Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Wednesday, November 29, 2023

‘Running Man’ dances through Gainesville

When Tinpothy Gordon runs, he dances.

"Dancing is when you're feeling good, when you're feeling hot," said Gordon, 55. "When I'm dancing, that's when I'm at my best."

He has been known as Gainesville's "Running Man" for more than 30 years. Often donned in orange and blue, he is distinguished by the peace signs he flashes to passers-by, an unwavering smile and an ever-extended left arm he uses to ward off the devil.

Gordon was born in McMeekin, Fla., a small town east of Gainesville, in 1954. For 15 years, everyone, even his family, called him Tim. Then, when he went out for the football team in ninth grade, he saw his birth certificate.

When his mother saw the name Tinpothy Odelle Gordon, she thought it was a mistake. She sent the certificate back, but a week later, it was returned unchanged.

"Well, that's your name then," his mother told him with a laugh.

His infatuation with running began when he tried out for the track team in high school. He was the anchor - the last, fastest runner - of the mile relay.

Three years later, Gordon's mother - a wholesome, gentle-mouthed woman who never missed a Sunday sermon - died of cancer.

"I lost a lot when I lost her," he said. "I went on a wild goose chase ever since my mama died."

After high school, Gordon accepted a track scholarship to Lake City Community College and began hanging with the "wrong crowd."

"I didn't do no good when I was younger," he said. "All I was doing was partying and having a good time."

After two years at Lake City, Gordon enlisted in the army. He trained for four years at bases in Germany and North Carolina, but he never was deployed. When he returned to Gainesville to live with his brothers in 1979, he was broke.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

"I was on the fall," he said. "I was on the bottom, and I had been on the top my whole life."

That's when God stepped in.

"He told me I didn't have to worry because I would be living with my little brothers and I would be running again," he said.

After his brother Eddie got him a job at a health care store at Shands at UF, Gordon rekindled his love for running. He ran every day after work, starting out at three miles per day. He gradually would increase mileage each day.

Within six months, he was running about 25 miles every weekday and about 30 miles a day on weekends. His route included running on the side of Interstate 75 until the police forced him to stop for his own safety.

"I was getting back to the old Tim Gordon again," he said.

Then, on a quiet Monday morning in 1980, Gordon's life was disheveled.

While clocking in at work, he was pinned up against the wall and arrested for dealing stolen property of Shands, including a blood pump machine and three packages of Pampers. He was quickly proven innocent but was left unemployed to live on social security income and food stamps.

"Whatever a poor man gets, that's all I get," he said.

For almost a year, he lived in a rooming house, struggling to pay rent by the week, sometimes eating only bologna and bread, but not a day went by that he didn't run.

"I didn't let nothing stop me from running," he said. "No matter how difficult it got, I still ran."

Gordon started competing in marathons in 2006.

"The marathon is my favorite [race]," he said. "It gives me the most time to dance."

His best time was four hours and 15 minutes, which he ran in 2006.

Gordon's legs aren't as strong as they were 30 years ago, and his endurance isn't as good. Now, he runs about 10 miles a few days a week.

But Gordon said he's ready to run the race of his life at his next marathon in February. He hopes to break the four-hour mark, but he'll be happy with any outcome.

"I'm trying to do my best for the Lord," Gordon said. "I didn't do God too good when I was younger."

Running takes him back to when he had no worries. When he's running, he can conquer anything. So whenever he feels up to it, he laces up his worn-down shoes, puts out his arm and begins to dance.

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.