Meet Ambassador and Marathoner, Christopher Braun! Christopher is always looking for new challenges. During the first few months of the pandemic, he was notching a marathon each week for 10 weeks in a row as a way to test his limits (Impressive much?! We think so!). He also can be found running 100 loops (33 miles) around his neighborhood as a fundraiser for Brave Like Gabe, or lining up for the I-35 Challenge later this year for back-to-back marathons in Kansas City and Des Moines. Christopher is always trying to find ways to push his running to the next level by setting goals that make him work harder than he thought he ever could. We touched base with Christopher to talk about his running journey, what running means to him, and why he's traveling to Boston next month for what he calls the "holy grail" marathon for runners, the Boston Marathon!
ZS: How did you get into running? Why do you run?
CB: There really isn't one specific thing that got me into running, other than I thought it would be fun to try a 5k and it seemed like the perfect time to train. The rest from there is history. I love the feeling of accomplishment each run brings. The anticipation leading up to each race. The opportunity to see if I can be just a second better than I was the day before. Or sometimes just to see if I can overcome the urge to stay inside on the worst days, and finally take those first few steps out the door. Running to me is more than a sport; it's a lifestyle.
ZS: Why are you running in the Boston Marathon this year?
CB: I have always wanted to line up at the start line in Hopkinton and run down Boylston Street towards the finish 26 miles later. It really is the Holy Grail of running. It took more than 20 marathons and a dozen years, but I'll finally be shipping up to Boston in 2022!
ZS: Have you run in the Boston Marathon before?
CB: This will be my first time running the Boston Marathon. My first marathon was back in 2009, and at the time, I never thought I would get close to a BQ. In fact, there were a few times where I swore I'd never run another marathon. But finally in October 2019, I was able to qualify with a PR that I couldn't even imagine. It was one of those days where everything came together perfectly. And then, 2020 (and 2021) happened, and I was able to use my 2019 time for this year's race. I'm looking forward to experiencing everything Boston next month!
ZS: How are you training for the upcoming race?
CB: In most cases, I usually run high mileage all year. I don't taper for races, and don't rest after my marathons. I don't include speedwork in my training because I've experienced too many issues in the past by redlining each session. Instead, I've always been a believer in miles over paces. As I continue to maintain high mileage, speed came naturally as I became a more efficient runner. But a funny thing happened on the way to Boston... For the race that I have always dreamt of, my training is definitely taking an unusual journey. At the end of January, during a single, uneventful run, my ITB became so painful that I had to take 4 weeks away from the sport I love completely. Instead of long runs and tempo runs, the focus was on strengthening my leg through physical therapy, while trying to maintain my cardio by cross training. I've only been able to start running again at the beginning of March, and have a short window to rebuild my base before jumping on the bus to Hopkinton in April.
ZS: What advice do you have for fellow runners or those working towards marathon goals?
CB: The best advice I could give to any runner is to enjoy the journey. Marathons are an amazing way to challenge yourself, but sometimes you can get too caught up in the end result. Instead, look at every opportunity to lace up your shoes for a training run as a new adventure. Never be in a hurry to reach the finish line of that journey, because having fun is the real reason that most of us are out there racking up miles each week...
ZS: What are your favorite must-have Zensah products and why?
CB: My absolute favorite must-have Zensah item is the Featherweight Compression Leg Sleeves. I love the feel of these sleeves, and also the fact that they don't suffocate my legs while running in the infamous Midwest humidity each summer. I began wearing the original compression sleeves when I first started running in 2008 due to a chronic shin splint/ankle tendinitis issue. The combination of those sleeves and my foam roller kept me running almost issue free from the knee down for the past 14 years.
ZS: What is one quote you live by? Or a personal mantra? (Can apply to running or to life!)
CB: My favorite mantra right now is from one of my all time favorite marathoners, Sara Hall. "The well is deep. Even if I'm hurting, I can keep going to the well." Whether it is late in a race, in the middle of a long run, or just making it through a tough day, this quote helps me realize that there's always another gear we can switch to deep down inside to help us keep going forward.
ZS: What is your favorite place you've ever ran?
CB: Last summer, I spent a few days in Beaver Creek, Colorado to get an idea of how running at elevation would feel (first time ever) in preparation for the Colfax Marathon in Denver. Leaving behind the hot and humid August weather and running in the mountains where it was 40 degrees every morning was one of my favorite experiences ever!
ZS: What other hobbies do you love (in addition to running, of course):
CB: I love being outside. Whether it is walking, hiking, or trying other sports, I try to take advantage of any opportunity I have to be outside. I also enjoy spending time with my family, traveling around the country (for vacation and for races), and drinking coffee!
ZS: Where can people find you? (on social media and at upcoming races in addition to Boston!)
CB: In addition to Boston, I'll also be (hopefully) completing the Whale Challenge at the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach in a few weeks. At the end of April, I'm signed up for the Muddy River Marathon in Cape Girardeau, MO. And in October, I plan to run back-to-back marathons in KC and Iowa. You can follow all of my running journeys on Instagram at @djcmic19.
ZS: Zensah’s motto is #withoutlimitz meaning we want you to feel limitless in everything you do. What does limitless look like for you?
CB: My limitless is knowing that there aren't any goals I can't achieve if I just believe in myself. Not only in running, but in everyday life as well. The only thing that keeps most of us from reaching our goals is that we don't believe it's possible. If we just change our attitude and focus on the positives instead of the negatives, we can do pretty much anything we set our minds to.