Thomas “Tom” Barden was born in Yonkers on November 18, 1892, the youngest of nine children. After graduating from St. Mary’s grammar School, he attended Yonkers High School and Saunders Trade School.
He joined the Violet Athletic Club in 1909 and competed as an unregistered runner in road races through the streets of Yonkers. His first big win was the three-mile City Championship, defeating the current champion, Warren Lefurgy. He then won the four and five mile City Championship, defeating Jimmy Dowd and Mike Driscoll.
His first competition as a registered A.A.U. runner was a second place finish in the Junior Metropolitan Cross County Championship. In 1910, his YMCA team won the Junior National Cross County Team Championship. During the next two years Tom won the three mile Westchester County Championship, and the Junior National Cross Country Championship at Van Cortlandt Park.
From 1913 to 1916, Barden was a member of the Irish American cross-country team, coached by the renowned Lawson A. Robertson, and led them to six national Senior Cross County Championships. In 1916 he was selected to represent the United States in the Olympics in the Cross Country running competition. Due to the war, the Olympics were cancelled.
During World War I, Tom served in the U.S. Navy and competed in running competition against other branches of the service. Among his many victories was the six-mile Serviceman’s Championship road race held in Norfolk, Virginia. Following the war, he competed for the Hollywood Inn Athletic Club of Yonkers and set a record for 3-3/10 miles (15 minutes 31 seconds)—this record still stands. He also won the N.Y. State Knights of Columbus six-mile championship race.
Although Tom won many races, he considers his two greatest efforts those he did not win. In a Handicap 5000-meter race at Celtic Park, he competed from scratch against Hans Kolehaminen, the European and 1912 Olympic Champion. He defeated Kolehaminen, but was nipped at the tape by Henry Kramer who had a handicap of 250 yards. In 1914, competing in the Berwick, Pa. 10-mile classic road race, Tom was defeated in a photo finish by George Holden, the current National, Champion of Canada, who finished third.
During his racing career, Tom won over 600 prizes, including medals, trophies, rings, watches and numerous other types of awards. At the conclusion of his competitive career, he coached the Yonkers Knights of Columbus track team which won the Westchester Championship in 1927; was actively engaged in a program conducted by the City Of Yonkers for the development of young athletes; served as chairman of three Yonkers school boy races; and chairman many road races conducted by the Hollywood Inn and the Yonkers Knights of Columbus.
In the year 1955, he received an award from Cardinal Spellman in recognition to the Catholic Youth Organization. A lifelong resident of the City of Yonkers, he spent 38 years as a member of the Yonkers Fire Department, retiring in 1958 with the rank of Captain.