Joey Howe Still Running After All These Years

Personable Shoe Salesman Prefers The Trails More Than The Roads

Friday, April 4, 2014 - by John Hunt

Joey Howe attemped seven marathons before he finished his first, but that first one was quite memorable as he finished runner-up to Tom O'Bryant in the 1984 Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon with an impressive time of 2:37.

He now has 19 such races on his resume, but none are any faster than the one almost 30 years ago.

He had a time of 3:03:32 at the Country Music Marathon in Nashville in 2004 and he posted a 3:05 at Chickamauga in 2008, so he still has the ability to run fast for long distances.  He has run four marathons under three hours.

Howe has been running for a long time.  Starting at the age of 12 when he was in the seventh grade at Tyner Junior High, he wasn't very good when he began. 

"I had watched the 1976 Olympic Marathon on television and told my mother that I could do that since they were built like me.  I was in the seventh grade and we had a three-mile training course.  It took me an entire season to complete that course without walking as I was the worst runner on the team for the first two years.  I got better in the ninth grade," he explained one morning before business picked up a Fast Break Athletics, a popular running store where he's worked for many years.

Howe has run hundreds of races since that time.  His running career has been like a yo-yo, some years have been really outstanding while others have just been sort of so-so.

These days, he organizes group runs from Fast Break on a regular basis where he can share with new runners the joy and benefits of one of our oldest sports.

"I turned 50 on December 31 and ran the Karen Lawrence Run.  I found out that I still couldn't place, even in a new age group," he laughed at the memory.

"I'm trying to get about 35 miles a week now and I'm back on the trails most of the time.  I had been forcing myself to run too fast for so many years that I spent more time either sick or hurt.  Now I'm running according to my heart rate.

"The suggestion is to take 180 minus your age as your target.  I could barely run faster than 10-minute miles when I started this in July, but I'm more comfortable now as I'm not doing any speed work," Howe continued.

While he has done 19 marathons, he's also done 17 ultras, including the challenging Mountain Mist 50K in Huntsville three times and Strolling Jim twice.

Strolling Jim is a 41.2-mile race in middle Tennessee and he completed it in 2006 and 2007, finishing fifth overall the first year in 5:23. 

"I eat a burger every two or three weeks.  I don't have great eating habits, but they aren't awful.  I eat more protein than carbs, but I'm in the human race now as I'm training for life," he broke into a big grin.

Howe attended Tyner High School and got his diploma from there, despite transferring to Brainerd for his senior year when he needed just one credit to graduate.  From there, he's attended Chattanooga State and UTC with majors ranging from accounting to data processing to allied health to landscaping.

"I guess I have close to 130 hours at those schools, but not enough in any one area to get a degree.  I was running a lot in those days and got really fit, but I didn't study very much," he admitted.

His career in the running shoe business began in 1993 when he started working with Jerry Grahn at the old Athletic Attic, which was located at Eastgate back in those days.

"I've sold running shoes most of my life.  I was working with Jerry at the Attic and he's the one who taught me how to run fast.  I can remember pacing him on long runs at the battlefield where he would do two loops in less than two hours.

"I left the Attic in 1995 and started my own business.  I bought a franchise for Hakky Shoes, which was a shoe repair business.  It seems like I worked 80-100 hours a week for about six years, but I didn't renew my lease in 2001.

"I wasn't running much at the time, but I figured I had t start back if I was planning to work in a running store.  My dear friend Dick Dillard offered me a job when I needed it most," he remembered.

Joey has been married once, but has been divorced for a number of years.  They had a daughter named Jessica.  Sadly, Jessica was diagnosed with an aggressve form of leukemia when she was four.  She battled the disease for 27 months and was even in remission for a year before it returned and took her life at the tender age of seven.

"Jessica lived for 27 months after she was first diagnosed and was a patient at St. Jude.  Her mother and I were divorced at the time, so I didn't get to spend as much time with her as I would have liked, but she died on October 11, 1994 when she was seven.

"That experience made me a more compassionate person, but running became much less important during that time," Howe recalled the lowest and saddest period of his life.

So what are his immediate goals?

"I just want to get 35-40 miles a week.  Tim Ensign is my biggest inspiration and I just want to be consistent like him.  That's the best I can do.  Racing creates inconsistency and that's how I get hurt, but I just want to remain complete uninjured this year.  I'm planning to spend more time in the woods than on the roads.

"I get a kick out of running and leading group runs are fun.  I'm trying to expose more people to the trails on Stringer's Ridge as there are some really good ones close by.  We normally go out for 60-65 minutes, which is the best workout for the time that you can get," Howe nodded.

So what are some of Joey's other hobbies?

"I like to eat, but running has always been my sport.  I bought a standup paddle board a while back, but I haven't used it much.  And I tried rock climbing one time.  All that did was show me what a fear of heights I had," he laughed.

As the youngest of six children whose parents are Barbara and Joe Howe, Joey is sharing his experience of running with many others who are new to the sport.

He knows that running is a lifetime activity and can offer benefits that are so much more than physical fitness.

He's had his day in the spotlight where he's turned in some really fast times.  These days, his thoughts on running have changed.

He just wants to stay consistent and injury free.  If he can accomplish those goals, everything else will take care of itself.

(This is the seventh in a series of features on runners in the Chattanooga Track Club.  If you have an idea or suggestion of someone who might be an interesting story, email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)


Dalton State 77, Blue Mountain 64

The Dalton State basketball Roadrunners maintained their lead in the Southern States Athletic Conference with a 77 to 64 win over visiting Blue Mountain Thursday night at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center’s Mashburn arena. An official attendance of 985 saw the Toppers jump out to a five point lead (8-3 and again at 11-6 and 12-7) The Roadrunners fought back ... (click for more)

Poole To Run At Dalton State

The defending Southern States Athletic Conference champions Dalton State women’s cross country team has everybody coming back from last year’s squad, but they have added another component to this fall’s team. Coach Margie Bruner visited the Heritage High School media center in Ringgold to add her third Lady General to the squad. Emily Poole signed with the Roadrunners Thursday ... (click for more)

Girl, 12, Stabs Boy, 13, Twice At Lookout Valley Middle High School

A female student stabbed a male student twice at Lookout Valley Middle High School on Thursday morning. It happened in a middle school classroom. Sheriff Jim Hammond the students are seventh graders.The girl is 12 and the boy 13. He  said the boy was taken by ambulance and went into surgery after the mid-morning stabbing.  He said the boy received a superficial ... (click for more)

Chief Fletcher Gives Maximum Punishment To Officer Who Fired At Vehicle That Backed Toward Him; Attorney Vows To Fight To Reverse Decision

Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher has given a maximum punishment to an officer who fired four shots toward a vehicle after he said the driver backed into his vehicle with him standing behind it. Chief Fletcher sustained a finding of “improper use of force – discharge of firearm.” He suspended Officer Alex Olson for 30 days without pay – the maximum suspension allowed ... (click for more)

Shelley Andrews Will Be Missed - And Response

Shelley Andrews was one of the kindest, most thoughtful and most effective laborers in our community.  Her work with the Friends of Moccasin Bend was exemplary.  She listened, she learned and she led with dignity and class. Her brave battle with ovarian cancer was a testament to her positive spirit and commitment to her work on behalf of the people of this region. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Magic Bank Account

As the month of January is almost out the door, I am opening my email today to share a marvelous story that legend has it was printed on piece of paper found in Bear Bryant’s wallet when he died in 1983. While I don’t know that the famed Alabama football coach had this lesson in his wallet, chances are he might have if he’d read it. * * * THE BANK ACCOUNT & RULES Imagine ... (click for more)