Joe Randene, a local runner and manager of Fleet Feet in Greensboro, was recently featured in a national ad campaign by the running shoe company Hoka. To date, Randene has run multiple half-marathons, marathons and ultramarathons which include 100-mile races. Now, he’s working to qualify for Western States, one of the most popular and exclusive 100-mile races in the world. He is working on getting as many lottery tickets as possible for the race by running in qualifying races. Header photo by Runner Space.

How, when and why did you get into running?

The year was 2014, and I had had a career in manufacturing for 25 years. We were living in Italy at the time, and I was eating out every night, drinking beers every night, gaining four to five pounds every year. One day, I woke up 330 pounds, way overweight, and didn’t feel good about myself. One morning, I realized I couldn’t button my shirt and I’m like What the hell? I’m in a 2XL and I couldn’t button my shirt. And I thought to myself, I’ll be dead in five years if I keep going like this. So that night, I grabbed my running shoes and decided to run outside of my hotel. I made it about 100 feet and was dying. Then I went back to the hotel room and Googled “How do people run?” and a couch-to-5K program came up. So, I started following that plan and I signed up for this charity 10K which gave me some accountability. I just kept working that couch-to-5K and then I was drinking a little bit less and going to sleep earlier, and I started losing the weight.

So after your first 10K, you ran a half-marathon, then a full marathon and eventually you worked your way up to running your first 100-mile race in 2018. How do you prepare for running long distances like that?

What people don’t realize about these distances is that everything can go right, but everything can go wrong. You can have kidney issues, or run through injuries you shouldn’t. So, my wife is my crew chief, she supports me, but she always has the right to stop it if she feels like it’s going too far. So that first 100-miler in Statesville, people were chafing and bleeding because of the humidity, and they would stop. Thankfully, we brought Vaseline and I was just putting it everywhere.

This year, I went plant-based, and I’m tying it in to prepare for the 100-miler. Because nutrition is important even when you’re not running and then you have to eat the right amount when you are. I practice training my stomach. I’ll stop running and walk to eat dates with almonds stuffed in them, some gels, and then something my wife makes, a bean-curd pastry with sweet condensed milk which is yummy and pretty easy on the stomach. Sometimes I’ll eat a vegetable bean burrito and start running again.

Joe Randene (photo by Runner Space)

What advice do you have for people who say, “I can’t run,” or, “I’m not good at running”?

The first thing I try to tell people is that I’m not special and other people can do this. The biggest thing is to be kind to yourself. You’re starting a process that if you’re sitting around, it’s new, it’s different. You’re not just going to get up and run a marathon or a half marathon. Accept that there’s going to be bumps in the road and remember that tomorrow is another day, that you can’t beat yourself and give up.

The second thing is to take it slow. Chunk the thing down and break it down to smaller chunks. If you can’t run, you can walk. I hate to say it this way, but it’s not a race. And then be consistent. Try to get out there and move four to six times per week.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from running?

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you’re capable of more than you think if you’re willing to keep moving and do the work. You can accomplish the goal. The fact of the matter is, at least in my experience, is that if you do your workouts and you execute, you’re going to attain your goals. The second thing is that when you do crazy stuff like run a half-marathon or marathon, there’s a lot of stuff that happens in your life that you then realize, It ain’t that bad, because I ran on blistered feet so I can sit in traffic for 10 minutes. It gives you the perspective; it makes the problems around you more manageable.

I think comfort is a lie. We’ve all been sold on this idea that everything in our life should be easy, easier and easier and easier. As a group of human beings, we’re losing ability to be able to cope with things as they come up; we’re losing grit. But when you run a marathon or half-marathon or 100-miler, all of that stuff gets stripped away. You’ve got to decide to move despite the fact that you’re uncomfortable and I think that translates really well to life.

What is your biggest accomplishment with running and what’s next for you?

My biggest accomplishment is helping other people achieve their goals. Nothing is better than when someone who came to you who was barely running and barely moving runs their first marathon or half marathon. Some of the best moments on the floor are when you help an older person get fit into a new pair of shoes and they come back and say, “I was able to walk with my grandchildren.” That’s not even a running thing.

Next for me is to keep multiplying those tickets until we get into Western States. I also want to keep grinding the message, the anti-bullying message. These days, anybody with a keyboard has the safety to say and do whatever they want. There are issues of kids with alcohol and drugs, with violence. I want to expand my voice to say, “Hey man, we need to treat each other a little better.”

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