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Tom Cruise picked up 550,000 followers in less than an hour when he joined the photo sharing website. He has over 6 million followers, and they are greeted by the actor's self-assessment of his own career in his bio. He could have gone with a three-time Oscar nominee or sold $10 billion worth of movie tickets.

He picked an actor, producer, and running in movies since 1981.

This is a self-aware nod to his Hollywood career. He always gets the bad guy with the nuclear codes from the rogue country. He has run in 44 of his 52 movies, including two running scenes in Top Gun: Maverick, which opens this week. Tom Cruise is the same age as Wilford Brimley when he was chasingMitch McDeere in The Firm.

That raises the question... Is Tom Cruise a good runner? We convened an elite panel of Olympians, film critics and former coaches and set out on a mission to analyze Cruise's running -- and might have stumbled onto a never-before-told origin story of his first theatrical running moment.

The Evolution

The official start of Tom Cruise, the running actor, was in 1981 when he ran in his first movie.

In 1980, Tom Cruise was a senior at Glen Ridge High School in New Jersey. Cruise was a decent 122-pound wrestler according to his old wrestling coach, Angelo Corbo.

He came in on crutches one day before the 1980 wrestling playoffs and said that he tripped down the steps at his house. Corbo said yes after Cruise wondered if it would be okay to go out for his first play.

Cruise came to Corbo and asked if he could come along to the state tournament to support his teammates. Corbo welcomed him into the team van for the trip, and they decided to eat lunch at a Mexican restaurant on their way to the states. He lost the crutches after his ankle healed, so he sat at the table with his teammates.

Corbo says an assistant coach pointed at a jar of hot peppers and told Cruise to not eat them.

Corbo says that Cruise accepted any challenge, no matter what. Everyone at the table thought smoke was going to come out of his ears. Corbo says that Cruise ran real fast that day.

When they caught up to him, his teammates and coaches found him on the ground in the parking lot, face buried in a snowbank.

One kid said that he didn't technically drink anything in the restaurant.

The assistant pulled a $5 bill out of his pocket.

With snow all over his mouth, Cruise gave a wide-eyed, toothy smile like the one that would eventually sell $10 billion worth of movie tickets. Corbo notes that Cruise looked at the satisfied performer who just enthralled an audience for the first time. If there was a pre-Hollywood moment when Thomas Mapother turned into Tom Cruise, it would be it.

The restaurant run in that movie is very similar to the one we see in Cruise's early movies. In The Outsiders and Taps, Cruise runs quite a bit and it is a sloppy run. The beginnings of a steady, faster form begins to emerge when Cruise vaults up his high school steps and jets through the hallways in Risky Business.

Caryl Smith Gilbert, a four-time NCAA champion coach who now leads the Georgia men's and women's programs, watched a reel of every Tom Cruise movie and did a deep-dive analysis. She thinks Cruise had a breakthrough around the early 2000s. She says that you can see a desire to keep improving.

She says that she could see it when he was inlateral. He is trying to get better.

Happy Birthday to @TomCruise, who wrestled at Glen Ridge (NJ) High School@NJSIAA shared that wrestling "helped him fit in after moving to the town from Kentucky. When an injury cut short his senior season, he tried out for the school musical. You know the rest ..." pic.twitter.com/goFrJYIwzn

— NWHOF (@NWHOF) July 3, 2021


There is a misconception that most great sprinters must be tall, and the success of Usain Bolt (6-foot-5) certainly has played a part in that. According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, the majority of great male sprinters are in the range of 5 to 6 feet.

Tom Cruise is not tall. He is listed at 5-foot-7, but it feels like college football SIDs round up all incoming freshmen by one inch and 20 pounds. Let's just say that he won't be playing Jack Reacher any time soon. Checks IMDb, stands corrected.

Cruise isn't the most powerful runner, says three-time Olympic gold medalistJackie Joyner-Kersee. I don't think his height is a disadvantage.


In Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, Cruise comes barreling out of a building as a massive sand storm descends in the background. The way Cruise's hands slice through the air, over and over again, like he's in the middle of a round of Fruit Ninja is a long, striking visual.

It is one of the most glaring differences between his early film and what he has done for the past 20 years or so. Smith Gilbert zeroes in on the major change to his hand movement that he has gone from intermittently balled up, like many untrained amateurs, to remarkably straight in recent years, when she thinks Cruise must have gotten some running coaching. In many scenes from the past decade, Cruise's parallel flat palms are almost comical, as if a robot learned how to run from watching another robot.

That must be bad, right? Not necessarily. Carl Lewis, for example, looks like Tom Cruise when he runs with his palms open. Many high-level runners say that the open versus closed hands debate is a personal choice and that there is no right answer.

Some coaches recommend that runners consider an open-handed technique because great sprinters work hard to be as relaxed as possible. Smith Gilbert says that clenching up hands can be the first sign that a runner is pressing, which affects the rhythm of their breath, and can drain their speed and endurance.

She says that you can be open hand or close hand if your shoulders are relaxed. Tom Cruise knows what he is doing.


Cruise's technique can appear stiff at times, with his chest upright as though he's getting buckled into a roller coaster, with his face tensed up. Smith Gilbert and Joyner-Kersee flagged Cruise as being slightly too upright and recommended a little more forward lean. Neither was sure if that would be how he would run without the cameras on.

Joyner-Kersee says that it looks good on film, and that he could get his speed up by angling him a little bit forward.

They both said it was easy for a lay person to mistake Cruise's technical prowess for a good style.

Smith Gilbert says, "Running is one foot in front of the other, as fast as possible." stride length times stride Frequency is a measure of running speed. He is pretty good in that area.

Pure speed

Tom Cruise might be fast. Really fast. A few years ago, a user tried to analyze Cruise's speed in several movies and estimated that he hit about 15.3 mph at times, usually while wearing non- running shoes and full pants. Cruise said he has been at 17 mph.

Will Blase wrote a story for a running website last year, where he wanted to explore the idea that Cruise might be the fastest actor ever captured on film. Tom Hanks and Harrison Ford ran from a boulder in "Forrest Gump" and "Rocky II", respectively.

After poring over footage for days, Blase reached a verdict that surprised him: Cruise beat Henderson for the gold medal in his unofficial movie Olympics, with Hanks and Ford third and fourth, respectively. Blase says of Cruise that he is a robot. He has boiled it down to science.

Is Cruise better suited for sprints or longer races? Smith Gilbert thinks Cruise would be great at the 800 meters or even the mile because she thinks he could sustain his top-end speed.

Joyner-Kersee thinks Cruise could be a good 100 meter runner, and she says he looks like he might be in the 12-second range right now.

If Cruise did train, what would happen? Well, first of all, Cruise should know that he has an open invitation to come work with Joyner-Kersee and her husband, former U.S. track coach Bob Kersee.

If they ever have a "Days of Thunder" sequel, it will be fast enough to catch up to Robert Duvall on pit row.

Mental toughness

Tom Cruise has a scene where he runs and leaps from one building to another. It was a long jump that the script called for him to not make, slamming into the side of the other building and pulling himself up.

It was a violent scene even with cables attached to his back. On an early take, Cruise lands exactly where he is supposed to, a few feet short of the other roof. Cruise broke his foot on impact and his right foot bends at a gruesome angle.

Cruise climbs onto the roof, climbs to his feet, and limps past the camera with a broken ankle. That take is in the movie. Even though his ankle was not healed, Cruise returned to shooting.

When he discussed it on The GrahamNorton Show with castmates, Cruise looked so proud. Norton tells Cruise that he is nuts, and that he can't watch multiple times.

When people talk about Tom Cruise, the word "challenge" comes up.

I knew I broke it, so I have to keep going.

Cruise has gotten more aggressive about doing his stunts. He told Men's Journal that he likes to spend as much time as possible training for his stunts, and that he also likes to oversee training for the rest of the cast.

The fact that so many of Cruise's runs are in suits or regular clothes was one aspect of Cruise's running that came up repeatedly with experts. Joyner-Kersee says that sprinters want as little as possible. In The Firm, where he has on a suit and a long coat and is carrying a briefcase, she was amazed at the amount of running Cruise did.

She says that she never liked running if there was a few drops of rain. He has the physical strength, but he needs to stay in character and still be able to produce what the scene requires. Even with breaks, it is impressive.

She looks back at the mural. She says she could always get up to 100% speed at the end of her career. I am not sure how Tom Cruise is doing.

Tom Cruise as Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in the latest "Top Gun" film. "Top Gun: Maverick" hits theaters on May 27th. Paramount


It is virtually impossible to imagine anyone ever being able to put together both the body of work or the body to be running into their 60s, because Cruise is the epitome of running.

He does a lot of running in movies, not just that, but that he does a lot in his movies.

"He's running toward something in the movie, and it always conveys something important in the movie," says Christy Lemire, a film critic at RogerEbert.com and co-host ofBreakfast All Day. It is more than just running as a crucial part of an action set-piece. It is a representation of his ethos.

Amy Nicholson felt compelled to dedicate an entire page to Tom Cruise when she wrote her book. She picked out a few that stuck with her as she watched all of his movies.

For instance, she likes Cruise's transformational running in "Knight and Day", the oft-forgotten rom-com thriller with Cruise and CAMERON. In that movie, Cruise is pretending to be a woman. She says that some of his characters are better runners than others. He allowed himself to be careless.

She thinks his range of runs in War of the Worlds is a key entry in the Tom Cruise library. Spielberg and Cruise had a discussion about what kind of hero Cruise would be. Cruise was told by Spielberg that alien invasion movies always feature people fighting.

He wanted to do something different, and he thought that Cruise's Ray Ferrier was a scared dad who ran away to survive not to defeat the aliens. The style of Ray's actual runs needed to convey that he was terrified and just trying to survive the world for once, not save it single-handedly.

He is charged in that movie to do nothing but run in fear and convince other people to run in fear with him, even when his own children want to stand up and fight back, Nicholson says.

Lemire is a runner herself and she can not imagine having to combine the amount of physical activity with the mood Cruise is trying to portray.

She says that he has to do a lot with his eyes and face. He is trying to convey to us what his character is going through. We underestimate the skill that makes running a physical and emotional experience.

So... is Tom Cruise good at running?

Corbo used to have a group of wrestlers do a circuit around the high school. They ran past the cafeteria, up the stairs to the second floor, down the stairs to the first floor, then back to the cafeteria.

Cruise was usually roughed up in the room by more experienced wrestlers as a starter. He would become that kid who could not back down from a challenge when it was time to do the loop. He would run the loop hard, getting competitive with his teammates who would squash him every day on the mat.

One time, Cruise was hurtling through the hallways and sheepishly approached Corbo at the end of the run. He wanted his coach to look at one of the metal doors.

The small piece of glass in one of the doors was cracked when Corbo went with him. Cruise broke the door when he tried to out-sprint his teammate. Corbo said thanks for telling him, and when he was asked by the school administrator if he had any idea how one of the thick glass windows had a long crack in it, Corbo covered for Cruise.

He said he had no idea.

Corbo said that Tom Cruise is a good runner.

The running experts agree.

He pulled me in because Tom Cruise is good at running.

She tilts her chin up to the sky before Smith Gilbert answers that question.

She finally says that she thinks he is good at running for Hollywood. We would destroy him if he came out to race us.

She drops her chin down and stares at the camera, but I bet he would love to challenge me on that.