The ultrarunner talks about running in his hometown of San Diego, sneaking into Iraq, and more.
Every year since the 1990s, ultrarunner Mike Rouse, 60, of San Diego, has been spending his birthday running his age in miles.
This isn’t just for kicks — he does it as a fundraising effort. The ritual is one way that Rouse, who recently launched a running and triathlon consulting business called Ultra Endurance Sports, gives back to the sport that’s given him so much.
“Running has been so good to me,” says Rouse, who worked for various running and triathlon brands for the past 25 years. “It saved my life, and it gave me my wife. It paid for my kids’ college and provided me with a pretty nice lifestyle.”
Indeed — in addition to becoming his livelihood, running literally saved Rouse’s life.
“I started running in prison,” he says.
Extremely open about the mistakes he made in his youth, Rouse explains he got involved with the wrong crowd in his home state of Texas and found himself in trouble with cocaine. Running restored his health and led to a job at the big Texas running retail store Luke’s Locker. Soon after, he founded two nonprofits and started raising money through his birthday runs, 100-mile runs, 24-hour runs and by appealing to local groups.
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One of the foundations helped ex-convicts reintegrate into society. The other helped Kurdish refugees, many of whom immigrated to Texas after the first Gulf War, to learn English, develop job skills and receive basic healthcare and other necessities. He also helped open two schools in northern Iraq in the early ’90s.
“I used to literally sneak in and out of Iraq when it was a no-fly zone,” Rouse says.
Today, when he isn’t working on his new business or running his 12 to 15 marathons per year, he raises money to support the Blazeman Foundation for ALS and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF), which provides services to the families of fallen and injured Special Forces troops.
On July 27, Rouse went on a 24-hour run and raised funds for SOWF. The run is a tradition he started in 2012 on the one-year anniversary of the tragic Chinook shoot-down in Afghanistan that killed 38 people, including Navy SEAL and runner Jon T. Tumilson, Rouse’s dear friend.
Rouse says the death of Tumilson, along with the death of two other close friends in quick succession, helped spur him to leave the security of the big endurance companies and open up his own shop.
“I thought, you know, I’m not getting any younger,” Rouse says. “Let’s jump on it.”
Or perhaps the more apt phrase would be,“Let’s run with it.”
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Some Of His Favorite Things
Favorite shoe: Mizuno Wave Precision
“I’ve literally tried almost every shoe that’s out there at some point, and if someone said you could only run in one shoe for the rest of your life, it would be the Mizuno Wave Precision.”
Favorite local race: Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego Marathon
Favorite place to run in San Diego: Balboa Park
“I just love the horse trails over there; it’s either there or Mission Bay.”
Favorite workout: 6-hour run
“In all seriousness, that’s my favorite workout.”
Favorite piece of running gear: Mio Alpha strapless heart-rate monitor
“I’m not trying to do a promotional thing. It really is one of my favorites.”
Favorite form of cross-training: The elliptical
“The bike I’m over, and I can’t stand swimming.”
Favorite piece of running advice: “Run within yourself and listen to your body, almost as if you’re checking off a list on how your body feels; do this in both racing and training. “
Says Rouse: “You may not run as fast as your potential, but I think it will keep you running longer and stronger if you do that.”