Wednesday, November 9, 2011

INTERVIEW with Tony Nguyen, The Endorphin Dude

Bloggers Note:  If you have run more than a few Half Marathons or Full's - you will know the name "Endorphin Dude".  His enthusiasm for life and for running is contagious.  Please take a few moments to read about his inspiring journey of Tony Nguyen, The Endorphin Dude.  

C:  When did you start running?
T:  I started running about three years ago. Long story short, I was not in the best of health. I was overweight, insulin-dependent, and pretty much on my way to a heart attack before hitting 40. Sure enough, on April Fool's Day three years ago, I collapsed onto my living room floor from chest pains. No joke. I seriously thought my time was up. Fortunately, that incident was not a cardiac arrest. It was, however, a wake up call. Once everything settled, I took my dog Chewbacca for a walk around the block. That little stroll proved to be quite therapeutic, as I got to clear my mind and spend quality time with my pooch. The next day I walked further and then even further the following day. Before I knew it, I was taking multi-mile urban hikes all over San Francisco! A few months later, I went to cheer on some friends at the San Francisco Marathon. I felt the second hand runner's high from every runner who crossed that finish line, and knew right there and then that this was what I wanted. In front of witnesses, I made the bold statement that I was going to run a marathon!

C: What's the story of your nickname "Endorphin Dude?"
T:  I came up with the Endorphin Dude persona as a way of getting through those long runs in training. I turned training into a video game. I would make each mile an adventure. I would see how far I could get before sundown or to the next level of the game. All of these things made the hurt go away and the experience fun, which helped since I could not take Chewbacca running with me. During a race, I would just focus on the mile markers. Each one is like an energy pill, somewhat like Pacman. I am Endorphin Dude, and my mission is to save the world, one couch potato at a time! Obviously, that persona made it all the way to race day. Marathoners get a kick out of Endorphin Dude. I've been told many times that the marathon caped crusader puts a smile on their faces and helps them get to the finish line. I love hearing that!

Tony, "The Endorphin Dude"

C: Did you make your own cape?
T: The first and only cape that I ever made was for a Halloween 10k. I tied a beach towel around my neck. This cape was neither fashionable nor functional, as it started to rain by mile 4. That towel cape got really heavy. These days I am sponsored by a company in Michigan called Power Capes, where all capes are "made by moms." If anyone needs a cape, I highly recommend!

C:  How many races have your run?
T:  46 marathons and 43 half marathons! If you had told me 5 years ago that this was going to happen, I would have laughed in your face.

Tony's Finisher Medals and Awards

C:  You have run SO many medals - is there 1 race is a standout favorites for you? If so, why?
T: You never forget your first, and The San Francisco Marathon is the one race I will run for the rest of my life. Not only was it my inaugural 26.2 miler, but it also got me hooked on this little thing called runner's high. The San Francisco Marathon was supposed to have been my one and done bucket list race, but obviously I returned for more. I also dig all the Calico Racing events because they are so unique. You gotta love being able to run on the Extraterrestrial Highway in the middle of night!

Tony finishing his First Full Marathon

C: What's been your greatest accomplishment so far?
T: Tahoe Triple. Three marathons in three days up at 7000 feet. My feet were covered in blisters and at times I thought my lungs were going to implode from altitude sickness, but I got through it. 78.6 miles in three days!

C: You are chasing down Titanium status. Please explain what that is and why you are chasing it. When do you plan to achieve it?
T: I am in a club called Marathon Maniacs. I'm actually not sure if I can call this a club or a support group! We are a bunch of people who are addicted to running. To become a member, you must qualify by completing two marathons within a 16 day time frame or three marathons within a 90 day time frame. The more marathons you complete, the higher in level you get. The highest level is Titanium. That's 10 stars. To achieve this, you have to complete 52 marathons in 365 days, 30 marathons in 30 states, or 20 marathons in 20 countries in 365 days. I chose 52 in 365 days, as it would be most economically feasibe for me. Yes, this is a very lofty goal, and I am pursuing it because I want to take my running to the extreme. I don't have the speed of an elite runner, so Boston and the Olympics are out of the equation. I do, however, have the mental strength and endurance to complete this ambitious task. I also have a lot heart. I really want this. As of the first week of November, I have 39 down with only 13 more to go. Granted, those 13 marathons need to be completed by the New Year's Eve, so a few doubles and triple are in my near future. I plan to hit Titanium at the Across The Years 24, 48, 72 Hour Foot Races on December 29th. Titanium Party in Arizona!

C:  Tell me a little about your cute dog?
T:  There is actually a second reason why I am gunning for 52 marathons this year. I am raising money for The Peninsula Humane Society, the folks that found me Chewbacca. I owe a lot to that 6 pound flea bag. Because of her, I got healthy and am now in the best shape of my life. Every time I cross that finish line, I think about how my little mutt saved me. Chewbacca is a rescue dog with a pretty troubled past. She was a pregnant stray when the Peninsula Humane Society found her. There was probably some abuse that went on as well. Thankfully, the kind folks at PHS took very good care of her. I knew right away that she was the one for me and it didn't take long before I adopted her. People tell me all the time that I did a good thing by rescuing this dog, but the reality is that she rescued me. This dog has changed my life for the better, and it is my hope that her furry friends at the Peninsula Humane Society will do the same for another. If you would like to donate to Chewbacca's four-legged friends, please do so here:

Tony and Chewbacca

C: What would you feel is the best advise ever given to you by another runner, that you still use today?
T:  One of my biggest marathon mentors is the Guinness Book world record holder for most marathons in a calendar year, Yolanda Holder. This incredible super woman completed 106 marathons in 2010. When I first met Yolanda, I was still brand new to running. I admitted to her that I was so self-conscious and worried about not fitting into the "mold" of the runner. Her response to me: "This is your journey. Do it your way." That statement resonated with me, and has stayed with me throughout this Titanium quest.

C:  Describe your typical training week?
T:  I run a marathon every weekend. That is my training week! Once I complete this goal, I will return to a consistent training program. After Titanium, I plan to focus on speed again. My half marathon PR is 2:11, so I am capable. Not this year though. When you're cranking one out every weekend, you milk the clock for all its worth.

C:  What do you eat?
T:  I run a marathon every weekend. I eat a lot of carbs!

C: When you are not running marathons every weekend, what do you do during the week?
T:  When I am not running marathons, I am the chief instigator for a competitive film making team called It Donned On Me. We make movies under time constraints, which for most competitions is 48 hours. One project that is special to me is "Run, Pharm Boy, Run!", a documentary short featuring ultra runner Charles Wickersham, who just happens to be the guy who got me into running. This project gave me the opportunity to combine both my love for running and passion for film making. Check it out when you get a chance:

Run, Pharm Boy, Run!

I also have to say that I do have a day job! Contrary to what many people may think, I am not a trust fund baby, I have not won the lottery, and I do not have a sugar mama! Money has no value if you do not spend it on the things you love, and that's why every dime I earn goes into running marathons. With that said, once I am done with Titanium, I will need to scale back! Running 52 marathons in 52 weeks is not just draining on the body but on the wallet as well! In 2012, I will return to the distance I love most, the half marathon. I will run a few marathons, but no more of this insane every weekend thing! My long term goal is to hit all 50 states. I have a life time to do this, so I'm just going to take my time.
C:  Anything you would like to say to the running community?
T: I love running. If I didn't, I wouldn't be out there every weekend running marathons. I've reached the point where I no longer have to take any meds. These days, I am all about out reach. I want to spread the word of good health. I want everyone to understand that you don't have to have a Ryan Hall or Kara Goucher build to run. Anyone can do it, and with proper training and a lot of dedication, anyone can complete a marathon. It is my goal to make this world a healthier place, one couch potato at a time! Here is my website:

My thanks to Tony for providing this great and motivational interview!  We are cheering you all the way to your Titanium Party! 

(c) C. Ragsdale 2011
Celebrate Your Finish,

Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
Certified Sports Nutritionist, Running Coach & Public Speaker
~My Facebook Fan Page ~Follow Me on Twitter


  1. Endorphin Dude you are the absolute best! I really enjoyed reading this article and thanks for the inspiration! Good luck on your goal of running these marathons, and I must say that the Boston Marathon is truly missing out because you are not in the race!

  2. Thanks for the great comment! I believe he WILL get to Boston, some year and the race will be that much better because of him. He sets goals and achieves them. When he is ready to BQ, he will!


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