‘Freight Jesus’ and the 100-miler: Why TQL’s Josh H. is running from Eau Claire to Grand Rapids in 14 hours

The May 31 event benefits Ronald McDonald House Charities West Michigan

Three hours before the sun rises in Eau Claire, Mich. on the last day of May, Josh H. will navigate a series of back roads on a 100-mile run to the Total Quality Logistics office in Grand Rapids.

He looks forward to the slap of his shoes on the asphalt, the thrill of pushing his endurance beyond his former personal-best distance of 70 miles. Josh, 31, doesn’t plan to stop. If he can stick to an eight-minute pace – and he’s sure he can – he’ll take his last loping stride after 13 hours and 20 minutes.

Watch: Going the Extra Mile: TQL's Running Man

Josh is raising money along the way for Ronald McDonald House Charities West Michigan. If he reaches his donation goal of $20,000, he’ll cover 200 nights for families whose sick children are receiving treatment at nearby facilities.

Not bad for someone who just wanted to kick a smoking habit.

“I was a pack-a-day smoker for eight years. I used to feel awful all the time and I didn’t like it. When my wife was pregnant with our fourth child in 2020, I decided I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle,” Josh said. “So I thought to myself, how does that look?”

He ditched his Marlboro Blend No. 27s and mulled a return to the gym. The problem was, he’d tried to trade his couch potato habits for exercise warrior aspirations in the past and quickly burned out.

This time Josh started with small manageable goals. He learned how to awaken at 5 a.m. and not exercise at all. He learned how to awaken at 5 a.m., go to the gym, sit on a stationary bike and listen to podcasts featuring endurance runners like Zach Bitter, who holds the current world record in the 100-mile run (11 hours and 19 minutes).

“When I started running and getting into it. I thought to myself, ‘I bet I could do that.’ I really just developed my love for running and set that 100 mile distance as what I wanted to do, what I wanted to work toward,” Josh said.

Here’s the thing you need to know about Josh, said his TQL manager, Kyle H. He never shirks a challenge and he’s never complacent. Kyle said Josh ascribes to the philosophy that if he’s not pushing himself to be the best, he’s failing.

“He has something to prove. He has a chip on his shoulder at all times, but it comes from such a good place. So he’ll say, ‘I want to run 100 miles, but I don’t want to do it for me.’ He wants to do it for others too,” Kyle said.

Balance inspires Josh, or “Freight Jesus” per his Instagram handle (a nod to his long hair and beard). He logged his first marathon distance, 26.2 miles, on his own in April of 2020, just three months after quitting smoking. He ran 37 miles to the TQL office in South Bend, Ind. He reached 50 miles that June.

He broke his foot, took two months off, and returned to run 70 miles in 10 hours.

Then the pandemic hit, everything shut down and Josh had all the time in the world to run – and he did. But the intersection between obsession and determination felt increasingly hollow.

“When I got obsessive about running, I neglected other areas of my life. I kind of neglected work a little bit. I wasn’t there for my family. So I took a step back,” Josh said. “Everything I do should not only enrich my life but the lives of those around me, and I was not capable of doing that yet. So I didn’t run in 2021.”

That’s right. No running at all. Josh, a highly successful Senior Logistics Account Executive and five-time President’s Club honoree, renewed his devotion to wife Ashlea and their kids – four then, a fifth on the way now – and his multi-million dollar book of business.

Josh eventually realized he could be the best person for his family, for himself, by reinstating running as part of a balanced life. Three months ago, in February of 2022, he reprised training runs and the dream of achieving 100 miles.

He has run some 20 marathon distances since then, sometimes pushing his young kids in a stroller and meeting Ashlea at a café for a family breakfast afterward. Other times, he covers the distance before logging on in the morning.

While his cardio is good enough to hit the century mile mark, Josh credits his ability to traverse long distance to mind over matter.

“Now my mindset is more like, ‘How can I use this to inspire others? How can I use this tool to enrich somebody else’s life?’ I am not special,” Josh said. “I just changed the way I looked at my life and what I was capable of, and these are the results that I’m having.”

Kyle said he challenged Josh to run the 100 miles from his Eau Claire home to the Grand Rapids office, which is how the event came to fruition. Partnering with the Ronald McDonald House was a no-brainer, considering how much volunteerism TQL performs with the charity. TQL also will provide a 50% match to the funds Josh raises.

Megan Zars, RMHC West Michigan’s marketing manager, can’t remember the last time an individual raised such a lofty donation through a fitness endeavor.

“I haven’t seen anyone do something as big as this. This is really cool and we really appreciate it,” Zars said. “We serve families 30 miles away from our house, so Josh will be running past where a lot of our families live, which is really neat.”

A couple of Josh’s TQL buddies will follow him in a car as he runs back roads, their seats stocked with weather-related gear and nutritional supplements. Some TQL employees have signed up to run the last five miles with Josh; others will jump in the final mile.

Food trucks will be part of a celebration at the finish. The public is invited to enjoy the festivities, play games and participate in a raffle.

Josh, for one, can’t wait. His LinkedIn posts are more evidence of his excitement.

“That’s a wrap,” he wrote May 23. “The next time you see me posting some miles, it will be 100 of them!”

Josh will start his run on Tuesday, May 31, at 3 a.m. Eastern Time and if all goes as planned, arrive at our TQL Grand Rapids location at 2650 Horizon Drive Southeast by 4:30 p.m. 

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