Chris Mocko has no regrets in going for it.
Following a successful string of races highlighted by a top 10 finish at the 2016 Western States, he quit his Silicon Valley job in February 2017 in a quest to become a full-time ultra marathoner.
Mocko piled on 150-mile training weeks and nailed podium finishes in races such as the Ultra Race of Champions 100K (first place), Way Too Cool 50K (second place) and the Marin Ultra Challenge 50-miler (first place). But along the way he kept focused on improving upon his seventh place finish at Western. When race day came, he ran smart and was in sixth place more than 60 miles into the race.
Suddenly, he bonked and could not get his legs to cooperate. Instead of calling it a day, he persevered and walked much of the final 30-plus miles. He finished in under 24 hours, an impressive time for many runners but disappointing for an elite who sought the podium.
“The climb up to Robie Point took forever, but we made it, and my crew greeted me one final time to usher me to the finish line,” he wrote in his blog. “I chugged along for one final mile, hit the track, and kicked it home in front of a scattering of sleepy fans and volunteers.”
Mocko’s motivation sank. He stopped training. Eventually he concluded his experiment. In September, he moved to Boulder, Colo., took a job at Twitter and refocused his running. It was a lesson learned.
“I need to have more going on my life than just running,” says Mocko, who won the San Francisco Marathon two years earlier. “If I were to have gotten injured, took time off, or just lacked motivation to run, I would've had no back-up options and no place to invest my time and energy. Having an office job gives me the balance and structure I need to feel a sense of accomplishment and completeness on a daily basis.”
Mocko has had a recent string of successful races since last October, including first place finishes at the Leadville Marathon, the Blue Sky Marathon and the Castle Rock Trail Marathon 50K. He has also finished second in back-to-back races this summer, the Quad Rock 25-miler and Golden Gate Dirty 30, a 50K.
'Excited about training again'
The success is due to consistent training and warmer weather in the spring, Mocko says.
“This was my first real winter in more than a decade, and the snow, the ice, the cold, and the dark mornings were a lot for me to get used to,” he says. “Basically all of my favorite trails were un-runnable for most of the winter months, which meant more time on the roads and treadmill than I would've liked. Now that the snow has melted, getting to explore a massive, wholly new trail system in Boulder County and beyond has been exactly the stimulus I needed to get excited about training again.”
Does Mocko see his new lifestyle paying off on race days?
“Time will tell!” he says, adding, “I have yet to have a good race back at sea level where I would hopefully be taking advantage of my newly adjusted altitude lungs, but I'm hoping the extra stress from the altitude plus the larger, steeper climbs that Colorado has to offer will pay dividends in upcoming races.”
With his training locked in, Mocko looks ahead to a list of big goals: “Win the Leadville 100. Compete well at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler in Marin, Calif., in November. Qualify for Western States via a Golden Ticket race — or the lottery if I'm lucky!”
And last but not least, he wants redemption at Western States. In fact, when asked what his proudest running moment is, he has the Placer High School track on his mind.
“I haven't had it yet — it will be winning Western States.”
Hometown: McLean, Virginia
Number of years running: 18
How many miles a week do you typically run: 90 miles
Point of pride: Descending on non-technical fire roads!
Favorite race distance: I've never found it, but I would think 40 miles would be the perfect distance.
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Anything Mexican. Burritos, enchiladas, margaritas, Modelo Negro. Tastes great going down ... but not so much the next day
Favorite piece of gear: Terra Kiger vest w/ 1.5L hydration bladder. Just enough fuel and water for most long runs.
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Thunderstruck by AC/DC
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: "You're faster than this. Don't think you are, know you are." — Morpheus in The Matrix
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• Youtube: youtube.com/themockoshow
• Instagram: cmocko
• Twitter: @chrismocko