Hello ChicagoNow world! My name is Joe Jao. People love my name because my first name looks like my last name but they are not said the same. Joe is said exactly how you would think, but Jao is pronounced “how”. Hence the witty title of this post!
Now that the introduction of my name is out of the way, let’s get onto the important stuff!
When I was 17 years old and 3 months away from graduating high school, my father suffered a heart attack and then the next day he had a massive stroke that kept him in a coma. I was able to be with him every night for a month until one night in March he passed away at the young age of 59.
Fast forward to 2008 and many cheeseburgers later. I was tipping the scale at 310 pounds. I looked in the mirror and saw the life of my dad and remembered how short it was. I wanted to break out of this cycle because I knew how this path ended. I started working out and eating healthier. Pounds melted off and my motivation and confidence increased with each passing day. Then I thought, why wouldn’t I be able to run? I’ve seen people of all ages and shapes run. I may not be able to run fast, but I can do it! I finished my first 5K in September 2008 and I fell in love with running. Throughout 2009 I ran various neighborhood 5Ks and 10Ks. Finishing any race gave me a great sense of accomplishment. When 2010 came, I decided to go all in.
On February 1, 2010 at midnight I registered for the Chicago Marathon and decided to run for the American Heart Association in honor of my dad. I could not believe the generosity of my friends and family in my fundraising efforts. I was able to raise over $2000 for the American Heart Association which was an amazing feat for me in my first attempt of raising money for a charity. It was that support that pushed me through the 26.2 miles of the (extremely warm) Chicago Marathon. I finished it for my dad. And I made sure he knew it!
This year I was asked to be a part of the planning committee of the Start! Running Team for the American Heart Association, and I promptly accepted. My main goal as part of this committee is to advocate awareness of heart disease and stroke. Running and staying active are you best weapons against fighting these terrible diseases. Oh yeah, and I am running the Chicago Marathon again this year! Come and join the Start! Running team and be a part of something bigger than just 26.2 miles.
It takes one decision a day to make changes for the rest of your life. What will you do today?