Athlete Spotlight - Chris Nicholas
Provided by USATF
What Chris Nicholas looks to accomplish is a cross between Terry Fox and Forrest Gump.
His motivations, however, more closely parallel Fox, who set out to run across Canada in an effort to raise money and awareness for cancer research after having one leg amputated, than Gump, who as a title character from the popular 1990s movie ran multiple times across the country simply because he wanted to.
They are comparisons Nicholas says he will get on a weekly basis.
But the journey for Nicholas is unique and his inspirations are clearly defined. He set out this week in an effort to run across the United States for the second time in 12 months to inspire others and raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the Wounded Warrior program and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“I picked those three charities because they each reach a wide spectrum,” Nicholas said. “There aren’t any direct experiences I have had with them, but I wanted people to have options to choose from.”
His travels will take him from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Ore., and consume the next seven months of his life. If running across the country wasn’t a difficult enough task, his planned route will take him all along the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and include states such as Florida, Texas and California on his way. The total trip will be around 6,000 miles.
“Ultimately, physically it’s draining because you are sore every single day,” Nicholas said in a phone interview from his hotel room outside Boston, Mass. “And mentally it’s draining when you start to realize you are going to be gone for all of these holidays.”
He will most likely be out running during Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. But they are sacrifices Nicholas has gladly made to show support for the charities he has chosen.
Nicholas looks to become the first person to run across the United States twice in a 12-month period. Earlier in the spring and summer Nicholas set out on a trip that took him from Washington D.C. to Santa Monica, Calif., taking three months and reaching his goal of raising $8,000 for his three charities. His goal for the current trip is to raise $25,000.
Nicholas is difficult to miss when he is out on the roads. He can be seen pushing a stroller with an American flag attached. It’s an easy conversation starter and he consistently gets asked if he has a baby in the stroller. But the contents of the stroller are just what he needs to be on the road for seven months.
Nicholas also points out that hotel and restaurant owners play a big role in him being able to do this. Without a financial sponsor, money for food and accommodations are difficult to come by. But consistently meals will be picked up and hotel rooms taken care of from people that understand his mission. In the 88 days of his first journey across the country, Nicholas had to pay for a hotel room just once. It’s that hospitality and the people Nicholas has the chance to meet along his journey that truly make it worth doing.
“The greatest part is that I get to talk to people that have their own stories,” he said. “They are sharing their life with me. I posted online one time asking who you would like me to run a mile for today and the comments just blew up. It was neat to see those. I can’t express enough how humbling it is.”
During the course of his journey, Nicholas will go through a total of 16 pairs of shoes. He is on the road each day starting between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. When he takes breaks and how far he will be able to travel each day is dependent on meals. Over time Nicholas has trained his body to be able to get out running fairly quickly following a meal. In a typical day he will cover around 30 miles running between four and five miles per hour.
“The meals really break it up,” he said. “I know that I am not an elite level athlete. What I am trying to do is be able to be out sharing where I am and what I am doing. I want to show people that you can go out and do this. It’s not a weight loss goal or anything like that. It’s seeing how well I can do it. I am pretty confident I can do it. There are people that respond to me and say, ‘I joined a gym because of you.’ That’s means a lot to hear.”
Along with the miles of consistent pounding, the time away from family and those he cares about is difficult for Nicholas. He traveled with his girlfriend, Alexis Kane, and her parents out to Portland, Maine, to begin his journey. There he gave her a promise ring as a commitment that he would see her at the end of his run. Kane will be there to meet him in Portland, Ore., along with taking a trip to see him briefly as he runs through Florida.
Fans of Nicholas and anyone interested in making donations to his efforts can do so and follow his updates on his website at www.runandfinish.com. As needed to be the case for Nicholas, 100 percent of all donations go to the charities listed.
“I would not have done this is even one percent of it would go to my expenses,” he said. “That helps to make it a little more of a challenge.”