SeekingBostonMarathon is an amateur's journey to race in the ultimate annual marathon--the Boston Athletic Association's Boston Marathon. This is not an olympic runner or professional runner's advice site, but an "average joe" who got hooked on running and finally reached hallowed ground in 2010 and is constantly seeking to get back to Boston.
I've always approached running as if I didn't know much and can always learn more. When I first started in the sport, I learned on my own and through books. I realized that could only take me so far and sought out professional help (not the first or last time for that in several categories.) The first run group I joined was Runner's Edge of the Rockies which is wildly popular in Denver with long runs planned every Saturday around the metro area. I met many good running friends who I still keep in touch with. One of those runners was Vince DiCroce. Vince was among a trio of DiCroce's in the group. His brother Chris (and wife) Sarah also train with the group and took on the role of triathlon coaches.
Early on, I could tell Vince had the "right stuff" as I hadn't punched my BQ (Boston Qualifier) ticket yet so I was a bit of a "sponge" wanting to learn from anyone and everyone. Vince was faster than me, and a more seasoned runner. I recall talking to Vince about drinking from the elusive Boston Marathon chalice. He told me once I qualified, they would come in bunches. I thought he was crazy. What I didn't know at the time was that Vince was a brain cancer survivor. You couldn't tell by looking at him--he was a lean fast athlete. Crazier than that, you couldn't tell by talking to him. He stuck me as a man with confidence and didn't walk around with a negative aura of "I've got cancer." Quite the opposite. He became an inspiration to many.
Vince (in orange) leading several teammates in InVincibles t-shirts (photo courtesy E. Brumleve/Facebook)
Since being diagnosed with cancer in 2004 with a life expectancy of 3-5 years, Vince became in(Vince)ible. He has run 30 marathons and went on to become an Ironman...SEVEN TIMES. Vince clearly decided that brain cancer would not define who he was and "spit in it's face." In one of his recent Ironman's, he had to "pull out" of the race due to a minor (un-related) medical issue. The dreaded DNF. "Captain Courageous" was miffed as I would be and decided, "I have all this training" and signed up for a another marathon to take out his DNF frustrations. Not having trained for a fast marathon, but an Ironman, he didn't know what to expect. Dude broke 3:10...in his forties. I once again looked up to him. "How does he do it?," I wondered.
Vince ended 2012 with a PR and blistering 3:03 at the Richmond Marathon in November. With the race still a blur, he and his wife Linda found another blur on his MRI the day after flying home. The cancer had returned. Chemotherapy resumed, and Vince once again said that he would not cave in to the disease. As his treatments resumed, his lean Ironman body became what he described to the Denver Post as a "POW" in a May 2013 article. Between treatments, he was thinking the improbable...he'd run the (Denver) Colfax Half Marathon along with his wife and daughter who were both running the full.
Yesterday, Vince did not run the half. He ran the full and collected yet another marathon medal along with dozens of his run club who donned t-shirts honoring their friend with the quote on the back, "I will not just survive, I will be better than before." Once again, I shake my head with bewilderment and an insane level of respect. Just as I did when I first met Vince, once again, I am looking up to him.