From Couch To 100

By Chris Ho

Ultramarathon runner Chris Ho (above) was overweight and out of shape just a few years ago.

Ultramarathon runner Chris Ho (above) was overweight and out of shape just a few years ago.

The sense of pride that comes from completing such challenging races is unbeatable.

 

In 2011, I was exhausted, unmotivated, out of shape and overweight. My daily nutrition routine consisted of an oatmeal cream pie three times day, and the only movements I made were from the bed to the sofa, the sofa to my office chair, then back to the sofa for a while before returning to bed. I had no energy and spent my time just watching television between snacks.

It wasn’t until my wife, Tina, began to work out that I decided I also needed to make some changes, and they weren’t really drastic ones. I joined a gym, lifting weights and doing a cardio regimen that consisted of walking for 10 minutes and running for 10. I kept this up four days a week and cut out soft drinks, desserts and late-night eating. My weight loss journey had begun.

I set myself a goal: I would decrease my weight from around 230 pounds to below 200. Within three months, my bathroom scale showed just that. Inspired, I began running for longer periods of time and for greater distances. Today, I’ve lost more than 60 pounds and completed 25 marathons and 17 ultramarathons, including two of my proudest achievements: Completing the 2015 Boston Marathon and 2015 Arkansas Traveller 100-Mile Race. 

The hardest part of a 100-mile race is the amount of training and sacrifice required. My training for 2015 started in April, right after the Boston Marathon. I consistently logged 80 to 90 miles of running a week,  including five weeks of 100 or more miles run. 

I came into the race with three goals: I would try to finish under 20 hours, and if that wasn’t possible, shoot for a sub 24-hour finish. The final goal was just to finish the race in any time, and looking back, I realize that just finishing was the most important objective. 

In the week leading up to the race, I managed to catch a stomach bug the Thursday before it began, making me think I might have to miss the race altogether. That Friday, I was an absolute wreck, so I loaded up on Emergen-C and hoped for the best. Luckily, on Saturday, I woke up feeling pretty good with no fever or any other issues.

The first 50K of the Arkansas Traveller went as planned, and I was on pace to meet my sub 20-hour goal. My good fortune took a turn about 35 miles in: My fever came back, and with it some serious stomach cramps that forced me to slow my pace considerably for 10 miles. I tried drinking ginger ale and eating different forms of food, but that just made my stomach hurt more, keeping me restricted to the gels I had with me in my supply bags. 

My fever broke right before the mile-48 aid station, and I was able to run again and felt great.  Unfortunately, I make a big rookie mistake by running too fast to try and make up my time—not a good plan, since I was only half way to the finish. The extra effort to make up my time really affected my ability to run consistently from that point on.  

By mile 68, the sun was gone and I was running by the light of my headlamp. My fever was back in full force. I did a lot of walking and soul searching for the reminder of the race. I wanted to quit several times through the night, but managed to hold on and keep going. I owe my finish to my pacers Jeff Zern, Caleb Ault and Jon Honeyewell—they kept me focused and moving forward. I was a broken man when I finished, but I did finish.

Finishing The Arkansas Traveler was one of the best accomplishments in my life. It was the culmination of a series of life changes that took me off the couch and got my feet moving. I am healthier and stronger today, and the sense of pride that comes from completing such challenging races is unbeatable. I will more than likely sign up and run the AT100 next year—I have a score to settle and some hard-learned lessons that need to be put in place.