William & Mary

He’s got sole: W&M staffer runs 1,000 miles in 2017

  • A well-run campaign
    A well-run campaign  Joe Wheeless proudly exhibits the 1,000 mile medal he earned after challenging himself to go the distance in 2017.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Well-heeled
    Well-heeled  Along with 1,000 miles, Wheeless racked up quite a few medals throughout the year to celebrate smaller milestones along the way.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • W&M in it for the long haul
    W&M in it for the long haul  Wheeless completed his challenge in the company of his W&M colleagues from their weekly Saturday morning running group.  Photo courtesy of Anne Arseneau
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Many of us have good excuses for not fulfilling our New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s not having enough time in the day or not feeling motivated enough to reach our lofty goals, we throw in the towel and tell ourselves we’ll be better next year.

For Joe Wheeless, assistant director of Student Leadership Development, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night kept him from meeting his goal of running 1,000 miles in 2017.

 Wheeless said his goal represents the culmination of an effort launched three years ago to focus more on his health. He started running more and even ran a few half-marathons before taking a break in 2016.

 As 2017 approached, Wheeless asked himself, “What am I going to do to change it up?

 “I really just wanted to get healthier and up my game on my journey to being a healthier person,” he said. That is when he came across an ad for a website, ilovetorun.org, which presented the challenge to run 1,000 miles in a year.

 If he was going to channel Hermes and accomplish this challenge, Wheeless knew he had to have a plan. He set daily, weekly and monthly mileage goals to stay on track. His routine consisted of a 4x4 backbone — running at least four times a week at a minimum four miles per run.

 Though most of his mileage came during his regular weekly runs, Wheeless said he also logged some races that counted toward his goal. He participated in the Newport News One City Marathon as a part of a relay team and also ran the General Chesty Puller 10k in West Point.

Wheeless started his running journey alone, but picked up plenty of support and accountability along the way, especially from other William & Mary runners. He joined a Saturday morning running group with colleagues from the Student Leadership Development office and in the summer teamed up with the Dog Street Pub Running Club.

After every run, Wheeless takes a selfie and posts on social media, but he’s not precise with it. In fact, most of his selfies consist of his forehead and the top half of his face. So when his William & Mary running partners had surprise team T-shirts printed, they good-naturedly called on his signature selfies for inspiration.

Running with both groups, Wheeless was racking up miles during the steamy summer months. Every month during the summer, he logged at least 100 miles. So even after his appendix ruptured in September and he was forced to put his feet up for a month, he didn’t backslide.

 “I never really fell behind, because I was 50 miles ahead,” he said.

It took Wheeless some time to ease back into running, so naturally he started back working toward his goal by walking. And he never put too much pressure on himself.

“I allowed myself some flexibility, which was key,” he said. After all, his original goal was simply to be healthier overall and he was already winning at that.

On Saturday, Dec. 16, Wheeless strode into victory as he ran his 1,000th mile of the year. Despite the chilly weather, he and his friends celebrated with a champagne brunch.

As of right now, he doesn’t have any big goals set for the new year. He still plans to run, though not as much, and is looking forward to completing a few races with friends. For Wheeless, the focus for 2018 will remain the same as it has been for the past few years, to continue on his journey to being even healthier. There’s no doubt he’ll be crossing that finish line, too.