Daily Distraction: Run alongside Tommy Rivs

It feels like I've spent more time this last year with iFit trainer Tommy Rivers Puzey, aka Tommy Rivs, than anyone outside of my immediate family

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Tommy Rivers Puzey

Following the March 2020 shutdown, my family's big pandemic purchase consisted of a treadmill. With gyms closed, running in the basement became a needed stress reliever while trying to balance work-from-home (which can often feel more like living at work), along with two young kids and an unfortunately timed home renovation that kicked off less than a month before COVID hit.

As a result, it feels like I've spent more time this last year with iFit trainer Tommy Rivers Puzey, aka Tommy Rivs, than anyone outside of my immediate family, logging hundreds of miles alongside him, running everywhere from the mountains of Bolivia to the beaches of Costa Rica.

It wasn't until about a month ago, however, after spotting a review posted to one of his iFit workouts wishing him improved health, that I learned of Rivs' ongoing battle with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, which pushed him to the edge of death, and, judging from Instagram posts, remains touch and go as he begins to work on what would be a miraculous recovery. "Every breath is a struggle, but these anemic lungs are still my own and that is a privilege I have to acknowledge," he wrote in a post on Tuesday.

It's an odd thing to feel invested in the health of someone you've never met. But over the last year, as Rivs has urged me up the sides of Russian mountains, he's also given of himself, telling stories about disastrous early apartments he shared with his now-wife in between reminders to "stay at an RPE (rate of perceived exertion) of 6 for this next stretch." Even when he stops on a 15 incline to ponder a specific flower for a few ticks too long, he's impossible to hate.

Since reading about his health struggles, some of my workouts have been weirdly gutting, such as a recent run in Bolivia where Rivs kept talking about how much he loved life, and how he'd made changes to his behaviors in an effort to extend his own timeline as far into the future as possible, which he traced in part to meeting his wife and the subsequent birth of his children. which somehow twisted a bigger knot in my stomach than the run-closing uphill sprint. 

I have to imagine there are more runners like myself, who only know of Rivs through our machines but are pulling for him to make it out of the hospital and back onto the road, which hopefully will stretch a long, long way into the future.