I sent Joe an email asking him if he would do me the honor of allowing me to spotlight him this week. His response was "that would be so very cool and I am completely honored to be included on your blog". Without futher delay, the question and answer portion of Thumbs Up Thursday!
Jodi: How long have you been running?
Joe: I started running in March 2004, so just over six year now.
Jodi: What motivated you to start running?
Joe: At first I started running to shed a few of the pounds I had gained from working behind a desk and spending time on the road traveling for my job. I was not exercising and I wanted something that I could do whether I was at home or on the road to start exercising again. I started with a walk/run program of about 30 minutes at lunchtime and away I went. I was a marathoner 20 months later.
Jodi: How do you continue to stay motivated to run?
Joe: The motivation part for me is really two-fold. I run because I truly love it. I never knew that there was a distance runner trapped in my body for 36 years waiting to get out, but there was! I try to make sure that I have a goal to chase whether it was a major goal like qualifying for the Boston Marathon or a smaller goal, such as shaving a second or two off my training routes at home. Having those goals to chase really help keep me going. But last summer when my friend Dom was diagnosed with cancer, it really hit me hard. I realized in the blink of an eye just how precious life is and that you should embrace every day and every opportunity that life grants to us. There are a lot of days when I feel like I could mail in a run or skip one altogether, but Dom and his ongoing battle really keeps me focused on working hard every day to become a better runner, a better husband, and frankly a better person every day.
Jodi: How long have you been competing in races?
Joe: I've been racing since the fall of 2006.
Jodi: What is your favorite distance to race and why?
Joe: The marathon. If you asked me what is my most enjoyable distance I think I would choose the half, as it is not nearly as physically demanding as the marathon, but still a challenging distance that you have to train seriously for if you hope to do well. But for me, there is nothing like the marathon. The dedication level that is required as part of the training and preparation, the pageantry of the race itself, the physical test, as well as the mental challenge to push through exhaustion is truly life-affirming for me. That final .20 miles is among the greatest of life experiences.
Joe after the 3M Half Marathon January 2010
Jodi: How many marathons have you run?
Joe: I am a 5-time marathoner and proud member of the Marathon Maniacs!
Jodi: Which marathon course has been your favorite so far?
Joe: The Boston Marathon course from Hopkinton, MA to Boston is my favorite course for sure. The crowds make that experience one of a kind.
Jodi: What is your favorite race memory?
Joe: Wow, such a great question as all of the memories come flooding back to me- but if I had to pick just one as my favorite it would have to be mile 22 at the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009. It was my Boston Qualifying race and I was 4 miles away from surpassing my goal of 3:19:59. I was running next to a young man for the better part of two miles and we started chatting about the race. He was chasing a Boston time also, but being 10 years younger than me he needed to run a sub 3:10:00 time and we were on pace for about 3:18:00. He was not going to make it and seemed to realize it as we were running alongside each other. Just as we passed the mile 22 water station, the Theme from Rocky came on my Ipod and he caught me grinning. I didn't want to celebrate too early as I still had 4 miles left- and I also did not want him to feel bad about not making his goal time as he was running an incredible race. He looked over at me and saw me smiling and asked: "What?" I told him that the Rocky Theme had just came on my headphones. We took about five strides and he looked me dead in the eye and said, "Dude....Can I listen?" It was all I could do not to laugh out loud and ruin my breathing---we ran together up through mile 25 when I pulled away from him a bit and finished with a time of 3:17:43. He was the first runner to congratulate me, as I was getting my finisher's medal, on qualifying for Boston. It was the first time I realized that I had really qualified for the Boston Marathon.
Joe at the top of Forbes Climb at the 2009 Pittsburgh Marathon
Jodi: How did you come up with the idea of "Run for Dom"?
Joe: At the Pittsburgh race in 2009 Dom was there for me to watch me chase my Boston time. At our post-race breakfast Dom was complaining of stomach issues that had been going on for a couple of months, but at age 38 who would of thought cancer? Two months later my wife and I got the call from Dom telling us about his condition and that the form of stomach cancer Dom had was very serious. He was going to have to fight very hard to survive. After reflecting for two days I went on a Sunday long run. 12 miles along the trail behind our home and around a lake that I run several times a week. I couldn't shake Dom from my thoughts and how I felt so powerless and helpless. I wanted to do something to help him and his family but couldn't quite figure out what. I kept thinking about the Pittsburgh Marathon in Dom's hometown and how much I wanted to return to that race in 2010 and run it for Dom. The race was only 13 days after the Boston Marathon however, a race that I had trained for more than a year to qualify. How could I not run Boston? As I made the turn at the bottom of the lake I thought to myself, why not both? Why not run both marathons as a way to raise awareness and hopefully money that would help Dom, his wife Val, his 3 year old daughter Sierra, and 3 month old (at the time) son Nico. Over the last 4 miles of the run I kept thinking about the goal of running two marathons in two weeks in honor of my good friend's battle with cancer. By the time I got home it was a done deal. I was going all in.
Joe and Dom with the Run for Dom shirt
Jodi: Who do you admire most and why?
Joe: Dom D'Eramo. He is the bravest, most courageous man I have ever met.
Jodi: What has been your proudest running moment to date?
Joe: I would have to say coming through the finish chute at this years Pittsburgh Marathon just 13 days after Boston. It was a very, very tough race for me in hot humid conditions. As good as the weather was at Boston, 47 degrees, no wind- it was tough at Pittsburgh. Rain for the entire race, winds 10-12 mph, 77 degrees and humid. But toughing out that second marathon and earning that finisher's medal to put around Dom's neck at the family reunion area was a highlight for me. It was not my fastest marathon as I ran 20 minutes slower than Boston and 25 minutes slower than Pittsburgh the year before- but it was without question my finest effort.
Joe and Dom after the 2010 Pittsburgh Marathon
Jodi: Do you have a favorite quote?
Joe: "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift" -Steve Prefontaine
Jodi: What is your favorite post run meal?
Joe: I love breakfast foods -all kinds- but after a long run when I've burned 1,000 or more calories I crave sweet breakfast more than eggs and potatoes. For those times, my favorite are homemade waffles. Nothing better!
Jodi: Have you purchased that "jogging" stroller for the new baby yet?
Joe: We have not made the purchase yet, but it is on our registry at Babies R' Us! I am really hoping that the Bob w/ 12 inch aluminum wheels shows up at our door soon!
Jodi: What is your current goal?
Joe: Great timing with this question as I just went public with my latest goal of "Under 40:00 after 40". I am looking to post an official 10k race time of 39:39 this year at the age of 43. That time will get me a starting spot in the under 40:00 corral at this spring's Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the largest 10k's in the United States with close to 40,000 runners. I will be training tough through the TX summer to hopefully hit that race time at the IBM Uptown Classic in Austin, October 17, 2010. That will mean running 6.2 miles at 6:26 pace. My 5k PR is 19:28 so it is possible- but I am going to work very hard this summer to get there.
Joe at the Congress Avenue Mile May 2010 where he ran a smoking 5:24!
Jodi: If you have anything else you would like to share with me, please feel free.
Joe: The only thing else I would like to share is to just thank everyone who got involved with Run for Dom this year as we were able to surpass our goal of raising $26.2K for the D'Eramo family to help defray some of the costs of Dom's surgeries and procedures. The outpouring of support and kind words is so appreciated- with more than 19,000 visits to http://joerunfordom.wordpress.com since November- it is amazing to me that so many people have opened up their hearts to Dom and his fight. I am eternally grateful for everyone that made Run for Dom such a success. From here forward I plan on continuing to run in honor of my good friend and hopefully help others discover our sport. It is a sport for everyone as no matter how long you have been running, how fast you run or how far, the only person we are truly competing with is ourselves.
I couldn't have said it better myself in regards to competing with ourselves. Stop on over to Joe's blog at http://joerunfordom.wordpress.com/ and I guarantee you will be inspired. Thank you for allowing me the honor and privilege of giving you a Thumbs Up Joe. What you have done for Dom and so many others is truly amazing. Continue to be proud of your accomplishments, enjoy the new baby, and good luck smashing your current goal of 39:59 in the 10k on October 17, 2010.
Keep running, you're simply the best, and Joe YOU inspire ME!!