Athlete Spotlights

Chris Ladd

In three short years KE has brought together some of the most highly motivated folks in the Knoxville region. Each month I want you to meet one of your fellow athletes by featuring the growth of a KE member or alum in this weekly newsletter. You’ll be energized to learn how folks just like you have worked toward their different goals through KE’s personalized training program.

First up is CHRIS LADD. An open heart and open mind led Chris Ladd to running.

A missionary with Children’s Cup, a humanitarian and spiritual program for orphaned children in Africa, running brings peace to Chris as he pours his soul into piecing ­together dejected orphans. He accepted the challenge of running to an extreme, but what else would you expect from someone so motivated to create change? His goal was to finish a 100 miler within 24 hours. He finished in 23:10!

What motivated you to run a 100 Miler?

Chris LaddI am not a runner. I am short and stocky, and I do not have a pretty stride. I did not run cross country in high school and my fastest marathon before training with KE was a four hour marathon. Instead, I am just the everyday guy who fell in love with running the trails in and around Knoxville. Every time I reached a new distance it required something new of myself, and always left me wanting to go farther. I wanted to run 100 miles because I knew that it was an ultimate test of character, requiring you to be not only physically healthy but also mentally and spiritually healthy. It required the most out of me but in return yielded the biggest reward. I wanted to show everyone that a chunky kid with no experience in running could achieve something special with a lot of heart and hard work.

Where do you like to run?

In Knoxville we are more than blessed with some of the best and most accessible places to run! Forks of the River and all of the Urban Wilderness, Haw Ridge, North Boundary Trail, Black Oak Ridge, Seven Islands (recovery run). My favorite place to train for distance and speed is Norris.

Outside of Knoxville some of my favorite runs have been parts of the Cumberland Trail, Roane Mountain Balds, Grayson Highlands, and the Lakeshore Trail in the Smoky Mountains.

What is your favorite song to listen to when running?

I typically do not listen to music when I run. I have always been really happy inside my own head. Running is where I go to think and process. It is also where I go to not think and just get silent. It’s my escape and music usually keeps me from going to those places.

What do you think about when running a 24 hour race?

It is important to note that I spent seven months training for this race. When training for such a long run you are not only training your legs and body but you are also training your mind as well. Your thoughts can be your biggest friend or your biggest enemy in such a long race. I went into this event with a mental game plan. I decided before hand what I would and would not allow myself to think about.

I spent a lot of time focusing on positive things such as my friends and family. I thought about my relationship with Christ a lot. I spent a good bit of the race in prayer and thankfulness to God that I could be so lucky to run 100 miles through His beautiful creation. I also spent a lot of time imagining myself crossing the finish line and that kept me focused. Aside from all that, I spent the majority of my time with my head clear. I got focused and stayed in control of the mental demons that want to creep in and often that means just shutting your brain down, checking out, and running.

Because I had an aggressive goal of finishing top 20 and under 24 hours I spent a lot of time preparing myself mentally for this race. I knew I would need to be positive at all times and in control no matter what.

Who inspires you?

I do not have a lot of running inspirations. I am a highly self-driven and motivated person. During my 100 mile run I was inspired by God’s Love for me and His blessing of being able to run! Nothing tricky there, just simple truth. I was also very inspired by the support that I received from my friends who came and crewed and paced for me. There is no way I would have been able to do what I did without their help. They were my biggest source of inspiration and energy!

Just because I know it aggravated Bobby, I also loved to read Prefontaine quotes. I loved that Prefontaine knew he wasn't always the best runner but that he was the best at suffering. I felt like I could identify with that. Give me heart over talent any day!

What are you doing now?

I am a missionary for Children’s Cup and am moving January 15th to spend the next two years in Nelspruit South Africa. I will be establishing feeding programs, and working with communities to develop programs that will help provide care for the tens of thousands of double orphans in the region. Last February I quit my job with The Lawn Butler and moved to Baton Rouge where I spent a year working with Children’s Cup stateside and now I am getting ready to jump across the ocean and work in South Africa.

I am still running on average 50 miles a week but do not have any races on the horizon. I am focusing on the next chapter of my life as a missionary, and my running has become a source of peace, joy, and comfort. I am currently grabbing as many sunset runs at Haw Ridge as I can! My favorite route is a counter clock wise loop around the perimeter, come up the east ridge, and then follow the ridges all the way back to the west shore and then around to the parking lot. If you time it correctly, every time you climb a ridge you get hit with a magnificent view of the sunset.

I am looking forward to finding some great trails in South Africa. It is an outdoorsman’s paradise and should prove to be an awesome playground!

Running Background:

I did not start running until my sophomore year in college. I was running 5k’s when I could but was not working on any speed. For the next four years or so I was off and on with running. It wasn't until 2008 or 2009 (don’t remember) when I ran the Trodden Trail series that KTC put on. I ran all the races and made some great friends. After that we spent a year or so running longer distances in the mountains. The next year I ran four 50k’s and two 50milers but never really felt like I was improving. That is when I decided to go for a 100 and hire KE to get me there. I had a decent base of running in the mountains but when Bobby got me I was running 10 min miles. After my 100, I was running 7 min miles and under.

Running Style:

I am a minimalist. I don’t run with a Garmin unless I don’t know the distance upfront. (This also bothered Bobby! lol) I don’t get hung up on all the powders, compression socks, belts, vests, shirts, tights, lights, and other junk. I am happiest in shorts (with pockets) a shirt or no shirt depending on weather and a hand held water bottle. That is all. I try and keep running at its purest form and not complicate it with things.

I also trained very simply. I ran fast, I ran a lot of miles, and then I ran more miles. Then I rested and did it over again. I did not wear full body compression suites. I did not seek out the newest technology in recovery drinks or electrolyte powders. I ate clean, ran, drank water, and took gels.

Good luck Chris as you journey to create an impact on those in South Africa. You have definitely made a huge impact on the Knoxville community with your determination, strength of mind, and compassion. When you return to Knoxville, KE will be here for you!