Everyone who runs a marathon does it for a particular reason, mostly for a sense of satisfaction and often to raise money for a good cause. Tristan Miller is doing it for 100,000 reasons. Actually millions. Because he hopes to raise over $100,000 for various charities, the main being Facing Africa, which helps millions of needy children on that impoverished continent.
Miller’s own journey is fascinating because he is on the verge of completing 52 marathons of 26.2 miles in 52 weeks. He’s dubbed it Run Like Crazy and that is exactly what it is.
The Cayman version on Sunday will be his 50th, with a mere 100k Ice Marathon in Antarctica on 12 December with Ken Krys, the local businessman who is part sponsoring him.
The whole thing climaxes with the Melbourne Marathon in Miller’s home city on 27 December, assuming fatigue and blisters don’t overcome him first. By then 42 countries will have seen the indefatigable Miller in action over a total of nearly 1,400 miles.
Fifty-two marathons in as many weeks. Why? “Yes, it’s pretty poetic,” laughs Miller at the absurdity of it. He’s in the conference room of the Krys Associates office in Governor’s Square. Cayman’s top runner Scott Brittain sits in the corner listening intently. Brittain provided Miller accommodation on a brief stopover before the adventurous Aussie set off for the Costa Rica Marathon in San Jose the next day.
“The idea sounded pretty good at the time,” says Miller. “I didn’t really understand what that entailed when I picked it out, but when I was in training for the Comrades Marathon in May of last year, I did a lot of really long runs on consecutive days and Run Like Crazy inspired me from looking at the calendar for all the world’s best marathons. How amazing would that be!
“I sounded it out to a couple of mates and they thought I was an idiot.” Common sense did not prevail.
Miller was working in sales for Google at the time. The satellite office in Melbourne was shut down and he didn’t fancy moving to Sydney to keep his job, so he took redundancy. Like many young Australians with wanderlust, it was time travel – only with a very weird twist.
He decided to go to South Africa to do a 90k race and really enjoyed it. That inspired him to sell his house, car, motorbike and all other possessions to fund this epic journey, raising the equivalent of CI$95,000. His cat and barbecue remain at a friend’s house, the only two things he wouldn’t give up.
“When I turned down a good job offer in July last year, that’s when I knew I was really committed.”
He is looking forward to catching the Melbourne Test for the Ashes between Australia and England when he returns home, which starts on Boxing Day.
Sponsors and a book deal were offered but not for much. Miller politely refused because he still wasn’t sure if he could do it. That fear evaporated in his first month after completing seven marathons which were more races than he had ever done in his whole life. Rather than take on sponsors, he preferred to take the whole risk alone. For the first few months a friend travelled too, a sports masseuse, which was helpful but a drain on Miller’s resources.
By the end of January he felt more confident, did personal bests and continued getting faster despite ultra runs taking their toll.
When we met last week, there were only five races to go, including Jamaica’s Reggae Marathon on Saturday and the Cayman Marathon the next day. He’ll have to get a helicopter to get on the starting line at Breezes by the Bay at 5am on Sunday.
Assuming he gets through the last few, culminating in the Melbourne Marathon on 27 December, Miller, 33, expects to get a decent book deal and also edit all the wonderful video footage amassed. Of the many memorable experiences, running with a club in Montreal was one highlight even though many spoke only French. Their warmth and sincerity transcended language.
“Also running the Great Wall of China race and the Two Oceans in Cape Town have been highlights. I did a 100k race in Mongolia, too, which was tough. It was like a trail run and I was lucky enough not to get lost a few times. There were yaks floating around on these random trails. It was so remote yet so beautiful. The Great Wall was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but then successive races have seemed the hardest too.”
After the Mongolia run in July he reached his worst state physically, despite coming second. The wear and tear was heavy and he was sick for two weeks after, partly from the exertion and also because of the substandard hygiene standards and poorly cooked food. “I made sure I was never too far from the toilet!”
That was his lowest point. He dragged himself to the next race, by train to Siberia, feeling isolated and weary. Despite managing a 3 hour, 57 minute marathon it was extremely tough. For the first and only time, Miller felt like packing it in.
“It was really hot in Russia and I was really down on myself. I met some friends in Helsinki for the Finland Marathon next and seeing them and being around some normal people helped. When things get really tough for me the thing I really focus on is just getting to the next race.”
Not for him five-star luxury. It’s mostly been in hostels, so Miller was thankful of the king size bed provided by Brittain.
Surprisingly, he doesn’t consider himself a super-athlete, just someone who is reasonably fit and has set himself an achievable goal, albeit zany and immensely challenging.
“You don’t have to be a magnificent athlete to start running in a straight line. So as long as you set some personal goals and concentrate on getting faster, there’s not much to it.
“I went through a divorce at 28. It was a very depressing time. I was working at a radio station at the time and a guy I worked with invited me to come and run with him. I certainly lost weight and being a newly single guy as well it certainly helped.
“I spent some time getting fit with this guy and he challenged me to do a marathon. As soon as I started running with him, I felt better about life and positive things started happening.
“I did a marathon in 4 hours and 20 minutes which was so uplifting because I thought previously it was totally impossible. It made me believe I could do other things in my life which I thought not possible.”
Despite extreme pain, discomfort and disorientation with the constant travelling, this has been his best ever year. “It has become shocking how big this thing has become around me.
“People send me pictures of their children wearing my T-shirt and hat and they say how inspired they were to meet me. I can’t believe it that it’s happened to a guy as regular as me.”
Over 150 have already signed up for the Melbourne homecoming, including many friends and family. “I think I’ll be crying for the whole of that race.”
To learn more about Run Like Crazy and Facing Africa or to make an online donation, visit www.runlikecrazy.com and www.facingafrica.org; also visit www.krysandassoc.com