Mike Arrington recommends chocolate milk after intense exercise, but on Tuesday he drank an Arizona peach iced tea following his 50-mile, three-hour bicycle ride.
Executive sous chef for the Inn at Virginia Tech, Arrington chomped on a sandwich at the Blacksburg Public Library for nutrients the sweet beverage lacked.
The quick meal preceded an information meeting about Team In Training, the world’s largest charity endurance sports training program. When his kitchen apron comes off, Arrington is the coach for local TNT participants.
Started in 1988, TNT is part of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The two decades of individual fundraising for marathons, half marathons, triathlons and 100-mile bicycle rides has yielded more than $1 billion for cancer research.
Arrington assumed the coaching role in 2005, several years after joining TNT in honor of a friend who died of Leukemia.
The regimen for the fall season begins next month, and the six runners — a roster Arrington hopes to see grow — will ultimately compete in either a marathon or half marathon.
The three event locations are distant. Athletes can stay close in Virginia Beach and Washington, D.C., or make the trek to San Francisco.
Having completed 16 marathons — he wore a 2007 Boston Marathon hat — Arrington aims to compete in a more challenging half Ironman, which is a 70.3-mile triathlon. He’ll travel to Augusta, Ga., in late September after raising his $3,000.
Arrington sat with the Collegiate Times to discuss his running origins and the motivation that TNT provides.
COLLEGIATE TIMES: You’re a very fit sous chef. Has that always been an appropriate description?
MIKE ARRINGTON: (laughing) No. Food and beverage in general is not really suited for people getting fit. A lot of people smoke, a lot of people drink. Some recreational stuff that goes on. I partook of some of it in my time. And when my friend got sick, who was a Virginia Tech student at the time when I came back to work for Virginia Tech, it kind of opened my eyes to things and I started ( TNT). When I first got involved it kind of — I played soccer in high school and you kind of get away from that. There’s not enough time in the day to do that kind of stuff.
But I was able to start running and that’s kind of all by yourself and you make your own time. It just felt good to be an athlete again. I figured I did 10 years of the post-work type “having a good time,” and I thought it was time for something new in my life. And I started running, quit all the other stuff, dropped about 80 pounds and have been a disciple of it and try to sell the program whenever I can.
CT: Did you ever find yourself frustrated or angry with your food-centered career?
ARRINGTON: Yes. There were times probably in the late 90s where I actually thought about leaving it. It was 60-hour workweeks. You don’t get paid overtime for that. ... It’s a low profit margin business. You know, I love to cook. Just the hours spent in a room with no windows — you know, most professional kitchens don’t have windows. It started to wear on me after a while. Yeah, if I probably continued along that road, I don’t know what would have happened. But I’ve known people who were my age who are in an early grave. It was probably something that really saved my life in the long run.
CT: When exactly did you adopt running?