Chris and Kelly McBride, a dynamic duo from Golden, Colorado, dismiss their age as an obstacle when following their dreams and passions. From finishing in the top 5 of 100-mile endurance trail races at age 53 to becoming a safari guide on the plains of South Africa at age 46, they epitomize the meaning of living a timeless life.
Q: Chris, you have been a runner for most of your life. At what age did you start competing in 100-mile endurance trail races, and what led you there?
A: I was 46 when I completed my first 100. I ran shorter distances and races in college, but after that, I got into mountain climbing, backcountry skiing, and snowboarding. I would go on big trips that would take me away from the house for a week or two and leave me dead tired upon return. After meeting Kelly and having kids, it wasn’t cool to disappear to follow these passions for long periods, so I naturally progressed back into running. I began the endurance trail races because they combined my love of adventure, mountaineering, and racing.
Q: How many 100s have you completed? Do you have any favorites?
A: I’ve done eight 100-mile trail races, but the one that stands out the most was last summer’s HiLo (High Lonesome) race.
Q: Tell us more about The High Lonesome. Why was it so memorable?
A: The High Lonesome takes place in the Sawatch Range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, starting and ending at the base of Mount Princeton (elevation 14,197ft.) It’s a relentless loop that covers five alpine passes and about 30 miles of the Colorado Trail. My family and I have volunteered at the race aid stations for many years and think the world of the folks that run it. So, last summer was my first year running it, my family was involved, and I had a fantastic race. I finished in 24 hours, 18 mins, and 36 secs. I was the 3rd male and 4th overall finisher and the only person over 50 in the top five. It was just the pinnacle of everything I love. It was an incredible weekend.
Q: That’s an impressive feat at age 53. So that’s your age on paper; what age do you actually feel?
A: I definitely don’t feel 53. I don’t know what actual age I feel because I just don’t think about it too often. I know that I don’t recover as quickly as I used to, and I’m not nearly as fast as I used to be, but that never enters my mind when I am training. I train to be the best and fastest runner out there, not the fastest runner over 50. I consider my age a factor in my training, just like my endurance or stride length; I never consider it an obstacle.
Q: What did you think about middle-aged adults when you were younger?
A: Middle age looked a lot different back then. As a teenager, I thought there was no way a 53-year-old could keep up with me. These days when I run with my teenagers, I make them work. I can whip’em. They are the ones trying to keep up with me now.
Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to become a runner, go for a PR, or tackle a long-distance race?
A: The best thing you can do is eliminate any preconceived notions of what a runner should look like or do. You’re a runner if you run ten steps a day, 2 miles a week, or 100 miles in 24 hours. Also, you have to celebrate milestones and be forgiving if your training falls behind. Runners should push hard when they feel good and have time and pull back when they don’t. Don’t beat yourself up, and just keep going. You will eventually develop the muscle memory and motivation to accomplish your goals.
Q: What inspires team McBride to keep going?
Kelly and I coach our son’s middle school track team, which is a huge inspiration for us both. As we age, we sometimes lose the joy of running and competing. These kids just wanna race and compete in everything they do. Even the kids that don’t win love being a part of the team and competing.
Q: Kelly, you completed courses to become an African safari guide in your 40s. How did this passion arise?
A: As a young girl, I looked at National Geographic and was mesmerized by the African wildlife and tribes in Kenya and Tanzania with their vibrant clothing and jewelry. I fantasized about traveling there, but it seemed unattainable and a million miles away. So I joined the Peace Core in college, but the timing wasn’t right, and it just wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted a way to explore Africa on my own terms.
Q: How did you accomplish this?
A: In 2013, after a couple of beers (our best plans always come to us a few beers in), we began throwing around the idea of taking a sabbatical. Chris found a job coaching a running camp in Iten, Kenya, for the summer. We made a budget, got many maps, created a route, ordered a car online from Japan to be delivered to Tanzania, and our family took a year off from our life in the States to road-trip around East and Southern Africa.
Q: Did the road trip satisfy your desire for African adventures?
A: No, I always dream of more. A few years later, I found information in a travel magazine about safari guide courses in South Africa through an organization called Eco Training. Eco Training safari courses provide immersive learning experiences for professional guides. I’ve struggled with jobs that didn’t suit me throughout my life. These courses seemed the perfect opportunity to immerse myself in African wildlife and hopefully forge a new career path.
Q: So you jumped on it just like that?
A: Not immediately. It took some tears and a lot of courage to realize and explain to my family that this was what I wanted for my life. Honestly, it was very scary to take that first step in my 40s. But after a few beers, I signed up for a two-week course just to get a feel for it. It was amazing. It took me two more years to decide to put all my energy and attention into becoming a guide. Then I completed the immersive 5-week course. It was everything I ever dreamed of and more.
Q: What does the future hold for safari guide Kelly McBride?
I’m still trying to figure it out. There’s the reality of family life and responsibilities, so right now, I am planning safaris for other people through a local guide company, The Wild Source. I am also leading safari trips for friends and family. This keeps me connected, but I yearn all the time to be back in the solitude of the bush. I want to take more classes and, hopefully, more extended trips.
Q: How do you think this experience has shaped you?
A: Since I went to Africa for that initial two-week course, I’ve started taking on things that I never imagined I would feel capable of in the past. For example, completing the guide course training, running a half marathon, and coaching middle school track and cross country. I feel much stronger and more capable of achieving goals and following my passions now at 46 than ever before.
Congrats Team McBride on all your accomplishments. Cheers to two beers and all your future endeavors!
Disclaimer: This article was edited and condensed.