STEUBENVILLE — Steubenville native Carlo Fabian has two main goals with his running career – push himself, and honor his late friend Josh Merriman.
The Catholic Central and Franciscan University of Steubenville grad will do both of those things on Saturday when he completes in a 100-mile ultramarathon to raise awareness and support for the Josh Merriman foundation.
Fabian, a 2014 Catholic Central graduate and Steubenville resident, is set to complete in Canal Corridor 100-mile endurance race beginning at 5 a.m. Saturday morning.
Merriman, Fabian’s childhood friend and fellow Central graduate, committed suicide in 2017 after a battling mental illness due to sports-related concussions.
“Josh was one of my closest friends growing up. We went to school together from pre-K up until graduating from Steubenville Catholic Central High School in 2014. He was a brother to me. For many years, we did everything together,” Fabian said. “Anything from going to hockey games to watching our favorite WWE wrestlers to playing whiffle ball in his backyard and so much more. Josh was an outgoing, hardworking, and passionate young man. From academics to sports and everything in between, he strove to be the best he could in whatever he set his mind to; you always found him making the most out of every situation with a smile on his face.
“When I had received the news, I didn’t believe it. It was something that I did not think could have been real or I guess definitely did not want to be real.
“I had just caught up with Josh about a month prior and he was all smiles and seemed happy. This news had come just months after losing my mother so I was already in a vulnerable state from losing a loved one and now a friend who was like a brother to me took his own life. After tragedies like this take place, you really start to question so many things in life and really begin to wonder how many people are “happy” on the outside but fighting so many other things on the inside or behind closed door.”
Fabain, who is a track and cross country coach at FUS, also ran a 50-mile race last year to raise awareness. That, he said, came about due to the traditional marathons being canceled due to the pandemic.
After going 50 miles, he was ready for the next challenge.
“For me, I am always looking to raise the bar and push my body past its limits,” Fabian said. “So, after the pandemic canceled most marathons, I resorted to running a 50-mile ultramarathon last September raising money for the Josh Merriman Foundation. As soon as I finished, I knew I wanted to go farther. So, this past March, I signed up for the Canal Corridor 100-mile ultramarathon in Akron.”
An ultramarathon is a distance race that is longer than the typical 26.2-mile marathon. For some participants, the race will last more than an entire day. So, how does one prepare for a 100-mile journey? It is a daily process that starts well in advance.
“Since the beginning of June, I have been running 6-7 days a week sometimes even twice a day running anywhere between 50-80 miles a week. I have done a few training races during this time,” Fabian said. “These races have ranged from 25 miles to 60 miles. I run all over the Steubenville area and will train over at the panhandle trail in Weirton. Some runs have begun as early as 5:30 a.m. and some have finished as late as 3 a.m. Your body and mind must be prepared to keep moving forward at any hour rain or shine when it comes to running ultras as they start earlier and last a lot longer. Your physical preparation is only half the battle, you must be prepared mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well.”
The Josh Merriman Foundation’s goals aim to enhance knowledge about concussions, raise awareness for mental health issues and improve suicide prevention in the local community, especially among athletes.
“After everything everyone has been through recently, it is so important for us to be kind to one another. We need to be there for one another,” Fabian said. “There are dramatically rising numbers of suicides everywhere. You need to know that you are not alone even if you think you are. There are people who love you and will help you. I’ve seen firsthand what someone taking their own life can do to family, friends and community. I do not want to see others go through our same pain if we can work together to try to prevent it. Finally, I am aware that this would be a great personal accomplishment, but this is not about me. It is about something so much bigger than any individual. We are in this together and we will finish this together.
“Losing Josh the way we all did was a reality check to how important your mental health is. Our minds are very powerful. We need to work together to raise awareness, especially in our young people, on the importance of prioritizing our own mental health. Every person is capable of great things in life, but yourself talk and ability to believe in yourself is what takes you there. Josh’s parents, Bob and Colleen, are doing such an amazing job at educating our community about mental health. By doing something of this magnitude, I just hope that I can draw more attention to this issue.
“Every dollar raised goes straight into the foundation in Josh’s memory to be used to educate others. By attempting this ultramarathon, I hope to show people that you can have good days and bad days (like I will have good miles and bad miles). On those bad miles or days, it’s okay to not be okay. Being able to talk to yourself and say, ‘Hey, I have already survived 100% of my bad days or miles so far. I am strong and loved and wanted here.’ We all are fighting battles that no one knows about, but I believe that we would be doing a huge disservice to those who have gone before us if we didn’t keep pushing forward and supporting one another.”
Those wishing to support Fabian’s efforts and the foundation can donate at www.gofundme.com/f/100-miles-for-josh.
(Community Editor Janice Kiaski contributed to this report)