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Chris Miller on the trail. Photo by Jay Proffitt

Look no further than Chris Miller for your inspiration to keep your New Year’s resolution to run more.

“I started running in 2013 because I weighed 225 pounds, was pre-diabetic, and afraid to die,” he says.

“My morning roll out of bed displayed every bit of cheese, bread, pasta, and beer that dominated my diet,” he wrote in a blog post detailing his journey. Middle-aged. Pre-diabetic. High-blood-pressured. Lethargic,” he wrote in a blog post about the experience.”

He’s come a long ways in the past five years.

At the Hellgate 100K last month, Chris wrapped up over 450 miles of racing (13 different races) in 2018. That’s of, course just a fraction of the overall distance he’s run while logging an average of 80-mile training weeks with two days of strength training as well..

His weight now hovers around 135 pounds.

“I train twice per day, usually cross-training in the afternoon,” he says. “Friday is my rest day. Equally important, I have a partner who has helped keep me on a healthy, balanced diet.”

Chris is fast. He finished first in the Roanoke Non Ultra Trail Series this year and second in the Lynchburg Ultra series. He’s also known for his competitive spirit but says that’s changing (a little) as he gets older.

” I try not to take too much pride in individual race moments or experiences, because running has been such a source of joy and grace in my overall life,” he said.

Christopher Miller

Age: 43

Hometown (where born and now):
It’s complicated. I was born in Goldsboro, NC (my father and maternal grandfather were both stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB); we bounced back and forth from NC to west Texas (Midland/Odessa area) until we finally settled in Sanford, NC when I was 8. I left for high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem when I was 14 and stayed through completing my bachelor’s degree. Briefly thereafter, I made the first of several trips to Indonesia, where I spent most of my time for 3 years until grad school (degree #1: ethnomusicology and Burmese studies) at Northern Illinois. After that, almost two years in Myanmar/Burma. Then, I took a job as an academic librarian at Arizona State while also working on grad degree #2 (library science) at University of Arizona. I was in Tempe, AZ for almost 10 years until moving to the NRV in 2014.

That is all to say that: I consider Winston-Salem, NC my childhood home; Indonesia my spiritual home; and I really love the mountains of Appalachia enough to hope that the NRV sticks for awhile.

Occupation: I am occupied by music, ethnomusicology, phenomenology, archives of performance, and running. For income, I acquire and catalog information resources from Southeast Asia for a range of libraries. And, sometimes, I manage to get grants to do cool digital projects, like this and this.

How do you balance family and work with the training level needed to compete in long distance events? This is not easy, and ultimately, the most influential aspect for me is the patience and support of my family. They see how important running has become to me, and they help nurture the role it has come to play in our daily dynamic. Other key factors include: 1) after being in a 9-5 job for the past 18 months, I am returning to the contract work that allows me more freedom of time and movement; 2) I downgraded from a smart phone to a basic flip, and I am working on a plan to decouple from social media; and 3) I have significantly modified any consumerist habits that increased financial enslavement.

Most satisfying running accomplishment in 2018? I ran too many races in 2018, mostly to complete two different series that I really love: the Roanoke Non-Ultra Trail Series (RNUTS) and the Lynchburg Ultra Series (LUS). I finished 1st overall in the former and 2nd overall/1st master in the latter. So, meta-endurance (over 450 miles of total racing) felt like the biggest accomplishment of 2018. I will not attempt that again.

Proudest race moment? In 2017, I ran a 1:17:41 road half (Skidaway, GA), and a 16:36:34 100-miler (Canal Corridor, OH). Looking back, they are, quantitatively, results for which I should be proud. Oddly, they were both prep races. The first just ahead of Boston Marathon and the second to put 100 miles on my body in training for Grindstone 100. Both were also second place finishes. So maybe there’s something in those results that should tell me to relax more? Jordan Chang likes to rib me for what he perceives in me as a very competitive spirit. And, in many regards, he’s right . . . although more so about a younger version of me.

Most frustrating running experience? My one and only DNF (so far) was at Grindstone 100 in 2016. I fell awkwardly coming back down into the North River Gap aid station. I was still mobile but clearly not capable of running well. It was very, very difficult to stop and harder even still, in retrospect, to accept that it was the right decision for my body.

Who inspires and/or motivates you? Above all, the Avocado Pit Crew (Virginia “Ginny” Pannabecker; Piay “The ViewMaster” Mayalorca; Odessa “POTUS Otis” Mayalorca; and Modopep) keep me grounded, at peace, and moving swiftly. I love them over the moon. I am further motivated by this incredible running community that we have around us in the New River and Roanoke Valleys. Even better, I can drop first names (Sean, Kirby, Josh x 3, Brett, Jordy, Steve, Trevor, Ignacio, Danny x 2), and most folks will know who I mean. Movement/philosophical/sonic/art inspiration from Simon Dove, Faustin Linyekula, Beth Gill, King Charles, Susan Kozel, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Ian Bogost, Alva Noë, Glochids, Rashad Becker, Mark Fell, Iku Sakan, Ryoji Ikeda, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Prince, Stevie Wonder, and Bollo’s Cafe and Bakery (maybe Renee will give me a free coffee for the shout-out, but I doubt it).

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Chris with his family. Photo by Piay Mayalorca

Advice for new runners? Don’t ask old runners for advice. No, wait, do ask old runners for advice. They like it when you do. But, don’t follow any of it. Well, maybe 25% of it. Only because they’re watching you. Make sure they see you do something they said to do. Also, read anything Kristen Chang writes about food. Like, 100% of it, and do what she says.

Favorite race? Hellgate 100K. No other comes close.

Any running superstitions or rituals? No superstitions or rituals for me. The people-observing practices of my research have made me very interested in this aspect of running/racing lives for others. But, aside from doing the thing itself, I’ve never ritualized any direct or indirectly linked aspect of an activity.

Suggestion for growing/improving our running community? This is a trick question, right? We already have an amazing running community!

Fact many people don’t know about you? In 1995, I played in a NCSA student saxophone trio on the South Lawn of the White House for the awards ceremony of the National Medal of Arts. In one whirlwind day, I met Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Bernice Johnson Reagan, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Arthur Mitchell, Pinchas Zukerman, Bill Monroe, and Roy Lichtenstein. It was a pretty heady day.

Running goals for 2019? I am running 3 races in Southeast Asia to start the year (Tahura Trail marathon; Pilipinas Akyathlon 49K; and Borneo Ultra Trail 100K). For those, I am simply looking to enjoy the opportunity to run and to learn more about how my friends in Southeast Asia build their trail-running communities. The big race this year is High Lonesome 100 in Colorado. So, my training and running goals are focused on competing there.

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Chris Miller, Brett Sherfy, Jordan Chang and Danny Mathieson after a Hellgate 100K training run. Photo by Virginia Pannabecker