The running shoes tell why R.J. Corman of Asheville, N.C., plans to tackle the Boston Marathon this month: “4DAD.”
The institute provided treatment for the elder Corman’s multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, for 12 years. He died in 2013 at age 58. He ran in the Boston Marathon in 2002, six months after his first bone-marrow transplant.
Dana-Farber “took such good care of him where he could do something like that, and he ran multiple Bostons after that,” the younger Corman said.
So when he learned that Dana-Farber has a “marathon challenge” team, “I thought it was something I could do to raise money for cancer research and bring myself a little bit closer to my father,” Corman said.
Corman — he is not a “junior” because his name is Richard Justin while his dad’s name was Richard Jay — has already gathered pledges for more than half of his $10,000 fund-raising goal.
Corman said his father probably “wouldn’t want me to do it for him. He’d want me to do it for me. I’m doing it for my health, but it’s really in honor of him.”
Last summer Corman decided to shed about 40 pounds and took up running. Training for a 26-mile marathon brought back memories of running with his father on the sprawling Corman property off Jessamine Station Road in Nicholasville.
“That was probably some of the best bonding time that he and I had together,” Corman said during a recent interview at his sister Amy’s house near the railroad company’s private airstrip. “He loved to talk to me about my work or flying, one of the two. … I use a lot of the same concepts that he instilled in me during a lot of those jogs where we would talk and bounce things off one another.”
Corman was once a commercial airline pilot, but he is now dean of business and hospitality education at A-B Tech Community College in Asheville, N.C. He also is chairman of A-B Tech’s aviation management and career pilot technology program. The program offers academics for a “ground school” and has a partnership with the Asheville airport for flight training.
Corman said he doesn’t feel pressure to live up to his father’s legacy.
“I think that’s a testament to him, because he never tried to pressure me” into entering the Nicholasville-based railroad business.
“If it had been something I wanted to do, he would have encouraged it, I’m sure, in his own way,” Corman said. “But I never ever felt like I needed to come over and step into the company, or anything like that.
“What he always pressured me to do was, whatever I do, just do it as best I can. That was always the takeaway. If I was a pilot, be the best pilot you can be. If I was a department chair, be the best department chair I can be.”
Corman and his wife, Amanda, have two children, Richard, 7, and Abigail, 3. Corman said they come to Nicholasville to visit family about four times a year.
Does he have the same work ethic as his father?
“No,” Corman said. “He was in a league of his own with that. There’s still a part of me at age 35 that says I’d like to impress my father with how hard I work. But do I have the same work ethic? No.
“Because work was his life. I don’t work as long or as hard, but I get some other things in return outside of the office that are really meaningful to me. I’ve never seen anybody that had the same work ethic as him.”
Corman said he is like his father in that he tries to take care of himself.
“He’d say, ‘Your body is like a mule. It’s gotta work. If it ain’t working, it doesn’t know what to do.’ That’s the way he kind of thought of it. So in a lot of those ways, we are a lot alike.”
On the other hand, “he would be the type of person who could make himself the center of attention without even really trying too hard. I’m not that way. I won’t go into a crowd of unknown people and say, ‘Oh, I need to get to know everybody.’ I’m more laid-back. I love talking to people and getting to know people. But will I seek it out the way he did? No, not at all.”
For now, Corman keeps a rigorous regimen.
“I get up at 3 a.m.,” he said. “I have my normal breakfast, which is an English muffin and yogurt. Let that settle for half an hour. Once that happens, I either run on my treadmill or run outside.”
Then he showers, gets dressed, makes breakfast for the kids and goes to work. He tries to be in bed by 9 or 10 p.m.
The Boston Marathon is Monday, April 18. Corman said he plans to be back in Asheville to teach a class by Tuesday night.
“Maybe I do have a little bit of my dad,” he said.
To learn more about R.J. Corman’s run, go to bit.ly/CormanRun