The Running Man

Tommy Akins talks about his life as a dad, grandpa, artist, retired executive and cancer survivor.

Meet Tommy Akins, the gentleman with a purposeful gait, who you’ve likely seen running on Bells Ferry Road.

After seeing him run through the years, many have been inspired and curious to know more about him. Catching up with him was easier than convincing him to talk about himself. Tommy is a humble man with a gentle spirit and great faith.

Tommy, 67, was born in Chicago and raised in the small town of Griffin, Georgia. He moved to Woodstock with his daughter and grandson 13 years ago. He is a dad, grandfather, artist, former corporate vice president and cancer survivor, who just happens to enjoy running. According to him, his greatest titles are dad and granddaddy.

Running is how most of us know you. Why do you run?

I began running at a young age. It evolved into road races and even a marathon back in the day but, today, I no longer run for distance or time but am just thankful that I can. Running is merely an outlet for me. It is me-time, a time to reflect and escape my roles, responsibilities and worries. Physically, running is challenging for my body, but I truly believe that if we stop moving, we won’t. I also believe it is a large part of why I am still here today. My runs allow me time to reflect and I recite Scriptures or pray while I run. People often yell encouragement while I run, some stop me and want selfies. I certainly don’t run to be seen, but if my running serves as an encouragement to someone, then that makes me smile.”

Tell us about your love of painting. 

“Painting is my passion. I have been painting since I was 5 years old. Formal training was never a financial option for me, so I learned through artistic friends and was basically self-taught. I believe that God creates life and artists create the allusions of life. I also teach painting classes one day a week, and it gives me so much joy. Painting has also been an important source of income for me, and helped provide for my family over the years and I am grateful. I am currently working on a large landscape painting for a Washington state congresswoman and several paintings are on display in galleries throughout Atlanta.”

Describe your fight against cancer. 

I was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma in 1998 when a lump was discovered on my neck that tested positive for cancer. I received a bone marrow transplant, which had low success rates at that time. The chemo and immune treatments that followed have certainly taken their toll on my body over the years. Today, I am considered in remission, but still need to have immunoglobulin therapy every three months. My cancer diagnosis forced me from the corporate world and has allowed me to focus more on my paintings and the people and things that I love and that bring me joy. As difficult as the cancer has been on my body, I believe the journey has made me stronger, wiser and grateful to God for each day. It is by the grace of God that I am here today, and I stand strong for him and all that he has done for me in my life.”

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Next time you see Tommy on one of his runs, give him a smile and a wave. Then, follow his example and keep moving, and focusing on the things that bring you joy.

To enjoy Tommy’s work as a painter, visit

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