It’s a funny thing as you grow older.  You live thousands and thousands of days, in my case 16,805 of them, and you are reduced to only a handful of days, moments really, that leave an indelible image on your life.

March 15 – the day I proposed to Dawn.

July 15 – our first date.

August 29 – the day I became a Dad.

September 11 – we all share this one.

November 6 – the day I became a marathoner.

But when August 15th comes around now and forever I will think about the day we lost Dom to Cancer.  It has been three years since that warm, summer day in Pittsburgh when I flew up to lay Dom to rest with family and friends, Dawn staying home in Austin as we were just two weeks away from welcoming Landry into the world and it was unsafe for her to fly.

I was only away for a little more than 24 hours, much of which I spent in an airport, on a plane keeping quietly to myself, not wanting anyone to ask me where I was going or where I was headed as I just couldn’t bring myself to tell the story just yet.  I remember seeing everyone at the funeral home the night before the service, just a short time after I arrived in Pittsburgh, talking with Dom’s family, visiting with everyone I had not seen since being there for the Pittsburgh Marathon just three months before.

August 15th was a rough, rough day.  Anytime you watch parents bury a child it is hard to make sense of things.  But knowing Dom the way I did and thinking about everyone and everything he was leaving behind was especially difficult.  I flew home in my suit, carnation still on my jacket and nobody dare ask me where I had been or where I was going.  I suppose they just knew to leave that fellow over there alone.  I was grateful for the quiet time to reflect and say goodbye to my friend.

Three years later and I still feel much the same way.  I vacillate between sadness and anger.  Still asking myself the same unanswerable question of why this had to happen to someone so young and wonderful with so much at stake.  So much to lose.

There are other days when I feel blessed and so very fortunate that I was able to be there for Dom and his family and I was along for his journey with eyes wide open.  Every day he was sick, we woke up with thoughts of helping his family in our heart.  We trained hard, ran a couple of marathons in 13 days and raised spirits, awareness and dollars for Dom’s family.

Three years later and I am still racing with his initials on my flats, trying to run the marathon that I know I have inside of me.

I am injured right now, pedaling away furiously on the tri-bike hoping to save whatever fitness I had build up training for Cottonwood so that I might somehow still be able to toe the line on Sept. 14th in Utah.  2:59 is now out of the question.  It would take nothing short of a miracle for that to happen, and as much as I love the marathon and how special an event it is.  Miracles don’t happen on race day at that distance.

If we do make it out there the only goal will be 3:19:59 which should be enough to get us into Boston this year with our qualifying time of 3:25:00.

The irony of the situation is the goal at the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009 that I wanted so terribly to make it to Hopkinton for the first time – 3:19:59.

I haven’t thought of 3:20 being a huge accomplishment in almost 4 years.  But perhaps fittingly so – in honor of our hero Dom – just maybe – that is the perfect goal to chase.

Just because it won’t be our fastest marathon doesn’t mean that it is not a race worth running.  Just getting to the starting line would be a lesson in determination, perseverance and not to sound too corny, but bravery.  Anyone can start a marathon when their training cycle was perfect and they are 100% healthy.

It is a lot tougher to do so when you know that you are “not  right”.  The last time I did that I was in Pittsburgh, licking my wounds from the Boston Marathon 13 days earlier – hoping to somehow hold it together for another 26.2 miles.  It was one of my slowest marathons and probably my most painful.  But it was also one of the greatest races I have ever run.

So Dom, just get me to the starting line in Utah my brother.  I’ll take it from there.

Rest in peace Dom.  We all love and miss you terribly.

P.S. – I really could have done without the flat tire this morning.  Just sayin’.

  1. Jillian says:

    You don’t live with it, you live through it. A lesson someone told me after losing my best friend at the tender age of 19. It’s been 13 years (Aug 30) and never has a day gone by that I do not think of him.

  2. Jodi H says:

    I vividly remember this day 3 years ago as I was still in Pennsylvania at my mom’s house the day after Kaelynn’s birthday and my family reunion. I remember going to your blog and seeing the post with the title “Dom” and my heart sank because I just knew… What you have done for Dom and his family and continue to do for them is nothing short of amazing. Keep up the great work! Dom was and will always be an inspiration to me!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Jodi – hard to believe it has been 3 years since Dom passed away – it has gone so quickly, but in the next instant I can rattle off all of the things he has missed, and how much we have missed him. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to do a little racing this Fall that will mean something. I could have really used a run today.

      • Jodi H says:

        I can understand that Joe! I will get out there and run for you and Dom this evening. Kaelynn had ice skating very early so I couldn’t get the run in this AM. Hang in there!!

  3. Jim in Maine says:

    This post and your relationship with Dom – both then and now – reminds of a song that a local Maine singer/song writer, Keelan Donovan, performs entitled “When I’m Gone’. The lyrics include “when I’m gone, go look at my pictures, you’ll never see me sad. It’s all because of my friends, the best a man could be blessed to have …” Then and now Joe!

  4. Andy B says:

    Dude, get healed up soon. I’m back regular on Saturdays. thought about you while in Boulder and realizing that 5,000 ft of elevation does indeed have an impact.

    Also, I didn’t realize that Alec and Landry share the same birthday.

  5. Nicole Nyman says:

    Hi Joe,
    The 3 year awful anniversary is hard to believe. If you don’t remember me, I was Dom’s direct counterpart at Takeda. I knew that there would be an update from you. I googled his name today, and here was your blog updated, just as I expected. I check it yearly. It somehow doesn’t get easier. I actually miss him more. You are a true friend to never forget him and run in his honor. It is deeply touching to read your stories about such a wonderful guy. He deserves it. I love and miss him and I thank you for continuing to honor his name and memory.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Nicole – so great to hear from you and of course I remember you. It definitely doesn’t get any easier, but it is so comforting that the many lives that Dom touched still remember him for the incredible person that he was. Dom and Val’s children are growing up hearing stories of how much people loved him and all the amazing friendships and relationships he had.

      He continues to remind me often how precious life is and in a lot of ways his greatest gift to me has been the realization that life is to be truly lived. Fearlessly and with great passion.

      I’m not sure how this whole journey to Ironman is going to go, but if I am fortunate enough to find myself standing under that finish clock in Houston, I know he is going to be there with me.

      Wishing you and your family a great end to summer. Thank you for the visit!

      • val says:

        hey joe. i was on fb and bopped over to here. on a very very cold and snowy sat am. swim lessons cancelled for the kiddos. i love and miss you,dawn,landry. i read all these posts. and it brings back so many sad and wonderful memories all in the same breath. i guess it will always feel weird. is the only way i guess i can put it. but the love that is out there from all the people around us keeps me and sierra 7 nico 4 going. and from all your blog buddies. i just dusted off the pgh medal last week and was like wow 3 yrs all ready feels like yesterday with our rain jackets that day. thanks so much for being such a great friend to us. ill call soon. love val deramo

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