Posted: August 15, 2012 in Motivation
Tags: , ,

August 15th is here once again, it’s been two years since we lost Dom to cancer.  It still hurts.  A lot.

I know that I am not the only one who has lost a friend or family member to disease, illness or accident.  Sadly, most everyone that I know can share a story or two about someone they cared deeply about who passed away before their time.  I’m long past feeling sorry for myself, wondering what the meaning to it all is, what I am supposed to learn from the journey, from the experience.  After two years of thinking about Dom and all of the twists and turns that his treatment, surgery and recovery took on the way to August 15, 2010 I’ve come to realize that there really aren’t any good answers.

Coughlin’s Law – “Everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn’t end.” 

Bottom line is that there are two beautiful, funny, smart little children growing up in Dormont, PA without their father.  There is a wonderful young woman who misses her husband, and an amazing family in Hopewell, PA – a Mother, Father, Brother’s, Aunts, Uncles, Sister-In Laws, Cousins, Nieces and Nephews who miss Dom terribly.  He was everybody’s favorite.  No matter who you were, young or old, a relative, close friend or somebody who got introduced to Dom with a beer in one hand and a brat in the other at a Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game like I did … you automatically loved that guy.

Dom was simply, all-time.

I’m not ready to let go yet.  I still race with his initials on my shoes and his voice in my head when times get the toughest.  If you are really “racing” an event – and not just running in a race – there are large differences between the two, every athlete reaches a point where things seem like they are starting to fall apart.  In a short event like a 5K or 10K it becomes about pain management.  You physically can keep running at that pace.  It is physiologically possible – you just have to shut down your pain-sensors and keep pushing.  Don’t give in.  Hang on until you reach the final mile.  At that point I know that I’m going to make it.

I can do anything for one mile.

In the longer races like the marathon or next month’s Ironman 70.3 it is not the same feeling as a short distance event.  It’s not pain management as much as fighting the changes that your body is going through related to fuel and endurance.  It is what I refer to as “the dark place” where you have to be mentally strong – continue to fight – don’t give in to your body’s desire to slow down and conserve energy.  That is the battle at play.  Your fuel is running out and your body is automatically sending you signals as to how fast you can continue to go on your remaining glycogen stores and fat.  It wants you to slow down.  You want to stay the same.

The battle is internal and it is a dark, dark place.  Until that final mile.

I can do anything for one mile.

It is those moments when I turn to my source of strength.  I think about seeing Dawn and Landry at the finish line.  I imagine what having those little arms around my neck are going to feel like.  What hearing Dawn’s voice in my ear will sound like – and I think about Dom.

There are a lot of brave individuals who have battled cancer.  I meet them all the time.  My desk faces one of them at work every day.  My Mother is another one.  They are amazing to me.  Inspirational.

I don’t know of any who were braver than Dom.

Talking to him throughout his battle was something I will never forget.  I would be at home with ice on my right shin and a bag of frozen peas on my left instep nursing two nagging injuries that I was battling training to run two marathons in 13 days for Run for Dom – and Dawn would hand me the phone with Dom on the line.  We would talk about his treatments, his surgery, how he was feeling and he would ask how my training was going.

“Great” I would say.  “We are going to kill it in Boston Dom.” I would tell him.

All of a sudden my shin didn’t hurt so much and my left foot felt a whole lot better.

That was all Dom.

There were some pretty tough moments racing Boston and Pittsburgh back to back like that.  The thought of it today still makes me shake my head and wonder how in the hell I pulled that off – especially that second marathon less than two weeks after Boston.  But I would sign on and do it again in a second if it would make a difference.  That was what it was all about, helping provide support to Dom’s family and contribute to his children’s educations.  We crushed our goal of raising $26.2K and kept on going almost $10,000 past that mark.

Dom< Val and Renee at the DorStop in Dormont, PA after the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2010.

In the races since I’ve been running for me as much as Dom’s memory and we’ve had some pretty amazing experiences – a lot of them were made possible by Dom as he taught me just how tough I really am.   How much I can endure and how much it takes to break me.  Most of us go through our lives never knowing what those limitations are because we are scared to find out.  Dom’s battle with cancer granted me the opportunity to put myself out on a limb and see just how close I could come to reaching those limits.

I haven’t stopped reaching since over these last two years.  I want to test myself.  It makes me feel alive.

So Dom, when we dip our toe in the water at next month’s Kerrville Half Ironman and I am staring a 1.2 mile open water swim in the face, a 56 mile hilly bike ride through the Texas Hill Country and a 13.1 mile run back through town to the finish line you are going to be there with me every stroke, pedal and step of the way.  Just as you have been for the last 24 months.

Today the training schedule called for a 10-mile training run.  I ran an extra 2 for you this morning, one for each year you’ve been gone.  They were the fastest miles of my workout.

I can do anything for 2 miles.

I miss you Dom.

  1. Luau says:

    Inspirational post – I know will be with you every inch of the way for your triathlon.

  2. stacey g says:

    I’m sure he’s looking down, smiling at how much you’ve accomplished Joe. Continuing your physical journey and overcoming mental obstacles is an incredible way to pay tribute to Dom and show your love to his family.
    “Stay strong and carry on!”

  3. Ally says:

    Beautifully said. That is all

  4. Jeff Caylor says:

    I’m sure Dom is pleased with you living life as you have, and taking on new challenges. Enjoy your 70.3! I just did that for the first time earlier this year and Loved it!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thank you Jeff for the visit and all the great support – pretty nervous about the 70.3, but nothing like I was before my first marathon … we’ll just keep plugging away out there, that is one thing that is great to know going into it. If you keep moving forward that finish line will show up eventually. Take good care, J

  5. just1molly says:

    Thanks Joe! Best Of luck to you in your upcoming races! With inspiration and spirit from Dom, you will surely be amazing! You are awesome!! Be well, my friend!!

  6. Mark W says:

    We should all have a friend like Dom….and Joe. Great tribute brother. Dom would be proud. Hope you’re well! -Mark

  7. Damn you Joe! Why you gotta do that to me while I’m at work? I have no idea how I’m going to write a post after my Maine 70.3. The start/finish line in Old Orchard Beach is at a spot where I spent many childhood vacations with my family. So many good memories of mom…. You got me again… Damn you Joe! I can do anything for 70.3 miles.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Mike – I think honoring the ones that we care about when we put on that bib number is something you and I both take very seriously. I think you are going to find great peace and calmness come over you entering that water and your chest is going to swell up with strength and confidence. That will be all Mom right there Mike. Go out and do something special. She’ll be watching.

  8. val says:

    jow what a beautiful tribute. we all miss and love him. when i read the things you write about it makes me feel good inside. and helps me think about some things differently. i have relived the last month in my head and especially the last few days. and i have seen a few butterflies around. and i know dom lives on in sierra and nico. and in alot of us . cant wait to hear how your race goes. love val deramo

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Val, that’s so much for the message, it is great to hear how those two little ones of yours are growing up so wonderfully and loved. Nico must be getting so very big! Give them both a Texas-sized hug from Dawn and I, we’ll try to catch up with you this weekend. Take good care, we love and miss you guys.

  9. David H. says:

    Sorry for being so late to comment here; I’ve been quite busy lately with my new job. I feel like it was just yesterday that I started reading your blog and your journey with Dom. When I see that it’s been two years since his passing, it makes me stop and think a bit about the important things and people in my life. Thank you for being so open and honest about this, and continuing to run in his memory. It’s a truly awesome thing you’re doing.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thanks David for the visit and the message – never too late to write in and let me know how you are doing and feeling. I really appreciate the kind words and support. You are the greatest. Take good care David – hope we are racing together again soon, would be great to see you.

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