Local accountant and avid runner Tony Grossi has received one of the top awards in running and will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., this April.
Grossi, 57, was selected as the 2017 Road Runner of the Year in the Challenged Athlete category by the Road Runners Club of America.
"It really is amazing what he does with what he has to work with," said fellow track club member Joe Dumas, who nominated Grossi for the award. "He's not the type of person who seeks out recognition for himself, but he deserves it."
The award recognized the Black Creek, Lookout Valley resident for his accomplishments in 2017, which included, as always, the New York and Boston marathons, along with the Chattanooga Marathon. He also ran the Houston Marathon in January 2018.
Winners in other categories were Shalane Flanagan, the 36-year-old who became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years; Katherine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon; and Olympic runners Galen Rupp and Abdi Abdirahman.
"It's kind of weird to see your name in the same group of people," Grossi said. "I don't know how to describe it really. All I can say is we have some good writers in the Chattanooga Track Club who wrote my nomination."
Grossi was born with fibular hemimelia, a disability that left him without a fibula, ligaments or a calf muscle in his right leg. The leg is three inches shorter than the left and fused to the ankle.
Despite the disability, Grossi runs four days a week, totaling approximately 20 miles. He regularly competes in local track club races — where he often places high in his age group against able-bodied runners — and runs three marathons, annually. He's also a staple of weekend club runs.
"He's a really intelligent guy," Dumas said. "He's just a fun person to talk to while you're logging 10 or 20 or more miles."
Grossi started running after college. He wasn't active and got injured in a skiing accident. A doctor told him he needed to do something active, so he decided to run.
He hasn't stopped.
"I can't imagine not running," he said. "I still get a tremendous kick out of running. It's getting harder as I get older but I still get such a thrill out of running even though some days it's hard to get out there."
Read the full nomination below:
Anthony (Tony) Grossi, 57, is my nominee for Challenged Athlete of the Year. Tony was born with fibular hemimelia (the same condition as Oscar Pistorius) of his right leg. To run, Tony must strap on a knee brace to compensate for missing knee ligaments and wear a specially built-up shoe to make up for his several-inches-shorter leg. But Tony has never let his disability stop him from competing. In 2017, Tony finished his 13th consecutive Boston Marathon, and has now completed 67 career marathons including multiple NYC (including 2017) and Marine Corps Marathons. Tony is also a regular fixture in local races, with 2017 age group placings of 3rd at the Moccasin Bend Fall Classic (10K), 6th at Raccoon Mountain (10K), 7th at the Market Street Mile, 9th at the Chattanooga Chase (8K), and 10th at the Missionary Ridge Road Race (4.7 miles) – all versus able-bodied runners. Tony also took first place in the Ambulatory Disabled category at the 2017 Achilles Nashville Hope & Possibility 5 Miler (a race that celebrates the accomplishments of physically challenged runners) with a time that would have been 2nd in his age group among runners without a disability. Besides competing for himself, Tony regularly volunteers at group runs and other events put on by Achilles International, the track club for athletes with disabilities – often acting as a guide for other athletes who are mobility- or vision-impaired. As someone who has logged hundreds of miles at Tony’s side during several years of training runs and races, at distances from a mile to (several) marathons, I am amazed and inspired by his accomplishments. Considering Tony’s 2017 record on top of a lifetime of tens of thousands of miles of running, I can think of no more deserving person to be named Challenged Athlete of the Year.