This week we’ve got local Illinois race champ and IL Army National Guard Veteran, Mark Rotundo. While Mark was deployed to Afghanistan, he ran (and won) so many races that he was affectionately dubbed “Run-tundo”. He’s since returned home to enjoy finishing tops in all of his local races and setting personal records by staying On the Move. Get to know Mark here-
My name is Mark Rotundo. I grew up in Elgin, IL and now in McHenry, IL with my wife Erin and my 3 kids: Nathan (9), Lynda (8) and Nolan (6).
I served in the Illinois Army National Guard from 05-09.
Give us a little bit of background on yourself and a run down on some of your accomplishments thus far.
I’m a simple guy with a lot of interests. I grew up skateboarding, drumming and running. I love the Lord and my family and they are the priority in my life. I’ve always appreciated all the blessing of being an American citizen.
After 9-11 I had to give back to my country. My dad (a Vietnam veteran) set the example for me. He enlisted when his county called and I did the same.
I enlisted in the Army National Guard when I was 28, married and with 2 kids. It didn’t make sense, but it was a calling and if I didn’t respond, I would always live in regret. 3 years later I was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan from 08-09. It was a tough year but an incredibly rewarding experience.
After returning home I was laid off from a great job I really enjoyed but the Lord blessed me with an even better one. I’m currently a train conductor for Metra.
What inspired you to start running?
In high school my good friend Weert Goldenstein ran the mile in 4:50 as a freshman. I couldn’t believe it. He talked me into giving track and field a try. I grew up playing soccer so it was a natural fit for me. My first year in track I ran the mile in 4:33. I later learned I would become a better 2 miler.
What is it that keeps you on the move and motivated daily to go out there and be the best that you can be?
Fortunately, I’m able to keep self motivated most of the time. I love running fast and I love setting PR’s (personal records). Running balances out my life physically, mentally and emotionally. I know even at 36, I have lots of PR’s ahead of me and that’s always a motivation to keep working hard.
Everyone needs people in their life to keep them motivated as well. My friend Weert recently beat cancer and he’s one tough guy. He taught me early on to have a strong work ethic on the track and he gave me my quiet self-confidence. I have friends like Bill Jensen who are always training hard year round that I know I need to keep up with. 🙂
Break down your daily routine and how you go about prepping yourself for a run.
I wake up at 2:10 am and I’m out the door headed to work at 2:45 am. I take all my conductor gear and most importantly, my running bag. I have a break in the morning in downtown Chicago so I head to the lake front path for most of my workouts. I never allow myself to make working out optional. If I have set aside the time, I will always go. It’s never a choice. I don’t care about the weather, or if I’m kinda tired. No – if my bag is packed, I’m headed out!
I know my body well and I know whether to go fast (temp, intervals), long (14-20 miles) or just nice and easy (7 minute pace) each day. I don’t stick to a rigid schedule but I get all these workouts in each week one day or another. By not forcing myself to stick to a certain workout on a training schedule I’m able to enjoy my runs each day much more.
What are your future goals that keep you looking forward?
I always set a handful of races on my calendar each year. I target those races and I expect to run well and PR in most of them. With that type of focus it usually happens. But my daily, weekly and monthly goal is just to get out each day, run smart and slowly keep improving. I would love to go after the marathon. I’ve run many and I’ve gone under 3 hours but I know I’m not even close to the times I should be running. I still need to go out there and face the marathon distance seriously.
What’s your favorite piece of Oscar Mike gear?
My basic green Oscar Mike logo shirt is awesome. Fits perfect!
What are some of your other interests? What would you do if you weren’t riding?
I cherish my time with my family the most. We attend church regularly and living a life honoring God is very important. If I never started running I’d probably be drumming more. Maybe mountain biking more. Maybe hunting and fishing more. I love to do so many things but time is always limited and prioritizing is a challenge.
What’s been the most challenging thing to overcome thus far?
Getting through my deployment was a challenge. Although, day to day, I know my wife Erin had it harder here back at home. She worked and cared for our three kids and she did an incredible job. She even took classes towards her master’s degree. She’s such a strong and determined person. Very tough. Not being home, I had to truly put my faith to practice. God took care of us and provided like He always does.
What’s your proudest achievement so far?
Coming home from my deployment and seeing my family for the first time was like nothing else. Having the sense of pride that I wore my uniform and represented my country well was extremely satisfying.
These past few years I’ve increased my miles and stayed healthy. Last year I took top finishes in all the local races I ran, running PR’s in all of them. My favorite race of the year is the Elgin Fox Trot 10 miler. I finished 3rd overall in 57:03. Good for a $75 cash prize! I guess I’m a professional runner now in my own eyes. 🙂
Final words of wisdom or inspiration for our readers:
Always stay positive! You can look at every situation and every season of your life in different ways.
When I got the news I was to deploy, I was first struck with grief and fear of the unknown.
After spending time in conversation with my family and prayer to the Lord, I thought, “Well, I’ve always wanted to live in the mountains!”.
If you’d like to see yourself featured here, email firstname.lastname@example.org