904's FittestIssue 22 • March 2014

904’s Fittest: Chris Roman

Ultra-runners are different than you and me. They run more, way more. While running gargantuan distances seems like a mile addiction, local ultra-runner, Chris Roman, is surprisingly well-balanced. Most of us would consider his latest accomplishment, running a grueling 135 miles in Brazil, a superhuman feat, but running is to Chris what running is to most of us – a vehicle for self discovery and for redefining what’s possible. In my recent interview with Chris, he talks about his focus on running, thinking and living exceptionally.

JB: What was your draw to ultra running?
CR: I used to run marathons when I was younger, just trying to get healthy and active. I ran the Music City Marathon and spent several years trying to qualify for Boston. I qualified in 2006 and went on to run Boston in 2008 and again in 2010 as a “Double” Marathon. In October 2006 I ran a Marathon with Dean Karnazes (now a good friend). He is an amazing Ultrarunner who was in the process of running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. I ran the 40th with him on a trail course in Kentucky. In speaking he encouraged me to go beyond 26.2 – so I did. It started with a 50k trail race and led to my first 100mile in Leadville in 2008. It has been a slippery slope from there. I have run Badwater twice and was honored to run with Dean there in 2012.

JB: The ultra-running community seems relatively small. Do you have a large support system?
CR: My Ultrafamily is truly family and a huge part of who I am. In 2010 I became the first person to run across the Erie Canal (344miles in just over 6 days). In 2011 my good friends Tony Portera, Jarom Thurston and I became the first trio to run Brazil’s Caminho da Fe (Path of Faith). We ran approximately 344miles over 7plus days and competed in the Brazil 135 along the way. Last week (January 2014) was my 3rd Brazil 135 where I finished 8th overall, 1st American and broke the American record completing the race in 30h3sec.

The Brazil 135 Race Facts
135 miles on a point-to-point course on the Caminho Da Fé, with only 10 miles of relatively flatter terrain
Held in January (summer in Brazil)
48- or 60-hour time limits
30,000+ feet of cumulative ascent (similar to UTMB but on a longer course)
28,000+ feet of cumulative descent

JB: Is there such a thing as a “great” ultra race?  Do you ever feel good during a run or is every run a constant challenge?
CR: A runner named Gabriel Flores, who won Badwater in 1998, was quoted in a 1999 film about Badwater (Running On The Sun) saying “I could be dying and an hour later I could be flying”. There is often death and rebirth over and over again so when you have positive energy you MUST run.

JB: What are some of the mantras that keep you running?
CR: Gabriel’s quote above for sure as well as the belief that limitations are perceived. Strength comes from sense of purpose and conviction. I firmly believe that once you accept something as possible it can then be achieved.

JB: You must talk to yourself more than most people.
CR: Ha, no doubt!!!!!! The hardest thing is to not let the bad thoughts in. The first 30 or 40 miles of these races are often hard for me, mentally trying to block out what is ahead.

JB: Without mental toughness, an ultra race would be over before it began.  Is there a way to exercise mental toughness outside of running long distances?
CR: I find you gain mental strength by achieving your goals. Once you have attained something you become stronger the next time. I am very proud to say that I have never DNF’d an Ultra event of any distance although I am sure that day will come and when it does I hope to be stronger because of it.

JB: We’ve gotten used to seeing smiling runners in tutus during marathons.  However, I’ve never seen a competing ultra runner smile.  Does anything make you smile or laugh during a race?
CR: Probably the sheer idiocy of what I am doing sometimes. My good friend Dr. Lisa Bliss was quoted as saying “There is nothing smart about running 135miles through Death Valley in July”. She is right!!!! You would; however, be amazed at the smiles and attitudes you will see at Ultras despite the suffering people are enduring. People always remark on how I manage to smile.

JB: After running, is there any time left for cross training?
CR: I do little to no cross training unless injured. My wife (Erin) is a certified yoga instructor as well as a dedicated practitioner of Ashtanga yoga so I should do more of that but I don’t. Bad me :(

JB: I would think ultra running can be a selfish sport, with the required hours of training and recovering.  Aside from your profession in healthcare, how do you give back to your community, family and friends?
CR: It’s funny a lot of people think that, but it is really about balance in life. Erin and I have very busy lives with our 2 beautiful daughters Maddox(8) and Carson (12), but we work together to strike a balance very effectively.

I spend a significant amount of time working with Impossible2Possible as well as the Challenged Athletes Foundation. We serve as board members at the Clara White Mission and also as ambassadors for lululemon locally. I also enjoy motivational speaking because it is a chance to give back from my experiences. I truly believe my calling in life is not healthcare but one of inspiration. I thrive on these physical and mental challenges.

Impossible2possible serves to empower youth through amazing global running expeditions. Read more about the mission at www.impossible2possible.com.

Chris Roman has run 21 races of 100miles or more. He is the current USATF 24hr Masters Champ.

2004

Tom King Half Marathon (TN) – 1h34m (144th)
Country Music marathon (TN) – 3h44m (179th)
USAF Marathon (OH) – 3h27m (126th)
Jacksonville Bank Marathon (FL) – 3h37m (125th)

2005

Tom King Half Marathon (TN) – 1h32m (93rd)
Country Music marathon (TN) – 3h23m (127th)
Jacksonville Bank Marathon (FL) – 3h23m (121st)

2006

Country Music Marathon (TN) – 3h22m (112th)
North Face 40 of 50 Marathon (KY) – 4h16m (1st w/ Dean Karnazes)
Jacksonville Bank Marathon (FL) – 3h11m (53rd)

2007

Mount Cheaha 50k (AL) – 6h41m (39th)
Oak Mountain 50k (AL) – 6h10m (20th)
Strolling Jim 40miler (TN) – 6h5m (12th)
Croom’s Trail 50k (FL) – 4h38m (5th)
Native Sun 10k (FL) – pacing
Outback Half Marathon (FL) – 1h31m (78th)

2008

Disney Half Marathon (FL) – pacing
Iron Horse 100k (FL) – 10h37m (1st)
Boston Marathon (MA) – 3h14m (3169)
Leadville Trail 100mile (CO) – 27h30m (70th)
Iron Horse Invitational 50mile (FL) – 8h20m (1st)

2009

Iron Horse 100mile (FL) -19h38m (2nd)
Guana 50k (FL) – 5h1m (2nd)
Keys Ultra 100mile (FL) – 21h50m (7th)
Hinson Lake 24hr (NC) – 24h – 106.4miles (5th)
Jacksonville Bank Double Marathon (FL) – (3:55 and 4:04)

2010

Iron Horse 100mile (FL) – 18h24m (2nd and PR)
Croom 50k (FL) – 4h17m (4th and PR)
Boston Double Marathon (MA) – (4:15 and 3;59:13)
Western States 100mile (CA) – 23h30m (101st )
Badwater 135 (CA) – 7/12/13-2010 (crewed Tony Portera)
Erie Canal 363 (NY) – 344 miles (6d3h32m)
Pinhoti 100 (AL) – 25h37m (22nd)

2011

Brazil 135 Jan 21-23rd – 55h24m (ran entire Caminho da Fe 7d14h)
Badwater 135 (CA) – 32h27m19s (16th)
Javelina Jundred (AZ) – 21h7m (24th)

2012

Iron Horse 100mile (FL) – 18h40m (4th)
Badwater 135 (CA) – 31h20m06s (18th)
Boulder 24h (CO) – 114m (1st)

2013

Brazil 135 Jan 18-19th – 45h14m (ran 268m in 4d, 133m 2 d prior)
Umstead 100 April 6th (NC) – 17h37m35s (13th PR)
World 24hr Steenbergen May 11-12th – 122miles (132nd, 17h35m PR 100m)
Hallucination 100 September 6th (MI) – 20h12m (3rd)
USATF 24hr Championship Oct 26th (OK) – 128.87mi (5th OA, USATF 24hMasters Champ 2013)

2014

Brazil 135 Jan 17th-18th – 30h3sec (8th OA, 1st American, New American record)
Keys 100 May 17th
Vermont 100 July 19th
USATF 24hr Championship Cleveland Sept 21st
ATY 48hr Dec 29th

2015

Spartathlon Sept

JoHanna Bienvenue

JoHanna Bienvenue

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