Through Adversity, 'Shoeless' Joe dosReis Keeps Running

Joe dosReis competing on the track with students from other schools

To say bad luck comes in threes doesn’t quite apply to Joe dosReis '23. His odyssey to get back on the trails began well before he lost a shoe in a cross-country race.

dosReis’s self-proclaimed “streak of bad luck” began in August of 2019. He had just completed the Bobby Doyle Summer Classic, a local road race outside his hometown of Cumberland, Rhode Island. During the cool down with some of his friends he stepped into a pothole, tweaking his knee. He awoke the next morning to a stiff and swollen leg. 

dosReis had surgery that September to save his meniscus. The procedure had a 75 percent efficacy, so good odds, he thought. 

He rehabbed from surgery and was ready to compete for the Wildcats at the 2020 outdoor track opener at Charlotte in March. We all know what happened next. 

The day after one of his best track workouts ever, the world shut down for COVID-19.

He returned from a run with his teammates to learn that campus would soon close and the season was in jeopardy.

“I didn’t even have any words because I was working so hard just to get back,” he said. “I didn’t come into college expecting any of this to happen.”

He returned home and did what any runner would do—he ran.

“I really didn’t know how to handle it for about a week or so, but I just focused on ‘I can run now. I can train. That’s all I can do for now.’ Running was my sanity,” he said.

He returned to campus in August, ready for an uncertain semester of competition. He was ready. Then, a year after his knee procedure, his meniscus gave way completely. 

dosReis went back under the knife and had 40 percent of the cartilage removed altogether. He recovered more quickly this time and six weeks later eagerly faced the nearly five-mile course at Pole Green Park.

The day finally came—Feb. 5, 2021. dosReis pulled on his Davidson racing gear, ready to battle with his teammates for the first time. But racing at Pole Green wasn’t going to be hard enough, not for Joe.

Just over a mile into the race a competitor clipped him, dislodging his right spike. He went on for another 400-plus meters with the shoe hanging from his heel before the mud claimed it for good.

Rather than give up and live to fight another day, his thoughts went to his team. They needed all five guys to cross the finish line, so dosReis powered through. 

“We’ve trained pretty hard, so to come all the way out there, travel almost five hours to Richmond and not have a team that scores was something that I wanted to avoid,” he said.

The second thought that crossed his mind? It had been almost two years since he had last raced. 

“I’ve made it this far. I’m already here,” he figured. “I might as well finish this race whether it’s pretty or not.”

It went pretty well, all things considered. dosReis traversed the 8k course in 26:00.4, the third ‘Cat to enter the chute and 12th finisher overall. 

What did his coach think when he realized dosReis’ predicament?

“That’s Joe,” said coach Renny Waldron. “He’s not deterred by much. He’s always going to make the best of the situation.”

Finishing meant more to the second-year runner, who had laced up his spikes for the first time as a Wildcat. 

“Running is my sanity,” dosReis repeats his mantra. “Running has gotten me through so much … It’s something that I still love to do.”

dosReis, who receives the Men’s Pooled Cross Country Scholarship, the Ernest H. Barry Jr. Scholarship and the Thomas Sparrow Athletic Scholarship, is looking forward. He hopes to get back to where he was physically and mentally during his senior year at La Salle Academy, and to help his team improve on prior Atlantic 10 finishes. 

Waldron knows having dosReis around will have a positive impact on his squad. 

“When you have a kid on the team who is in a good mood … who has clearly had some really bad luck … He never complains. He never feels sorry for himself,” Waldron says. “And he always brings his best … That behavior becomes contagious.”

There’s one thing Davidson can count on: Joe dosReis is going to give his best until the clock stops and he runs out of laps. And shoes.

This article was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2021 print issue of the Davidson Journal Magazine; for more, please see the Davidson Journal section of our website.


  • July 16, 2021