Most of us can remember our first race and the sense of accomplishment we felt by simply finishing. It’s the ultimate runner’s high, and for many, it’s life changing. It’s a feeling so strong that some say it has the power to turn potatoes to tomatoes. On August 11, East Nasty will paint the town red with a new group of runners, racing for the finish line as they compete in their first race. Behind all of the stories of training, hard work and summer heat is Mike Clark, coach of East Nasty’s Potato to Tomato (couch to 5k) program. It’s his dedication to instilling a love for running in our community that makes him East Nasty of the Week.
Mike, who is a math and science teacher and middle and high school running coach, became involved in the Potato to Tomato program in 2009. In addition to coaching runners through the entire training process, Mike enjoys watching friendships form and lives change as a result of the program. “It’s all about the people and the memories that are made with them,” he says.
Growing up in Madison, TN, East Nashville’s backyard, Mike enjoyed drawing and collecting baseball cards and dabbled in piano lessons when he was a kid. He was adopted and considers himself very blessed to have wonderful parents, Shirley and Bill, who have been married for 54 years.
Though he admits he wasn’t very athletic in his high school days at Goodpasture (a strapping 6’1” and 128 lbs), he did play church league softball.
Mike stayed local for college and graduated with a degree in Business Management and Marketing from Lipscomb and earned his master’s in Education from TSU. In January, he will begin his 19th year as a teacher for Metro Public Schools.
After his doctor encouraged him to make some health related changes, Mike began walking with the Team and Training program in January 2007. Mike became bored with walking, so he started running and ran his first race two months later. He crossed the finish line in 37:42. The following year, Mike completed a 5k in less than 30 minutes and at that point, fell in love with running. In 2009, Mike’s good friend (the one and only) Chuck Hargrove introduced him to East Nasty (thanks Chuck!)
Now Mike spends three days a week turning walkers into steady runners during a series of 23 workouts that all lead up the Tomato Festival 5k on August 11. Mike has a goal to run the race in less than 27 minutes, but believes the race isn’t measured by the minutes on the race clock. “The key is to enjoy the run, do your best and encourage others along the way,” he says.
When Mike isn’t running, he enjoys traveling, attending baseball games, listening to live music and spending time with his family. Oh and a little known fact about Mike is that he used to sing with the Nashville Symphony Chorus and was in the last group to record under Maestro Schermerhorn in 2003. Maybe he should also coach a potato to American Idol program!
Whether the Tomato Festival 5k is your first race or your fiftieth, don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for simply finishing. Then, thank Mike Clark for his hard work in graduating a new class of East Nasties.
Congratulations to Mike on his well-deserved East Nasty of the Week induction. His commitment to the group is a shining example of East Nasty’s purpose in the community. I get the sense that Mike doesn’t like to brag about himself so let’s fill up the comments section with lots of praise for this great guy!