He runs runs and also runs an awful lot himself. He’s Queenstown Parkrun founder and co-director and serial marathon runner Chris Seymour. Former runner PHILIP CHANDLER catches up with him to ask why he runs, and how a personal cause inspired him to run around the world
For Chris Seymour, who conceived Queenstown Parkrun and has run 28 marathons, including two 50km ultras, next month’s pretty special.
February 3 sees the 250th edition of the local parkrun — one of 2000-plus free 5km runs held around the world.
Then, on February 25, the 47-year-old’s running his first marathon — in Osaka, Japan — since almost losing his life due to blood clots on his lungs.
Though running’s his magnificent obsession, Seymour earns his coin as Asia Pacific professional services director for an American software company, in charge of about 80 employees.
He grew up in Houston, Texas, then moved to Los Angeles in the early 2000s to complete a computer information systems degree.
In 2009, his current employer seconded him to Sydney to kickstart that regional division — he also got a masters in information technology through the University of New South Wales.
Till 2013, Seymour says he’d only ever run while training for other sports like BMX, basketball, American football and Muay Thai.
That year, a work colleague talked him into running an ‘outback’ half marathon in Uluru, Australia.
Sitting afterwards with two older runners, they told him they were in the ‘seven continents club’, having run marathons on every continent including Antarctica.
‘‘I was like, ‘that sounds like a pretty cool idea’.’’
Soon after, he found his Houston-based great-niece Cori, then 2, had developed a rare, terminal brain disease, metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD).
Seymour says this became his catalyst for taking on the seven-continents challenge, dubbing it his ‘Run Over MLD’ charity mission to raise awareness and support for families affected by the disease.
His mission kicked off in 2015 with marathons in Tokyo, Paris, Sydney and New York, followed by South Africa, Chile and Antarctica the following year.
In 2017, to complete the ‘marathon grand slam’, he added the North Pole Marathon on the frozen Arctic Ocean, in minus 40-45-degree
‘‘That was the hardest thing I think I’ve done — your breath would basically freeze to your face mask so I had icicles [on] my face.’’
Meanwhile, he and his wife Jamie had visited Queenstown in 2014 for the first Queenstown Marathon, buying a Jack’s Point section while here ‘‘when you could still negotiate the price down’’.
They got a house built they initially thought could be a short-term rental.
But when they got notice on their Sydney rental in 2017, ‘‘we said, ‘let’s just move to Queenstown and have a lifestyle change’’’.
Seymour says he used to run Sydney’s Parkrun and was surprised there wasn’t one here.
‘‘I saw Wānaka was starting a Parkrun and thought if Wānaka has one, then obviously we can start one in Queenstown.’’
After gauging interest, he and Jamie, Jeff Kennedy and Phil Gerard kicked off the Queenstown Parkrun in the Gardens in June, 2018.
It’s been a huge success, and apart from introducing many locals to running, it’s also attracted many visitors.
On January 6, it had a record 255 runners, breaking Christmas Day’s record of 228, with Seymour estimating 65-70% were out-of-towners.
Meanwhile, he’s continued running marathons — raising, he estimates, $US10,000 for MLD charities — but had a serious scare after last April’s Christchurch marathon.
His shin area had started hurting badly halfway through — it turned out to be a stress response in his navicular which then formed a blood clot that, after it broke, ended up in both lungs.
It was only diagnosed when his doctor, Fiona Rorrison, got him to do a battery of blood tests — the blood marker was so high she told him to go to hospital, where a CT scan revealed the problem.
He credits Rorrison and Lake District Hospital doctors and nurses for saving his life.
He took blood thinners for six months and is now building up for the Osaka marathon, which he says is just about getting back in the saddle.
Of late, Seymour’s also be come a running ambassador for Lululemon and gone on the charitable trust which recently organised the inaugural mountain running event, The Wild, behind Arrowtown.
For the next two years his ‘Everest’ goal is to break three hours for the marathon — his best time’s 3.05.
And he’s longing for many more of those zen-like states on long runs, commonly known as ‘runner’s high’, that he says feel great.