Meet Chris B.
Community Ally: Chris B.
Instead of merely running, I mentally escaped from my thoughts and ran towards something greater—towards my family, towards a place of strength.
Chris always used to go on runs as an outlet to relieve stress, and he had a lifelong dream of running the Leadville Trail 100 Ultra Marathon. This race spans 100 miles of extreme Colorado Rockies terrain, with elevations ranging from 9,200 to 12,600 feet, making it one of the most challenging races in the United States.
On August 20th, 2022, Chris finally fulfilled his dream and ran the Leadville Trail 100 Ultra Marathon, dedicating his race to his nephew and godson, Cameron, who was diagnosed with Level-3 autism spectrum disorder at the age of two. Alongside running the race, Chris used Fundraise Your Way to raise close to $100,000 for Autism Speaks. His fundraising page expressed his deep motivation: "I am running for Cameron. I am running for Autism Speaks so they can continue to serve this community. I am and will forever be part of team Cameron's Crusaders."
We caught up with Chris to learn more about his running journey.
What inspired you to run the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Ultra Marathon?
I decided to run the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Ultra Marathon because of my love for my family. Three years ago, my sister was going through a challenging time, raising a child with autism. I wanted to support them in any way I could. Running had always been my stress-relief outlet, so I thought if I could combine my desire to run a long race with raising awareness for autism, it would be a powerful way to help my sister and nephew while creating a positive impact. That's when I came up with the idea of running the Leadville Trail 100 and connecting it to Autism Speaks. I invited my sister to join me on this journey, and together we formed 'Cameron's Crusaders.' It gave her hope and an identity to hold onto during the training and race. We raised funds together, and I'm committed to doing something for Cameron annually to keep the support going.
Can you tell us a bit about your running journey?
When I hit the age of 10, running became a part of my life. Although I didn't realize it back then, running served as a powerful outlet for relieving stress, and that impact has stayed with me ever since.
What made the race I participated in particularly fascinating was the mental aspect of training. I had hired a coach (Cat Berad) who emphasized the importance of mental fortitude in running. Initially, my mindset was focused on running away from things, always seeking an escape. However, after approximately two months into my training, my coach expressed doubts about my ability to finish the race. She believed that my mental mindset had not transformed enough for me to go beyond 30 or 40 miles. To surpass that point where most people struggle, I needed the mental strength to run not away from something, but toward something. Unfortunately, I was not progressing rapidly enough in changing my mindset.
That's when I began to truly introspect and concentrate on the purpose behind my running and this race. It was like a moment of epiphany, reminiscent of the movie "Hook" where Peter Pan, played by Robin Williams, spends a significant amount of time trying to fly. He's surrounded by children encouraging him, saying, "Come on Peter, you can do it." Eventually, he sits at a table and throws a pie at one of the kids, and the food splashes on his face, allowing him to see the kids for who they truly are. Similarly, one night, I had a breakthrough while reflecting deeply on the connection between Autism Speaks, Cameron, my sister, and myself. It triggered a switch in my mind, redirecting my focus during runs. Instead of merely running, I mentally escaped from my thoughts and ran towards something greater—towards my family, towards a place of strength. At that point, running ceased to be about technicalities like checking my watch, tracking distance, or caring about time. It became effortless and instinctive, embodying the right mental mindset.
I can confidently state that my entire journey in Leadville was dedicated to running for Cameron, my sister, my family, and, towards them. It was this profound motivation that carried me through the pain that set in around mile 70, as Cat had predicted. Every step I took from that moment onward was a resolute stride towards that cherished goal, knowing that they would be waiting for me at the finish line.
Is there anything you wish the world knew about Autism Speaks?
It is often the strong individuals who are willing to seek help, but unfortunately, not everyone recognizes the importance of reaching out. Throughout my journey, I would frequently visit Dunkin Donuts to get some green tea, which provided the caffeine boost I needed during my training. Behind the counter, I formed a friendship with one of the women without realizing that her child had autism. There came a period when I couldn't visit Dunkin Donuts for about five days due to an intense training block. Upon returning to the store, she questioned my absence: "Where the hell have you been?" I explained that I had been training for a race dedicated to autism. Her response was unexpected as she looked at me with a mixture of surprise and emotion, on the verge of tears. Concerned, I asked if she was okay, and she confided, "No, my three-year-old daughter is deaf, blind, and has autism." I was taken aback by this revelation and expressed my desire to help her. I referred her to Autism Speaks, and her response was overwhelming—she broke down in tears. I see her every day at the store, and I wish more people knew that there are resources available to them, such as Autism Speaks, when they face challenges in life. It's crucial for individuals to understand that they do not have to battle alone and that support networks like Autism Speaks exist to provide assistance throughout their lifelong journey.
But what advice do you have for someone that wants to support people in their family?
One valuable piece of advice that can provide support to individuals on the autism spectrum, or anyone for that matter, is to regularly check in with them and their families. Whether it's on a daily or weekly basis, reaching out and reminding them of their importance and your presence can make a difference. Encourage them to focus on the positive aspects of their lives and help them understand that everyone, including those they may compare themselves to, faces struggles. Our world is imperfect, despite the illusion of perfection often portrayed through platforms like Instagram. Individuals with autism live unique lives, but they deserve happiness, and they can find it in various aspects of their day.
What's your favorite post-training or post-race snack? Is it the green tea from Dunkin Donuts or something else?
I love mixing peanut butter and banana, adding some yogurt and granola. It is a delicious combination that satisfies my post-training cravings.