MEMBER: Thomas Connelly

Name: Thomas Connelly
Hometown: Wilmington, DE
High School: Wilmington Friends School
College: University of Pennsylvania
Occupation: Cancer Researcher
Favorite Place to Run in Philly: Manayunk Towpath/Wissahickon Creek

Personal Bests
1500m- 3:57
3000m- 8:31
5000m- 14:53
8000m (xc)- 24:47

Career Highlights
2016 Ivy League Team Champions


By: Kevin Brandon (07/10/18)

Tom, thanks for taking time to speak with us. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you end up in Philadelphia and running with PRTC?

I came to Philly for school and stayed for the cheesesteaks! After high school, I continued my running career at Penn here in West Philadelphia. Upon receiving my bachelor's degree, I was offered a full-time position in the research laboratory in which I volunteered as an undergraduate. Immediately, I reached out to Chris Mateer to let him know I was staying in Philadelphia, and to ask him if there was room for one more with PRTC. I was thrilled to hear there was!

When did you first become a runner? Did a specific event compel you to take on the sport?

There was no single event that introduced me to running, but my older sister ran varsity cross country in high school. At fourteen she was already a disciplined athlete and fierce competitor and I think I wanted that too.

Once you began running, how did your career develop? Take us through day one to today.

In the seventh grade I showed up to my first cross country practice in baggy basketball shorts and converse and never looked back. Although I was a stranger to the culture of long-distance running, I enjoyed being outside and I posted a personal best of 11:56 in the XC 2-mile. In high school I was coached by Paul Nemeth- a man with an impeccable mustache and love for the sport. My sophomore year he convinced me to run year-round and to start competing on the track. After a few good years of competition, I decided I would continue running at Penn. At Penn I ran cross country and competed in the longer-distance track events (3000-5000m) under the incredible guidance of Coach Dolan. Through PRTC I am hoping to continue on this never-ending running trajectory!

What is a favorite running accomplishment or moment?

Winning the Ivy League XC-Heps Championship in 2016 was an incredible moment for the team. It was the first time we had won the title since the 1980s and it represented a new era of Penn Track/XC. 

How about a not-so-great moment?

At the NC State Track Invitational this year I was the third leg of a 4 x mile. For some reason the lead pack of the second leg had handed off the baton an entire lap early. It didn't register as a mistake until I could hear from the infield my coach yelling "you have to run an extra lap!". I have no idea what I ran my 2000m leg in, but miraculously (since nearly every team messed up) no one was disqualified. Proudly, our relay holds the school record in the 1600-1200-2000-1600m relay.

Regarding your running future, what are your near and long-term goals?

I would like to continue running competitively in a cross country setting for as long as I can (for the trail and team-aspect). Eventually, I would like to transition to the road-racing scene and test myself with the longer distance races (10k, 1/2 Marathon, Full Marathon).

I understand you studied Biology while in school. What drew you to this field? If you had to sell incoming students on the subject, what would your pitch be?

I have always been fascinated by human physiology and ecology. As runners (who train in nature) we have to be familiar with both! Without a doubt anyone who studies biology becomes more conscious of how their decisions impact their own health and the health of their environment, and I think that's pretty neat. 

Can you share with us a bit about what you're currently up to professionally?

I am working at a National Cancer Institute in West Philadelphia studying Melanoma. Specifically we're researching the mechanisms of resistance cancers develop to different types of drug/immune therapies. 

Any non-running related hobbies, hidden skills or talents we may enjoy hearing about?

A hobby of mine, that I don't get to practice as much as I'd like living in a city, is fly-fishing. I tie my own flies when I have time, and occasionally I will go out on the water with my Dad. 

Also, there are few things I enjoy more than a cheese fondue.