#MondayMotivation: Because Life Ain't Nothin' But an Ultra-Run

See how chef Gregory Gourdet did it, then get fired up about charging the hills.

January 30, 2017 ● 2 min read

It all started in 2006, when I was in rehab in New York City, staying at my parents’ house.

I wanted to attempt something healthy, so I would run two miles to this park. It was awful. Then I moved to San Diego — I got into the healthy California lifestyle, joined a gym, and got up to six miles on a treadmill.  

The thing is: I have an addictive personality. I like excess. But so do runners — the sport is all about endurance and not wanting to stop. So I started pushing myself further and further as a runner. By the time I moved to Portland, OR, after going back and forth with being sober, I finally made the commitment to getting healthy and running again. I signed up for a 10K, and it ended up feeling pretty exhilarating. So I signed up for a half marathon, then a full marathon, and I hired a running coach.  

In Oregon, we are surrounded by beautiful forests, and it’s a big running town, so it’s easy to just jump into that culture. My running coach gave me a goal — The Seattle Marathon — and a training plan. After I finished work, instead of going to a bar or clubbing, I would go running. I had all this energy inside of me now that I was sober, but instead of reverting back to my old habits, I would channel that energy into running. 

When I ran my first marathon, I actually remember starting to cry at mile 21 because it was such a big feat for me, and I knew I was going to finish — it was pretty epic. Over the course of the next few years I did a bunch more marathons, and in the process, I met this group of people who called themselves “ultra runners.” An ultra race is anything longer than a marathon — the name sounded badass, and I knew I could do one of those races; so I went up to Washington by myself and ran my first ultra, which was a 50K, or 31 miles.

All of a sudden, now that I was sober, running wasn’t about hiding from anything. It became this incredible source of calm, where I could be outside, have alone time, and push my physical limits. I met this guy, Kevin, who was also sober and an ultra runner, and he pushed me to sign up for more 50Ks. Eventually, I did a 40-mile race, then a 50-mile race. Being an ultra-runner in Oregon is amazing — there are the best views here. There’s a run in the Gorge, which is a 30-mile loop. You can climb this mountain peak and see Mount Hood. For most people, it’s a multi-day hike, but as an ultra-runner, I can get there in a few hours.  

It’s cool being both a chef and an ultra runner — there aren’t that many of us because you have to really want it. I’ll run 20 miles before I go to work — that’s a three to four-hour commitment. The restaurant industry is all about being in these really stressful situations, getting through an amazing service, and then doing something to slow down — some people choose to settle down and have a family, or go out and party. I chose health.

I run not to show off, but to prove that I can dig deep down inside and find what I need to face any challenges that come ahead of me. 

As told to Priya Krishna | Photograph courtesy of Gourdet