During the first eight months of this year, Chris Louie ’91 ran 1,602 miles, the approximate distance between LMU and Omaha, Nebraska.
During those months, Louie ran in 23 marathons. That includes a Herculean stretch when he took a week off from work, flew to New England and ran in five marathons in five states.
“I had previously run three marathons in three days, when I ran around Lake Tahoe,” Louie says. “My goal was to beat that overall time. When I ran the five in seven, I knew it was going to be a challenge.” How did he feel at the end of the week? “I was tired but not exhausted. I had trained to do that type of mileage,” Louie says. “The important thing was that I had a plan for my pre-race, during the race and post-race recovery.”
Born in San Marino and now residing in Valencia, Louie, when he is not running long distances, serves as product manager for Princess Cruises. He’s worked in cruise industry IT for 27 years, the past 22 for Princess. During his first five years, he lived at sea, aboard a ship. He’s visited 96 countries, and counting.
Overall, Louie has run 128 marathons on five continents — not yet Antarctica or Australia — and in all 50 states. He’s also run several ultramarathons — 50-kilometer and 50-mile races held on nature trails where elevation, dirt and rocks make for slower race times — although, apparently, better snacks. “The aid stations for ultramarathons are great,” Louie says. “They are usually fully stacked with chips, sandwiches and, my favorite, boiled potatoes and salt!”
Louie has also completed an Ironman triathlon and plans to do another this fall. He eats healthy, cross-trains, stretches, does core work and swims. Last time he checked, he had 6.8% body fat. (He offers this caveat: “However, I note that each person is different. It is important to be competitive, but not become obsessed with what might be the ‘ideal’ number, figure or look.”)
Fitness, nutrition and good luck have helped Louie avoid major injury. “I have been very fortunate,” he says, then notes with a laugh that he did once hit his head while attempting a handstand at the top of 7,822-foot-tall Caraiman Peak, in Romania.
If you are winded just from reading about Louie’s life, then marvel further: This Lion alum spent just one year on the high school cross country team and didn’t take up distance running until a decade or so after college.“When I turned 30, I wanted to run a marathon,” he says, and selected the Los Angeles Marathon because of its proximity.
Louie thought he had trained well for it. “I made it to Mile 18,” he says, “and I thought, ‘OK, I think I need to walk a little. And I thought, ‘OK, there’s no pick-up van or anything for stragglers — how am I going to get back to my car?’”
The mass of people in the race and lining the streets buoyed him. “People encouraged me: ‘C’mon and just jog a little and walk a little!’” Louie says. “Eventually I made it those last 8.2 miles, and I remember celebrating and lying on the grass with my medal around my neck, and saying I never have to do this again.”
Never turned out to be three years. Louie found a tour group trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, that included a race, and he hasn’t stopped running since. These days, Louie sometimes serves as a pace leader, including for the Santa Clarita Runners Club, the running club where he is membership director.
Pacing means Louis sticks to a steady pace of, say, four hours, and other runners know that by keeping up with him, that will be their finish time. Pacing is a position of trust, discipline and self-sacrifice, as Louie’s personal best time in a marathon is two hours and 58 minutes. (He’s also done a half-marathon in an hour and 21 minutes.)
Since he started running, the longest break Louie has had between marathons came last year, when the pandemic hit and events were cancelled. “I didn’t run a marathon or a race for six months,” he says. “It seemed like an eternity.” In September 2020, he returned to action in Billings, Montana.
So, what makes Louie run? Does marathoning have a larger purpose, beyond fitness and sightseeing? “I use running as an outlet to clear my mind, to think about things,” Louie says in part. And does his running philosophy overlap with his workplace philosophy? “I think it’s related, because I think I break it down. Instead of thinking, ‘I have eight miles to go,’ it’s, ‘Can I get to that tree?’ or, ‘Can I get to that stop sign?’”
In his IT work, projects are broken down into what web developers and managers call sprints. Explains Louie: “You’re constantly producing littler iterations and then eventually your product gets bigger and bigger.” He adds: “It’s the same thing with running. If you start tomorrow, you’re not going to say, ‘Oh, just run a marathon.’ You go, ‘Okay, maybe I’ll walk a mile now. Maybe I’ll jog a mile. Now I can do two miles.’ You build up slowly.”
Or, put another way, here’s something that Louie tells runners — and can’t you imagine this as a best-selling book or TED talk?
“Don’t think about Mile 26. Think about the mile that you are in. Be where you are,” Louie says. “Don’t think, ‘I have 25 more miles to go.’ Think, ‘Let’s break it down and enjoy it.’ Enjoy what people around you enjoy, enjoy where you are. I mean, you get to run! I always say: I don’t have to run. I don’t have to do this marathon. I get to do this.”
Jeremy Rosenberg, a frequent contributor to LMU Magazine, is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor and consultant. His “Under Spring, Voices + Art + Los Angeles” received the first California Historical Society Book Award. Rosenberg’s writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the OC Weekly, at KCET.org and elsewhere. Follow him @LosJeremy.