At last year's inaugural New York Giants Run of Champions 5K, former Giants running back Joe Morris stood on the sidelines and watched as thousands of runners, including former Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer, completed their 3.1-mile tour of the Meadowlands with a sprint down the sidelines into the end zone. Inspired by their efforts, Morris vowed to return in one year and complete the races himself. This morning at MetLife Stadium, Morris made good on his promise and may have inspired some other Giants alums along the way.
"To be honest, I didn't want to run ever again in my life," said Morris, "but here's the thing—you spend 10 years doing nothing, you gain all the weight, and now you have to get it all off. My body is going to hurt tomorrow, but it's going to thank me for what I did today."
Morris was motivated throughout his training by NYRR's own coach John Honerkamp, who helped Morris set his expectations and eased the fears that the two-time Pro Bowler shared with many first-time runners.
"Joe called me about seven weeks ago and said 'What did I get myself into? I need help.' I told him, you're not hitting the two-hole and sprinting down the sideline—this is about patience, being relaxed, staying healthy, eating well, and keeping it simple," Honerkamp said.
"It's something a lot of people can relate to because they want to get out there but they're embarrassed or think they're going to be too slow. Joe is used to being the man in the spotlight, scoring touchdowns—now he's out there and he my get passed by an 80-year-old, but he has a benchmark and he wants to do better," said Honerkamp. "He's still an athlete and a champion, and in seven weeks we went from him not thinking he could do it to him doing it. That's probably more inspiring than scoring a touchdown."
In fact, it seems that Morris may now have caught the running bug himself.
"I did fine, I did finish, but what can I do to improve? How do I go forward from here? Like anyone else, you want to get better on your time. Running will be a part of my life now," he said. "It's not about what someone else says you should do, it's about what you can do to change your life."
Morris's determination to run the race sparked a friendly competition between him and Toomer, as a number of runners donned "Team Morris" or "Team Amani" shirts for the race.
"Joe said he was going to run this year, I heard he was training real hard so that motivated me," Toomer joked. "Any bit of competition you can get now, being an over-the-hill Giant, it's great."
Morris' former teammates Bart Oates and Stephen Baker held the finish line tape with representatives from Duane Reade, and remained at the finish line to cheer on their friend, whose touchdown run helped them win Super Bowl XXI. Baker vowed to return next year and run the race, while both he and Oates emphasized the importance of an active, healthy lifestyle.
"I can't run like I used to when I had just retired, but you substitute and find other ways to stay in shape," said Oates.
"It's a great opportunity for our teammates to see us, too, because some of our teammates have let themselves slide," added Baker. "We shouldn't be on blood pressure medication, on high cholesterol medication, and there are ways to get off that if you just get out and move."
Both Oates and Baker have been working with Hackensack Fitness & Wellness Powered by the Giants, which will soon open a new facility in Maywood, NJ.
"It's all about doing the right things, having the right environment and motivation to take care of your health and wellness," said Oates.
The race is part of the weekend-long New York Giants Health and Fitness Expo, which encourages Giants fans to take an active role in their personal wellbeing.
Toomer summed up the draw of this family-friendly event: "Come out, get a chance to go on the stadium field and see how hot it is down there when the sun is beating, rub elbows with the best staff in the NFL, and get closer to the team that you love."