Nobody has run more Rock ‘n’ Roll events than the 64-year-old Marine.
The November 2004 phone call stunned Joe Harris. A former Marine Corps lance corporal, Harris served in the Vietnam War. The man on the other end of the phone was his Vietnam company commander, 1st Lt Walt Smith.
The men had not spoken in 34 years.
Smith tracked down Harris via a Vietnam veterans website. During the course of the conversation, Smith learned that Harris was a runner. Smith, too, liked pounding the pavement.
Smith lived in a Phoenix suburb and invited Harris to run a race that was coming up in two months, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon.
“It was kind of strange,” recalls Harris. “It wasn’t like we were friends. I was a lance corporal. He was an officer, the company commander. (But) when you share an experience like war, you have that common bond.”
Harris had only been running for five months and hadn’t stretched his racing distance beyond a 10K, but he took up his fellow Marine’s invite and ran his first half marathon in Phoenix.
Next month in the nation’s capital, Harris, now 64, will run the Rock ’n’ Roll D.C. Half Marathon. It will be Harris’ 100th Rock ‘n’ Roll event. From Seattle to Savannah, Ga., from San Diego to Philadelphia, from Dallas, Portland, Ore., New Orleans, Los Angeles, Cleveland, San Antonio and Las Vegas, no one has run as many Rock ‘n’ Roll events as Harris, a retired teacher.
“I’m just so humbled about the whole experience,” says Harris. “I feel so blessed to have made so many friends and not only running friends, but friends who work for The Competitor Group. It feels like family.”
After that phone call from his Marine company commander, Harris almost immediately ran a test 10-miler. His toes turned black. New shoes solved that issue and he was sold after a 13.1-miler.
“I felt so good accomplishing something like that,” he says. “I was hooked, hooked on distance running.”
Of Harris’ previous 99 Rock ‘n’ Roll events, 15 have been marathons, 84 half marathons. His half PR: 1:58. Marathon PR: 4:26. In total, his track record counts 25 marathons, 115 halves.
Asked what it is about running that so enamors him, Harris thinks about an old New Balance commercial that talks about one’s love-hate relationship with running.
“That indeed is what it is,” says Harris. “Some days, you don’t want to get out there. But no matter how bad you feel, you know you’re going to feel worse if you don’t go out and run.
“It doesn’t happen all the time, but when you hit that runner’s high you feel like you can run forever. There’s no feeling like that in the world.”
In celebration of Harris’ centennial milestone, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series is offering a special $100 entry into Rock ’n’ Roll D.C. Marathon & ½ Marathon to ‘Run with Joe’ by clicking here.