I remember back in 2005 when I first started running I had this crazy notion that I could run a marathon.

I spoke to a few people who had run one in the past and thought to myself, “you know, I could do that”.

I kept those thoughts to myself for a few weeks and when I decided that I was going to go for it I said it aloud for the first time to my wife.

“I’m going to run a marathon.”

From that moment, that second really, it became real.

It went from a notion, idea or abstract concept to something tangible.  Something that I could visualize, virtually touch and feel.  By putting it out there I was committed.  I was going to become a marathoner.

And I was afraid.

I was afraid of failing.  I was afraid of not being able to handle the pain.  Afraid frankly that I did not have inside of me all that I needed to in order to complete the mission.  Would I quit when things got tough?  Or would I be able to look inside myself to find whatever it was that I needed to keep going?

November 19, 2006 after suffering a training injury to my IT Band just two weeks before the Philadelphia Marathon I found out.  I ran 10 mostly pain-free miles, followed by 16.2 miles in constant, sometimes throbbing knee pain.  I found out a lot about myself that day.  Mostly that it was O.K. to be afraid.  In fact, it was right to be afraid.

I also discovered that I did in fact have something inside of me that allowed me to keep going.  To not quit when perhaps others may have been tempted to.

Five years and 3 months later I find myself in an eerily similar position.

I have been struggling and struggling every day for the last two months trying to decide what to do about my marathon on February 20th.  I am just a few runs shy of completing a very successful training cycle and I am 100% healthy.  I am running better than I ever have before, and quite frankly, better than I thought possible at my age and my experience level.

Runners far more experienced and accomplished than I look at me and see a sub 3 hour marathon as a possibility.  A goal that is within my grasp if I want it badly enough and if I “believe”.

Five years later and with a race 17 days away I have that same feeling.  I am afraid.

It is different this time as I am no longer afraid of not finishing or of having to fight through discomfort and pain.  Fast or slow, it hurts just the same.

I’m not even sure that I am afraid of “failing” so to speak. 

I think what I am afraid of is choosing a goal that I am not quite ready for.

Is this a goal that is just too big of a jump right now for me?  Facts are that:

Less than 1% of all human beings on earth will ever run a marathon.

Less than 5% of those marathoners will ever run a time under 3 hours.

Sometimes when I look in the mirror I still see that runner from 2006.  The one who limped home in 3:58:08 on one good knee at Philadelphia.

Other times when I look in the mirror I see the runner who came through the chute at Pittsburgh in 2009 with a personal best 3:17:43 and a ticket to the Boston Marathon.  Arms raised, stride strong, leg muscles rippling under the strain of a best-ever race.

But I have yet to see a 3 hour marathoner stare back at me from that looking glass.

Others look at me and see it.

I for whatever reason do not.  Not yet.

Winston, Bob, Caleb, Greg, Steve, Brendan, Maddy, Jodi, Sean, Jenny, Nina, Erin and so many others believe in me.  Not to mention Dawn and Little Landry.  What do they all know that I don’t?

Just yesterday however a good friend sent me a message and told me that he truly believes that I have this time in me.  He remembers the IBM Uptown Classic as a “groundbreaker” as he put it.  The day when I stood at the starting line hoping to run a sub 40:00 minute 10K to earn a spot with the elite amateurs at this year’s Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC on April 2nd.

The day I ran “my race” and came through the chute with a time of 38:06 experiencing my first real personal victory since Pittsburgh in 2009.  I gained a lot of confidence in myself as a runner that day and I know that Steve is exactly right.

It was a big turning point for me.  I started to believe.

After my exchange with Steve Speirs yesterday I decided once and for all that I was going all in.  I am going to try my best to come through the chute better than 2:59:59.  A sub 3-hour marathon.

If running for Dom last year taught me anything it is that I have to try.  It is a moral imperative. 

I read a post yesterday that I wrote back on August 18th, just three days after Dom passed away.  I read it once every month or so to help remind me what this is all about.  You can find it by clicking HERE.

The final passage states:

“So today and tomorrow I am going to spend more time in the air than I will awake on the ground.  It’s a sad time right now, perhaps the saddest I’ve experienced in my 43 years.  I am going to take these two days to mourn the loss of an amazing person.  I will grieve with family and friends, and pay my last respects to Dom.

When I get back to Austin late tomorrow however it is time to get back to living my life in the way that Dom and Monica would if they had the chance.  Shame on me if I don’t.

Before packing for this trip I registered for my next marathon.  February 20, 2011 in Austin.

I am going to train my ass off for that race and I am going to absolutely crush it.

Shame on me if I don’t”

Exactly right.  Shame on me if I don’t.

If I make it I make it.  If I don’t I don’t.  Those miles will be my miles however and that time will be my time.  I’m still not sure how this whole thing is going to turn out, but it sure as hell is going to be a lot of fun finding out.

Dom, if you’re not too busy up there, I’d sure appreciate the wind at my back over those last 10 kilometers.  This one’s for you buddy.

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Comments
  1. Angela says:

    That post hit home with me… My goal is a half marathon in honor of my best friend, that I lost to lung cancer back in August. Thank you for writing. Your posts touch many.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Angela – I am so sorry to hear about your loss this past summer. We lost Dom on August 15th. A day I’ll never forget. I think what you are doing is wonderful. If you ever need anything, training help or otherwise, please let me know. Best, Joe

  2. Andy B. says:

    Good for you. Go for it. If you go to Greg McMillan’s pace calculator and plug in your 3M time, it will give you what he expects that effort to equate to for a marathon. I’ve found that site to be uncannily accurate when weather and course are factored in.

    I think you’ll like what you see.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thanks Andy! I know I have another person out there rooting for me on race day! You’ve been a great friend and set a great example for me. Thanks for everything, from the bottom of my heart, you are the best.

  3. Jodi Higgins says:

    Wow, my name made it into your blog. I am truly honored! I truly do believe you have a sub 3 marathon in you. You are truly the most amazing runner/person I have never met (although that will change very soon). Like I said in my reply the other day, no matter what the clock shows when you cross that finish line on the 20th you will have won the greatest gift of all….the honor of knowing you kicked assphalt for your friend Dom. Knowing that you ran for him as well as for his family. Knowing that Dom will always be proud of you no matter what because you had the guts to try! Remember….failure is not having the courage to try… All in Joe, all in!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Jodi! Thanks for all the great support and encouragement. Make sure you are all refueled after your half and get on that railing in the final 2/10’s. If it’s close I’m going to need you to root me home!

      • Jodi Higgins says:

        I wouldn’t miss your finish for the world! Guess I just need to run fast enough to get through the finishers shoot, grab my bag, and get back to that finish line quickly!!! Trust me, I will be rooting you all the way home. How could I not…you are truly my hero!!

  4. onelittlejill says:

    I am totally with you come race day! And I have a feeling that as busy as Dom is, he will be right there with you too. It’s like the wind Joe…you can’t see it, but you can feel it ❤

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Jill! I’m glad you are “feeling it” as you have a pretty good sense about these things. I’m still a little nervous, but I’ll never know if I don’t try for it. If we make it to mile 22 on pace we have a great, great shot as the course will start playing into our favor. The race is going to be one or lost from mile 9-19.

  5. Sean Lilley says:

    love it – hope to see you at the finish line cooled down nicely with food already in your belly

  6. ally says:

    Joe

    I know you can do this…..I remember seeing Steve go under 3 for the first time ever…..I wish I could see you too, but I will be tracking you, and I have faith you can do it!!!

    Run well, Dom is watching

    Best and hugs to you ally
    xx

    • joerunfordom says:

      Ally – thank you so much for your support, kindness and encouragement. You and Steve mean so much to me. I feel like you guys will in fact be there every stride on the 2oth. Best to you both Ally. Take good care and stay warm out there!

  7. Allen G. says:

    Joe, with your 1:24 half, this is within reach. I’m sure you already know this, but be ready to battle for every second after mile 20. Trust your training, and trust Dom will be pulling you that last 10k 🙂 Reading this post inspires me to want to try for a sub-3 marathon. Thanks and all the best!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Allen! Thank you for the message. All I’m looking for is a chance at mile 20 to be honest Allen. If we’re on pace to that point, I’m willing to really give it my all. That final 10K is going to be brutal, but I think I have it in me to get there. No matter what, it will be my best that day.

      Will it be good enough? I guess we’ll know in a couple of weeks. Best to you and if you chase that 3 hour mark soon, let me know. I’ll be rooting for you the whole way. Best, J

  8. Brendan says:

    I am not sure how to respond to this Joe – this leaves me with good bumps reading this. Although we have never met, our backgrounds have similar themes with my first marathon in 2005. I don’t think I can say anything more that what you’ve already said in this post. What I can leave you with is a mantra that I believe in and is found at the end of your Boston Marathon report.

    Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose.

    Go get em Joe…this race is for you!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Brendan – Thanks so much for everything and I think you said it perfectly. We’re going to give ’em hell coming down that hill on mile 24 leading the charge to the finish.

      Thanks for all you do, I can’t wait to run that mile in your honor.

  9. Tony B says:

    This is one of the most inspiring reads I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I, too, have experienced that look in the mirror and share your thoughts. When that happens I just turn to my friends and surround myself with their wonderful and true, and long lasting friendship. Then when i look back in that mirror, I see someone who can and WILL accomplish every goal I set for myself. My friend, go take another look in your mirror because there are so many people who believe in you. Believe in yourself, your accomplishments and your strive for success. We will be at the finish line, even if only in thought and prayer, to greet you with a winners victory. Good luck my friend.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Tony thank you so much for your kind words and incredibly thoughtful inspiration. I feel the excitement growing each day as the race approaches. It’s just a matter of using that energy in a positive way and not letting it weigh me down.

      Can’t wait for race day that is for sure! Have a great rest of your day Tony, thanks again!

  10. Carolyn says:

    Joe, you’ve got your head on straight and your body properly prepared. You’ve got this!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thank you Carolyn! I appreciate your support here and over on Daily Mile. Big day in a couple of weeks …. if we get the right weather I think we have a shot. That’s all anyone at the start of a race can really ask for. Just a chance.

  11. Karla Gregg says:

    All it takes sometimes is for one person to plant the seed to start the Dream and belief going. Look at the first sub 4min high school miler. He was less than even average when he started, but his coach saw the potential and put it in his head that he could run that sub 4min mile…and he did. Without that coach believing in Jim Ryun, he may have always thought of himself as a medicore runner. Same thing with Ralph Walker who ran the Boston marathon at age 14 and believed with all his heart that he could win…and he nearly did. If you haven’t already, go out and watch the movie “St. Rudulph” and you’ll see just how important believing in yourself really is. Believe in your training. Go out and do what only 5% of all marathoners have ever done and may the wind be at your back:)

    • joerunfordom says:

      Karla – thank you so much for the kind words of encouragement and all of the mornings when you read a workout of mine and congratulate me for working hard, but also spur me on to keep working harder. You are such an inspiration with your training and dedication as well as how obvious it is that you share in all of your friends successes and even the set-backs.

      Best to you with that little one getting closer and closer to arriving every day. I am definitely going to watch St. Rudulph, sounds like something I don’t want to miss.

      Take care Karla! Thanks for everything!

  12. Joe this post sent shivers down my spine.

    You know I believe you can do anything you train for, you’ve proved tiem and time again. I cannot wait for this race report and for a big picture of you with a huge smile on your face.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi AJ! Somebody told me this week that if you never miss hitting your goals you are not setting them high enough. Well in this case, I’m not too worried about making that mistake. We’re really putting ourselves out there in a big race on a tough course.

      If not for friends like you I know that I would have absolutely no chance of doing this. You have helped me a ton this year stay motivated and overcome obstacles. Thank you for everything! I’ll be sure to find a way to smile win, lose or draw in two weeks.

      Take good care, give my best to R! Joe

  13. Shelley says:

    Joe…you’ve got this. I feel it in my heart and I feel it in my gut. I met you on dailymile right before the IBM 10K and I saw you at the start line that day, preparing yourself for the race. Watching you over these past few months has been incredible. You just inspire me. I know Dom is watching over you and will help you do what you need to do to crack a sub 3. No doubt. Can’t wait to read about it!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Shelley – thank you so much for the message and all the great support here and on Daily Mile. I am so excited for you Shelley with the marathon coming up.

      The distance challenge has really tested you at times, rewarded you at others and put you in a great position to have a wonderful marathon experience in two weeks.

      So happy and excited for you. I hope I’m still hanging around and vertical to see you cross that line Shelley. Man, what a great experience.

      Have a great last two weeks of the taper. I’ll be thinking about you out there. Best, J

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