Road race and the Holyoke Road Race on St Patrick's Day. He was a humble bartender who loved the simple sport of Running. He knew Running was not just the best sport in the worlD but also that it was the most competitive sport in the World and he loved our American Champions.

About 35 years ago, Tommy told me about his favorite movie, "It's A Wonderful Life". I watched that movie every year since. If you watch it and like it you'd know who Tommy Leonard was. I knew he was very weak as of today and I still wish he would be there at Falmouth next Summer. He was a symbol of the Best of the Golden Era of Distance Running."

Next Time any of us toe the line or help volunteer or score a local run, please think of Tommy.

Run In Peace.

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