marathon high: 26 miles to graduation
posted: March 17, 2014
powered by the metta movement
When you’re asked to think of someone who creates change in the world, your mind may automatically go to game changers, people like Steve Jobs, Barack Obama or Oprah, all of whose work has had a global impact. But what if you shifted your focus and uncovered people who elevate the world by creating change within their own community? That’s exactly what we discovered in one of our ambassadors, Chris McClung of Rogue Running in Austin, Texas. Chris doesn’t run a multinational corporation, lead a country or have his own talk show. He’s a soft-spoken guy who has been creating impressive change by combining his passion for running and his desire to elevate the kids in his community. The end result? A program called Marathon High. I sat down with him for a chat.
So Chris, what exactly do you do every day?
My mission in life is to change lives and the world through running. Simply put, that’s what I try to do everyday.
What shoes you do you wear to do this?
My current favourite running shoe is the Adidas Adios. You put it on and don’t think about it again until you take it off. That’s how you know you have the right shoe.
Do you have a favourite quote about running?
“If you have a body, then you are an athlete.” —Bill Bowerman
Tell me about Rogue Running.
I am the co-owner of Rogue Running, a running store and training center in Austin, Texas. We train over 3,500 runners a year in Austin, providing running shoes, gear, coaching support, and a loving community to help those athletes become better runners and ultimately better people as well. How I got here is a long, circuitous story with lots of amazing ‘coincidences’ along the way. I would like to say that my grand plan got me here, but the truth is that something much bigger paved the path, giving me the wisdom to pursue my passion in spite of closed doors and the courage to take a leap of faith when the time was right. The rest of the story I will save for a beer if anyone wants to buy me one when they are in Austin!
When did you become a lululemon ambassador?
Fall of 2012, though I have been involved with lululemon since its Domain store opened in Austin in 2011. Last year I also served as an official SeaWheeze ambassador, helping create the SeaWheeze training tackle box for the SeaWheeze app.
What does Marathon High mean to you?
Marathon High is a way we can change lives through running. It’s all about teaching students that they can do anything if they put their minds to it. That sounds cliché, but only until you well up with tears watching a high school sophomore triumphantly cross the finish line at the end of 26.2 miles on a tough, hilly Austin Marathon course. This year we had 81 students start the race and 81 finishers. In a race where many adults dropped out (because of warm conditions), none of the students quit. Now, those students, many from under-privileged schools and communities, will approach life’s challenges or hiccups with the courage and resolve that the marathon uniquely cultivates. Their lives will forever be changed, and that’s what it’s all about.
How have you seen it affect the people around you? Your community?
Our community has rallied around these students with so much love and support. They have donated financially so that the students have the gear they need, they have encouraged them on training runs, and they have cheered or paced with them in races. Through that, the students, with their resilience, are a consistent reminder to the rest of us that we can do big things too.
What do these kids inspire you to do?
1. To keep doing what I/we do. When the days are long or stress is high, they are a reminder of the mission and its value and worth.
2. To think bigger about my own goals. Most of them don’t really understand what running a marathon means at the start of the program. They can’t fathom its difficulty or the challenge that is really coming with it. They step into the journey on faith or because it sounds ‘cool.’ It reminds me not to put boundaries on what is possible or to let my perception of a challenge back me down from it.
What are some of your own personal goals? Career goals? Goals for marathon high?
Personal: Late last year, I ran a new personal best at the marathon, one that took me 10 years to conquer. This year, my focus is on speed; I want to break my personal best for the 5K.
Career: The short version is to continue to reach more people and change more lives through running. The long version I’ll save for that beer!
Marathon High: We want to coach 1,000 students to finish the Austin Half Marathon or Marathon.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen at a race? Most inspiring?
The weirdest/coolest was a cheer station on stand-up paddleboards at last year’s SeaWheeze. Most inspiring was watching two Marathon High students cross the finish line together, arm in arm.
What can people do to really cultivate the love of running?
Don’t do it alone. Running is only a solitary sport if you let it be. Find a group, community or set of friends to support you. Set a goal and do it together.
When it’s pouring rain, what gets you laced up and out the door?
We have a saying at Rogue that serves as a reminder of what to do when you don’t want to run or don’t want to push it any harder: Just f**king run—JFR. When it’s raining, we JFR.
What run-related people/organizations do you follow on Twitter?
I love following athletes that do more than talk about themselves but that make an effort to inspire others or challenge the status quo through their own journeys. Lauren Fleshman, Nick Symmonds, Lolo Jones, and Desiree Linden are four that come to mind.
What’s your favourite post run meal?
After a long run, there is nothing better than scrambled eggs and gingerbread pancakes from a local breakfast favourite, Kerbey Lane Cafe.
Rogue Running is 10 years old this year; what has it done differently that has made it so successful that others could take away?
If I had to choose one thing, it’s that we have created an authentic community, a place where you can be yourself, leave the masks and BS at home or work, and challenge each other to be the best you can be. Yes, I believe we have unmatched coaching and running gear expertise, but our community is what keeps people coming back.