I am so excited to start a new series featuring a different runner each week. Every Monday until April, I will be featuring a runner that has qualified and currently training to run the Boston Marathon in April this year.
The Boston Marathon represents something special for many runners. As one of the oldest and most prestigious marathons. Earning the opportunity to even apply for entry is an honor and marks an amount of commitment and sacrifice.
I am excited to give a voice and share the story of a few of these runners. Each story is unique and each journey is filled with moments of success and moments of struggle. My hope is each runner who shares will touch at least one person who is reading this. Gives one person hopes.
I can’t wait to follow, cheer and celebrate these awesome individuals.
How many Boston Marathons have you run previously? This will be Joe’s third Boston Marathon. He completed the 2021 and 2022 race prior to this year.
- Can you first, give us your Boston marathon story.
- My story starts with getting a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 2018 just shy of turning 57. As part of the diagnosis I learned that vigorous exercise was the best therapy for it. I have always been a runner but never for longer than about a 10K. I decided to double down and ran my first marathon in 2019 (CIM). At the end of 2019, I set a goal of running all of the World Marathon Majors in a single year, 2021, when I would be 60. But then the pandemic happened and forced them to be tightly scheduled into a 6 week period in the fall. Should I bail? Nah. I ran them all nonetheless and as far as I know only one other person (Shalane Flanagan) took on that challenge. Hence, the first time that I ran Boston was after running in Berlin two weeks prior, London one week before, and Chicago the day before.
- What does running the Boston Marathon mean to you?
- Boston is the most iconic and prestigious marathon in the world. I am going to take that as a given. The first time I ran it I did so as a charity runner. I was happy to have that opportunity to support Parkinson’s Research for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. However, actually qualifying to run the race is a dream of so many runners and in 2022 and again for 2023 I have been able to get into the race as a qualified runner. That gives me a sense of accomplishment that I cherish.
- What do you look forward to most, about running the Boston Marathon?
- As with all of the Majors, I love the spectators that line the course. Millions come out to watch and to support the runners. For the most part, they don’t know us yet they are there to cheer us on and to help us do our best. I also love re-connecting with the other marathoners that I have met over the past three years. We chat about our running plans coming up and strategize about where we will meet up again.
- How will you define success, on race day?
- First and foremost, success means that I made some new connections from within the running community and I get to feel the exhilaration of running this iconic marathon again. I do have some more quantitative goals as well. In 2021, I was tired after running Chicago the day before and Berlin and London the two weeks prior. Thus I ran my personal worst. But in 2022, a little fresher, I shaved 90 minutes off of my 2021 time. In 2023, I really would like to finish under 4 hours. In 2021, I had hoped to run in Tokyo but that race was postponed and then, eventually, non-residents were excluded from the race. Hence, I still have yet to achieve my goal of running all the Majors in a single year. I am trying again in 2023, which means that I will be in London to run that marathon 6 days after Boston. Another goal, then, is to feel good enough afterwards to run strong in London.
- Do you have a favorite product, clothing, or tech that you use for racing or training?
- I like HOKA shoes for their cushioning and I use their Carbon X3 on race day (carbon-plated). (BTW: I am a HOKA Flyer, which is their label for grass-roots brand ambassadors for the company’s products.) For fueling I like Untapped maple syrup products. They are natural foods that digest quickly without causing GI distress. I am very susceptible to muscle cramps (it’s one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s) so I have to be careful about getting enough hydration and electrolytes. My favorite solution for muscle cramps is to take a SaltStick tablet every 3 miles. Once I started doing this four marathons ago, the cramps went away.
- Any advice for someone trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon or training for their first Boston Marathon?
- Pick your qualification race carefully as there are some that are highly rated for their ability to get runners a BQ (BQ%). For instance, in 2019 of the top 12 marathons rated by BQ%, 9 of them were on downhill courses and 4 of these used the same gently and consistently sloped downhill course in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State near Seattle. Downhill courses can knock off 5-10 minutes from your finish time compared to flat courses. I have run 3 BQ’s to date and all of them were on downhill courses. Also, if possible, pay close attention to the Boston Qualification times by age group as there are some sweet spots. For example, men aged 55-59 have to run in 3:35 to BQ which I can’t do. But at age 60 the BQ time jumps to 3:50 (15 minute increase!), which is something that I can and have done.
- What part of the marathon do you find the most challenging?
- The rolling hills just after Wellesley and through Newton culminating in Heartbreak Hill are challenging especially after coasting downhill for the first part of the course. But if you don’t go out to fast in the first 10 miles and save up some gas for after Heartbreak, the downhill from there and the spectators will get you to the finish line.
- What has been you favorite race (any distance) up until this point?
- I really do like the Boston marathon because I went to college near Boston and still have friends in the area who have taken the time to cheer for me on the course. Similarly, I also enjoy the fabulous energy that the crowds display in the New York City Marathon.
- Do you have any pre-race routine, riturals or good luck charms?
- Not so much. However, I have only been doing this for three years now and each time I try to figure out how to do it better. I am beginning to figure out the whole carbo-loading thing and I haven’t bonked in my last three races. But, man, that is a god-awful amount of food to eat in order to fill one’s glycogen tank.
- What (or who) inpires you as a runner??
- I try to do my part for the Parkinson’s community by proving that running can slow the progression of the disease. It has done so for me and I am virtually symptom free as long as I take my medications and keep up the running regimen. Many others who run with PD have experienced the same thing. But we are not alone. At every marathon I see inspiring athletes: blind runners, paraplegics running with the aid of prosthetics, runners with Down’s Syndrome, wheelchair racers, etc. undeterred by their physical challenges. Like with any good origin story this is the stuff of superheroes and I can’t help but feel emotional at their courage and strength.
Reading all about Joe’s battle and ability to rise up and help others has left me feeling inspired, how about you? Comment below with words of encouragement as he heads into the heavy part of marathon training.
Joe has written a book that you can purchase on his website Joesgottarun.medium.com. All proceeds for this book are donated to Parkinsons.
You can also support his London Charity page at https://give.michaeljfox.org/fundraiser/4267814
Thank you so much for sharing your story Joe! In case you missed them, you can read our previously posted featured runners by clicking their names below!