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If you were anywhere along Ali’i Drive in Kona from the pier to the five-mile marker on Monday, you probably noticed a man, sometimes surrounded by friends and sometimes solo, running back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth again. In fact, Mike Rouse ran that round-trip 10-mile lap six times, a total of 60 miles to mark his 60th birthday and raise awareness for charitable causes close to his heart. Now that might sound a little crazy, but if you met Rouse – an industry veteran who currently serves as a sales executive for national brands for the Active Network – you’d learn that his life is fueled by fervent passion for pushing himself and making a difference in every way possible.
Rouse celebrates his birthday every year with such a run (albeit one mile longer each time) and thus helps raise valuable funds for organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project (www.woundedwarriorproject.org) and 3minutesout.org (www.3minutesout.org). This year, his efforts again honor his close friend Jon Blais and the Blazeman Foundation for ALS (www.waronals.com) in hopes of finding a cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease, as well as triathlete Amy Gluck, a beloved and talented age-grouper who is currently hospitalized following a horrific bike accident in which she was struck by a gravel truck.
I jumped in to join Rouse and his running entourage (including pro triathlete Hillary Biscay) during one of his ten-mile loops, just after he pit-stopped at an aid station to grab his endurance fuel of choice: a hot dog with mustard on a whole wheat bun. Thankfully he runs at a conversational pace, so I was able to conduct an interview as we cruised along between miles 22 and 23.
Triathlete.com: The first thing I want to know is how many hot dogs will you eat today?
MR: Well let’s see. We’re at mile 22 and that was my first one. Probably about six.
Triathlete.com: At what age did you start your birthday running ritual, and how long do you plan to continue the tradition?
MR: I started when I was 34. The only year I missed was when I was 56. I had a broken ankle and I was in a cast, so I walked in my walking boot for 56 minutes. I’ll keep doing it as long as I can.
Triathlete.com: Just what kind of crazy do you have to be to run 60 miles in the heat and humidity in Kona – and not even during a race?
MR: It’s for the love of the sport. I love to run. I love the energy that the island brings. I’ve only been doing it over here in Kona for about five or six years, but the island just brings me energy. And obviously since I am doing it for awareness, it helps to be here among people that understand giving. They know the Blazeman Foundation and Amy Gluck. There’s a connection there. The sports of running and triathlon have given me so much I just want to give back, so this is my way to do that, by honoring those that have been involved. It’s a way to bring us all into consciousness that there are things bigger than a race, things bigger than us and that life is just good! We’re all very fortunate that we’re in this community.
Triathlete.com: What sort of support crew do you have?
MR: I have my wife Kimmie out here with coolers. Obviously this year with her broken hip it’s a little more difficult [Kim, an accomplished age-group athlete, was slated to race on Saturday but a bike accident and subsequent hip surgery derailed that plan]. And I’ve got so many good friends who are willing to sacrifice some of their time and energy to run with me, keep me going, keep me talking and keep my mind off of the pain.
Triathlete.com: How do you start to feel around mile 40? Do things get a little wonky?
MR: They do. It’s like that for anybody that does endurance sports. Anybody that does Ironman will tell you there are going to be times on the bike when they think: This is all I’ve got. And then 30 minutes later they feel fresh. They get on the run and the same thing happens. So there’s an ebb and flow. There will be times around mile 40 when I’ll say to myself: What in the world were you thinking? Why are you doing this? But then you get to mile 50 and the end is kind of in sight and you think: I got this.
Triathlete.com: I can’t help but notice you’ve timed your run perfectly to end at Huggo’s during happy hour. And from what I remember from last year, you stuck around for quite a celebration afterward. Where in the heck do you get your stamina?
MR: Yes ma’am, that’s right! You know, I don’t know. I’ve often said that when I was born I got two hearts – one to run and one to party!
Anyone wishing to give Mike Rouse even more reason to celebrate by supporting the causes he holds near and dear may make a donation to the Blazeman Foundation at www.waronals.com or may purchase a fundraising “We Love Amy” sweatband here.