GILROY – When Emmet McCarthy was 8 years old, he ran his first
10K race with his brother Joe, who was 10 at the time. Joe was the
better runner, Emmet says, but an even better brother. Though well
ahead of the younger Emmet for a majority of the race, what Joe did
for the final 2 miles is something Emmet will never forget.
GILROY – When Emmet McCarthy was 8 years old, he ran his first 10K race with his brother Joe, who was 10 at the time. Joe was the better runner, Emmet says, but an even better brother. Though well ahead of the younger Emmet for a majority of the race, what Joe did for the final 2 miles is something Emmet will never forget.
“He ran ahead of me for 4 miles, as he was a better runner, but then he ran in place and waited for me,” Emmet said. “We were able to run the last 2 miles together and finish together. It meant quite a lot to me.”
Emmet, the youngest of four siblings, said running has been an integral sport in his family for as long as he can remember.
Emmet’s father, Dennis, who served in the Marine Corps on the parachute jump team in the early 1960s, was a “devoted runner,” Emmet said, and an influence to his children. His hard work in not only running, but exercise in general, drew Emmet and his brothers and sister to the sport.
“It was always kind of a big part of his life,” Emmet said. “He was always running in local races and we would go cheer him on.”
The sport was especially attractive to Joe, who finally convinced Emmet, then a junior in high school, to join the cross country team.
Emmet has been running ever since.
Ten years after the 10K race the two young siblings shared, the brothers, once again, were running together.
It was June 10, 1987. Emmet was just three weeks away from reporting to the U.S. Navel Academy in Annapolis while Joe just finished his freshman year at the University of Notre Dame, home on summer break.
“That morning, I remember it well,” Emmet said. “We decided to drive to the high school and go for a run there. There were some tough hills and really good runs around there. We went on a 7 1/2-mile run. It was great, we were really pushing each other. There was some of that sibling rivalry thing, but we were pretty comparable at the time.
“In high school, he had always been the better performer. He remarked after that run about how much better of a runner I had become and he had a hard time keeping up with me. He was pretty gracious and inspiring.”
Later that night Joe was killed in a car accident.
Running long distance can induce many feelings, create a multitude of emotions and certainly form some valuable lessons.
Not everyone has these experiences; exhausting oneself just to cross a finish line, can be a trivial reward to some. Others, perhaps, simply do not have the patience or the tolerance to tackle the obstacles that running a marathon produces.
The mental and physical challenges that running puts in front of those willing to engage in the sport aren’t for all to try and conquer.
For Emmet and his family, the sport transcends just the simple activity of putting one foot in front of the other. There is a deeper meaning, a connection to the sport.
When Joe died Emmet didn’t run away from the tragedy in the traditional sense. He did run, but it was for something, for someone, and was always toward a goal or purpose.
“(Running) was something I did a lot immediately after it happened,” Emmet said. I think initially it was a way to occupy myself. Then it became a remembrance of a time we had had together and what running meant to him. It certainly keeps me sane, that’s for sure.”
Emmet said he ran four marathons while in college, including the Boston Marathon in 1991.
In 1998, after a seven-year stint in the Navy, Emmet moved to the Bay Area where his sister Colleen lived and decided to take up marathon running again.
Emmet, who lives in Gilroy, participated in the Silicon Valley Marathon in San Jose that same year and returned to Boston in 1999.
In 2000, much to Emmet’s surprise, his sister, brother and dad all took on the challenge of the Napa Valley Marathon. Dawning T-shirts with “JPMC – HCW” (Joseph Patrick McCarthy – Heaven Couldn’t Wait) the group dedicated the race to Joe. All met their individual goals for the race.
Two weeks ago, Emmet, 40, and Colleen, entered the Napa Valley Marathon once more in honor of Joe and to “commemorate the inaugural experience.”
“I never thought I would do that many (marathons) and get involved as much as I have,” Emmet said. “It does seem amazing that my body just doesn’t collapse. You get close to the finish line, the feelings start to swell up when you reach the 26-mile mark and you only have 385 more yards to go. No matter what the marathon is, you start to hear cheering. You always, for some reason, are able to pick it up and sprint in and feel that exhilaration of finishing.”
With his kids in attendance, Teresa, 10, and Patrick Joseph, 7, Emmet placed in the Top 100 with a 3:11.33 finish time. He qualified for the Boston Marathon once again.
“It was great to have my kids watch,” he said. “My wife keeps saying ‘one of these days you won’t be able to walk.’ But I just keep running.”