The fact that Tommy “Rivs” Puzey doesn’t belong is why people love him.
He’s a bearded, tatted, muscular man, who dares to lead at elite races around the world, which seems audacious and presumptuous, and is extremely entertaining. He might not fit the typical image of a pro runner, but he’s not gonna let it hold him back.
Not all heroes wear capes, in Tommy’s case he dons a trucker hat, black apparel, and a flowing beard. It’s a look his followers appreciate and aim to emulate, which is why when he fell ill this summer they rallied to his aid.
Years ago Tommy also adopted a pirate persona, even donned a skull and crossbones, along with “Team Rivs” emblazoned on his uniform. As his brother Jacob Puzey describes, “He began seeing himself as a mercenary of sorts — using his body to provide for his family. I think it’s how he reconciled the long weeks away from Steph & the girls.”
Along with the alter-ego came a trademark call on social media, “Let’s Rage!”
Social posts can feel ephemeral and cheap, but his call acts as a challenge of sorts, for others to follow him in defying convention. And he was met with resounding support, as the followers grew into the hundreds of thousands, people understood implicitly that pushing themselves to their maximum athletically demanded some rage. That it required a bit of wild-eyed fury to buck off the complacency of everyday life.
People also hoped to channel the spirit of a pirate in moments where they didn’t feel like they belonged. Though nearly everyone can run, and almost all can register to race, few among us feel truly comfortable throwing ourselves into Race Day entirely. No, it’s sadly much easier to hedge, hide, and soften the expectation of what we are able. Defying that impulse is the essence of Tommy’s call.
Amidst life’s responsibilities, realities, and past disappointments, it can feel somewhat childish to dress for athletic achievement. A bit indulgent to even take the time to dream of such an accomplishment. But Tommy will hear none of it.
His athletic identity is a contradiction — a demand to be both playful and serious, both competitive and kind.
This is why when he fell ill with rare lung cancer this summer the running world rushed to respond. Dashed to support a man who’s image has given them strength during their own moments of self-doubt.
A GoFundMe was funded.
A week-long movement challenge was accepted.
But the now self-appointed members of #TeamRivs needed more.
Tommy’s journey against cancer continues and they want to support him.
So his friends, family, and sponsor created a hat to sell that invites his spirit of irreverence.
It’s both a symbol and a tool. An identity of a movement, and a call for maximum individual effort. Though the skull and crossbones on the front signal danger to the world, the perforated back panels offer wicking to the athlete.
The hashtag #TeamRivs stamped across the back marks membership, the dotted Craft Sportswear logo beneath the cap’s lid cues quality. Tommy’s community understands that a brand that he’s willing to bear must be worth standing behind. And dollars from its sale support him on his continued journey against this disease.
Within Tommy’s invitation to “Rage!” is a more subtle request to forge your own path with kindness.
Though the traditional image of a pirate is a man on the open seas, defying affiliation and stealing from others, Tommy’s modern use is the opposite.
He pairs a dark skull with a warm smile; as if to dare each of us to endeavor for more without forgetting about one another. A dare to move, to defy the modern sedentary convention, and a challenge to build up our life together by reducing it to simple elements of effort, teamwork, and kindness.
Tommy challenges by example, he gives because he pictures a world in which there is enough.
If that is modern piracy, then Let’s Rage!
PLEASE PURCHASE a Team Rivs hat here to continue to support Tommy!
They come in both “Performance” and “Lifestyle” versions, to support his ongoing fight against cancer, and to join his community of raging endurance athlete pirates.
“One of the basic laws of physics is the conservation of mass, which means that you can’t create something without destroying something else. Or you can’t fill a void without creating another void. But love is the exception. Love is something that we can share with people, and the more we share the more it grows.” — Tommy Rivers Puzey