WHY DO I RUN: Joe’s Story


Part of a series of runner profiles we’ll be featuring throughout the summer

I run because I have to. When I’m not at least a little tired, I’m the type of person they invented fidget spinners for. At full steam, I’m physically incapable of sitting still for any amount of time – I’m mentally anxious, I tap my hands and feet, pick at my nails, hum, doodle, and mentally wander off.

Running with my grandfather

When I was younger, I was even more of a spaz. Desperate to find a way to burn off my energy and refine my attention span, my mother would lock me out of the house until I’d run enough laps around the yard to be tired. Little did she know, she was building a skill and coping mechanism I’ve carried with me through the rest of my life.

I always ran what I would describe as “enough to get by.” I’d run a few times a week to manage stress and energy levels without much thought beyond the individual run. That changed when, after college, I started a job that was both extremely stressful and often sedentary. Gaining weight and literally sick with stress, I knew I had to make a radical shift in how I approach each day, and running provided the framework to do that.

“My running had taught me an important lesson about the nature of enormous goals: they are simply the aggregate of very small goals, each achieved in their time.”

Having recently read Born to Run, I decided to drink the Kool-Aid and set a five year plan to run a 100-mile Ultramarathon. I rearranged my lifestyle to focus on running, beginning by quitting my desk job to start work at Marathon Sports and immerse myself completely in the sport. In the years that followed, I worked my way through most of the shorter ultra distances, beginning with my first 50K in September of 2013. I returned the following year to VT50, but this time DNF’ed (did not finish) my first 50-mile attempt in 2014.

I began 2015 with a vengeance: I’d registered for nearly every event the Trail Animals Running Club was putting on that year, including a 100-miler set for October. Under the tutelage of coach Ryan Knapp, who I met while working for Marathon Sports, I began a structured training program to ensure success. Race day came and went, and I was still running into the next day; finishing 31 hours 10 minutes after beginning my journey.

At the end of my 100 miler. They don’t call me Joey Baggadonuts for nothing…

I ran through the highs of the first 50 miles on a lovely course with friends I’d made over the last several years, chasing the biggest dream I’d ever worked towards. I continued through the darkness of a seemingly endless night, my communication skills dulled to grunts and gestures by fatigue and chill. When I arrived at the next morning’s coffee and donuts, my running had taught me an important lesson about the nature of enormous goals: they are simply the aggregate of very small goals, each achieved in their time.

Over my 20 years within the sport, I’ve run for many reasons, but it all boils down to this: I run because I have to. What started as a simple tool to get me to sit in a seat has grown into the lens through which I perceive the world and the purest way I’ve found to express myself. My running has soothed me in times of extremity, brought me closer to my friends and family, and demonstrated my unspeakable joy at running in places like the Grand Canyon. Recently, I have had to cut back on running to prioritize other things, and am running enough to get by; however, Sir Roger Bannister’s words still resonate for me:

“We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves…The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say ‘You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.’ The human spirit is indomitable.”

RELATED CONTENT: [Why Do I Run: Katie’s Story] [Why Do I Run: Kathy’s Story] [Why Do I Run: Ailish’s Story] [Why Do I Run: Preston’s Story]