The annual Josh Billings RunAground is the oldest event of its kind and is a special event for the people of the Berkshires.
For one West Stockbridge family, this Josh represents another special anniversary.
This year’s Josh will be the return of two lifelong friends after 21 years, who will reunite to compete against each other as ironmen.
Shane Miner, 35, and Nathan McCarthy, 35, have been best friends since the second grade. In 1992, the pair decided to enter the Josh as a team. They were 14 years old at the time, making them the youngest team to participate that year. McCarthy’s brother Dan and friend Jeff Pratt also competed as 14-year-olds two years prior to Shane and Nathan, making them the youngest in the Josh’s history.
A lot has changed for Miner and Nathan McCarthy over the last 20 years. But their strong friendship and competitive nature brings them back to the Josh.
For Miner, this Josh represents more than just a chance to reminisce with friends and family. The Lincoln, Neb., resident and father of two will make the 1,200-mile trip along with wife Becky back to the Berkshires with the Josh culminating an impressive personal journey.
Miner enters the Josh after losing 80 pounds over a two-year period. He said it was a gradual process of dieting and exercise that allowed him to drop the weight. He went from struggling to run a mile and a half, to running three-plus miles every morning.
"I was pretty overweight and pretty unhealthy. Over the last couple years I turned it around," Miner said. "I was talking with Nate one day and said, ‘Would you ever want to do [the Josh] again?’ And he was all for it."
While McCarthy didn’t have the battle with weight that Miner did. Learning of the birth of his first child Jigen with wife Rie made him realize he wanted to be healthy enough to watch his child grow old.
"Something kind of clicked in my mind. I didn’t want to be an out-of-shape father," McCarthy said. "Having a child kind of got me into a kick of wanting to be active and do things."
McCarthy, a Queens resident, decided to start training to run a marathon as a way to stay in shape. In addition to marathon training McCarthy also started practicing jiu jitsu.
Compared to the first time he entered the Josh, McCarthy said he is much more at ease. However, with friends Miner and Pratt competing against him, he wants bragging rights over his old buddies.
"The thing I worry about the most is that all the guys who did it way back then, I’m worried they could beat me in the biking. So I’m trying to get better in the biking," he said.
Mier’s mother Marci said the camaraderie between the friends hasn’t changed since their childhood days. Minor and McCarthy have maintained their strong bond over the years, through texting and the occasional visit.
While McCarthy is looking forward to competing against his longtime friend, both said the Josh will represent a great chance to reminisce.
McCarthy said he’ll appreciate the journey back as he lines up at the start and sees his friends. Miner said it will be after the race, when he’s celebrating at Tanglewood.
"I love the Josh. I think it’s a great event. In the Berkshires, any time in the early fall is spectacular," Miner said. "For now it’s surreal. It’s like, I can’t believe I’m getting ready to do this again. This is a culmination of a couple years of getting serious about being healthy,"
McCarthy’s mother, Debra Ryan, said the fact that the two are meeting 21 years later shows how much the Josh means to the people of the community.
"It’s a great event Š most people who grow up here in the Berkshires know about, and have been in. I think that’s part of what brings them back here," Ryan said. "They don’t live near each other anymore. So we think it’s great that they’ll be here with their families."
For McCarthy, the fact that the Josh has withstood the test of time is what sets it apart from other triathlons and makes it special to the Berkshires.
"It’s the fact that it’s still around and the uniqueness. A lot of the other races don’t do that," McCarthy said.
To reach Akeem Glaspie:
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