The Reckless Runner
Anthony Famiglietti inspires runners to push beyond limits
By Mike Savicki
Under the cover of darkness, a single runner takes to the Davidson College track. There is very little warm-up, and he gets right down to business. Hammering out interval after interval, each lap at a pace you have to see to believe, he runs with the stride, confidence and power of a champion while shimmering with the joy and freedom of a boy at play. Seeing him run is like watching an artist paint a masterpiece.
The runner is six-time national champion and two-time Olympian, Anthony Famiglietti, and tonight, like almost every night he is on the track, he is having nothing but fun. The track has been his home for more than two decades, and he has set records on the world’s biggest stages in distances and events including the 5k and steeplechase. However, tonight, running at his favorite time of day, the only things that matter are chasing the empty lane in front of him, pushing his astonishingly fast pace and punishing his workout.
Sustain the Pain
“I have been blessed to have found something I have the gift to do and have always believed in taking it to the next level,” Famiglietti, now 35 and still more popularly known as Fam, shares. “And if you want results, taking it to the highest level means knowingly pushing your body to a place it would not otherwise go.”
That’s what makes Fam a unique runner. Insomuch as he has learned to sustain the pain, and race in a zone few others even know exists, he believes in sharing his approaches with others.
When Fam moved to Davidson three years ago, one of the first things he did to meet area runners was organize a community workout. Enticing the majority of runners with a head start, and promising t-shirts and DVDs from his company, Reckless Running, to those who finished in front of him, Fam effectively introduced an entirely new group of athletes to his style of running. By running hard and running with joy, he recalls, Fam showed his new local family of runners that gains and improvements come only with the willingness to dig deep.
“On the surface, the goal of that workout was simply to keep up with Fam,” he recalls with a smile. “But, in my mind, it wasn’t to show how fast I can run, it was to show what you can do, and how you can feel, when you push and get out of your comfort zone.
“I wanted people to experience the joy of running like I know it, and I wanted them to learn that running at a higher level is possible,” he continues. “And sometimes to do that you need to see it happening. That’s why running with me was necessary.
Fam also remembers a side benefit to the community run.
“I also wanted to show that in running, unlike so many other sports, you can go out there and be right alongside the elites and professionals,” he shares. “While I know people wanted to be out there running alongside me, I wanted to be inspired by them, too.”
While many top runners isolate themselves from the public, train behind a wall of secrecy and share very little, Fam proved that he is a different athlete indeed. He is accessible to the public, makes time to listen to the stories of those he meets while sharing the track, no matter their age, ability or experience, and shares not only his successes, but also his failures, through social media, blogs and in public appearances.
“The beauty – and metaphor – of athletics is that you never eliminate the pain, you learn to embrace it, and you must share the lessons it teaches,” Fam says. “If you avoid the pain, or you keep your running to yourself, you are missing a huge component of the process, a part of the process where you can make the biggest gains. You must sustain it, suffer well and suffer with others to improve.”
When Fam began competitive running while in high school, he was a self-proclaimed troublemaker. A coach who also dabbled in school discipline suggested running as a way to keep him out of trouble. While running did not come easy, he persevered, learned and improved, chasing the upperclassmen while knowing the alternatives were not as appealing.
“Initially, when people begin running, they are typically running from something, like I was,” Fam shares. “Some people get in to running to move away from a lifestyle, to get away from a body image, to lose weight, escape divorce, or help deal with something like teenage angst.
“But then there is this change,” he continues. “You have this moment of discovery. A transformation, a move where you begin running to something, a feeling, a joy. That’s when running becomes something special, and that’s when you begin to feel the true beauty of the sport.”
In society, to be reckless means to be careless and act without reason. The word itself has a negative connotation. But in running, Fam believes, to be reckless means to be present and aware in the moment.
“Reckless running is about moving out of the safe zone,” he shares. “It is about abandoning that feeling that something might go wrong and embracing the moment. To see your potential, you must embrace the challenge and be willing to move toward it.
“Then, when you run with reckless abandon and leave behind everything that has been bothering you, that’s when you see and feel the beauty of it all,” he adds. “To discover that new realm of possibility, you need to be willing to let go of everything that is holding you back – in your mind, in your body, in your soul. And if you can do that, if you can put running, or any activity, at the center of your efforts, that’s when you’ll see results and changes and gains.”
This article was originally published in Currents Magazine in 2014.