Yesterday I posted the first half of an interview that Lara from Saturday Morning Zen conducted with Joe, the amazing marathoner and blogger who is running two marathons in thirteen days as a cancer fundraiser for his friend Dom. This is the second half of the interview. When you’re done reading, please consider clicking over to Run For Dom and donate by sponsoring a mile of one or both of Joe’s marathons.
Lara: These are Dom’s Lessons, then. We can do so much more than we thought we could, because we’re healthy, and we’re alive. That seems like a pretty good message to impart.
Joe: Agreed, Lara. I think we all have times in our life that we thing about being a better “me”. This really was a wake-up call for me that life is really precious – the most precious thing that there is – and whatever I can do to honor Dom and help his family get through this challenge so he can see his kids grow up, help make a dent in their medical bills or contribute to the kids’ college funds… This is a small price to pay for the lesson I was taught this August.
Lara: People can support your efforts by sponsoring a mile in either Boston or Pittsburgh, or both. How would they do that?
Joe: We’ve had people donate anywhere from $26.20 ($1/mile) for one race, $52.40 ($1/mile) for both races and have sponsored an individual mile for a $100 donation and above. The “Sponsor a Mile” initiative has been really neat as a friend, family, sisters etc. can pick out a mile of either marathon that they want to “name”. The donors are listed on my blog and right now there are 7 miles that are unclaimed for Boston, and 9 unclaimed miles for Pittsburgh. I’m going to have the “Sponsor” lists with me on the course so I can think about the people who have donated while I race. Just today, a friend of mine from Alabama sponsored mile 24 at Boston. He asked if I would play the song “Maniac” on my iPod during “his” mile. It’s moments like that over the course of 26.2 miles or 3 hours and 20 minutes (give or take a few) that you draw on for a quick smile or some encouragement to keep pushing when the race gets tough. 26.2 miles is a challenging distance that really tests every runner at some point, and the more friends that I can have with me along the way, the better!
Lara: You mention “Maniac” will be on your Playlist; what else will get you through the miles? And, can someone suggest a song for you?
Joe: Absolutely! I am always looking for new music and would enjoy the encouragement. It’s funny; I have music I run to, and music I listen to – and their paths do not cross very often. I listen to faster, “louder” music when I’m running; Green Day, The Clash, Social Distortion, but I’m much more mellow when I’m just hanging around the house. Then, I listen to Bruce Springsteen and Pat Green. I have a funny story about music and racing. I’m originally from Philadelphia where Rocky isn’t just a character; he really exists in the collective minds of Philadelphians. For the Pittsburgh Marathon last year I wanted the theme from Rocky to come up in my list right around mile 20 based on my Boston qualifying pace. I hit it really perfect and was about .35 miles into mile 20 when it came on my Nano. I was running next to a guy for a couple of miles who was also trying for a Boston Qualifying Time, and we had chatted a bit. He was 10 years younger than me and needed to run a sub 3:10 to qualify (I needed sub 3:20, one of the few benefits of being a 41 year-old marathoner at the time). When the song came on he caught me smiling and asked me why. I told him that the theme from Rocky just came on my earphones. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “Dude, can I listen?” It was the funniest moment of that race and I remember it like it was yesterday. Unfortunately a BQ (Boston Qualifying Time) was not in the cards for him that day, even though he was a really strong runner. If he hasn’t made that time already, I know he will.
Lara: HA! I can just imagine him running next to you, wanting to share your earbuds! That’s a great visual… two hot, sweaty guys running along in silence, connected by a cord of technology that’s jammin’ out the theme song from Rocky…
“Runners are passionate people by nature, and nobody knows how to make a difference like runners do.”
Joe: That’s the part that is so great about races. There are only a handful of people actually competing against each other – everyone else is competing against themselves, which is what makes it such a great experience. I actually dropped one of my water bottles around mile 13 and knew I couldn’t go back for it because I was trying for that specific time. About 50 strides later a runner tapped me on my shoulder and handed me my water bottle. He had sprinted to catch up to me when he saw me clap my hands in a bit of anger when it hit the pavement… that’s what it’s all about. I think about him as well a lot. He helped me to my 3:17:43 time also. Marathoning is a sport that everyone thinks is a “solo-mission” but the fact is nobody is alone out there.
Lara: That’s pretty accurate for the adventure of life, as well… we all think we’re so alone, and we don’t always realize just how many people are truly supporting us. Which leads to my next question: You’re “Joe” from Joe_RunForDom. Are there other people out there who have offered to dedicate a marathon to Dom as well?
Joe: Great question Lara – I just got an e-mail this week from a young woman who is a friend of Dom’s brother Matt. She and three of her friends are going to run the Relay portion of the Pittsburgh Marathon and are going to be getting folks to support Run for Dom through their efforts. I’ll be getting another page set-up for them at www.runfordom.com under the “other fundraising efforts” tab, and donors will be able to keep up with them as well. I’m hoping that a few more runners or running groups want to get involved – with the races now 9 and 11 weeks away respectively – now is the time to get cracking if we are going to do it.
Lara: And what about people that aren’t able to run Boston or Pittsburgh? Can they run solo or form a Relay team in another race and have that count as a fundraiser for Dom?
Joe: Absolutely! That’s one of the amazing things about runners; we are always looking for a cause to run for. Runners are passionate people by nature, and nobody knows how to make a difference like runners do. I would love to have as many friends and supporters as we can find toe the line for Dom. He is truly a remarkable young man. I refer to him as “All-Time” because that is what he is. All-time. He’s had more than 9,700 visitors to his personal page that’s hosted by the Caringbridge organization. I wish more people could really get to know Dom as I do. I know that if our roles were reversed, there isn’t a thing in the world he wouldn’t do for my wife Dawn and me.
Lara: It sounds like you’ve known him a long time.
Joe: My wife Dawn has known Dom basically their entire lives. She and I have been together for 15 years and married for 10. I’ve known Dom since Dawn and I first started dating. I met him in the parking lot of a Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game. He was there with a ton of his buddies at the tailgate and I really only knew Dawn. Dom spent a couple of hours talking to me and getting to know me when he could have been hanging out with all of his buddies. I’ve never forgotten that about Dom; because Dawn was such a close and important person in his life, he wanted to get to know me, because I must be pretty special too. Funny thing is, it was Dom who was the special one.
Lara: You’re pretty humble about that. I have a feeling it was more about “kindred spirits” recognizing each other.
Joe: Maybe Lara, maybe. All I know is that I plan on him being around for a long, long time.
Lara: Is Dom going to be at the Pittsburgh race finish line?
Joe: (Laughs) I’m actually angling for his mother to cook my pre-race meal on Saturday night, too. With a name like D’Eramo, you know the pasta is legendary!
Lara: That’ll be the best pre-race meal you’ve ever had! (Laughs)
Joe: And her Christmas eve dinner this year was incredible.
Lara: Speaking of family, how’s Dom’s family doing with his illness? You said he has a wife and two small kiddos…
Joe: It’s been really hard. His wife, Val, is doing a great job keeping Dom’s spirits high, but when you’re recovering from such an aggressive surgery there are plenty of tough days. His kids provide a pretty big energy boost for him though. Sierra is 3 ½ and is completely adorable. She actually took my blood pressure with her doctor’s kit when I was there at Christmas! And Nico is 9 months old now is such a cute little guy. He was the recipient of the first baby bottle I’ve ever provided. True!
Lara: I can only imagine that there are so many family and friends rallying around this family. It seems only right that with all the good thoughts, energy, medical treatment and will, that he’s going to get better. It’s almost too much to think of the alternative. He HAS to get better.
Joe: Absolutely. On Christmas Eve a few months ago, when all his friends and family held hands to say grace it made a circle around the entire downstairs of his parents’ house. Kitchen to living room to dining room to hallway and back to the kitchen – it was pretty amazing to be a part of that circle of love.
Joe is raising money for Dom’s cancer treatment. People can sponsor a mile for Boston or Pittsburgh, or both. Donations have ranged from $1/mile in one race to $100+ for a particular mile in one of the races. People are putting together Relay teams and raising funds for Dom’s battle to kick cancer’s ass to the curb. All of this is so that in a few years, Dom will be there to pick his kids up from kindergarten.