Running the Tour de France: Zoë Romano

Zoë Romano attacks the Tour de France route in a way few will ever dare – by running it.

© Alexander Kreher

Every year, the notoriously difficult Tour de France route is ridden by cycling enthusiasts eager for a taste of the torture the pros suffer every summer. On July 21st, American distance runner Zoë Romano will become the first person to ever do it on foot.

Logging almost 50km a day since she began on May 18th, Romano will run over 3,200 kilometers, the equivalent of almost 80 marathons, over eight weeks. The run – during which she hopes to raise over $100,000 for the World Pediatric Project, which provides medical resources to children in developing countries – is a follow-up to her US cross-country run in 2012.

American distance runner Zoë Romano. © Alexander Kreher

The features of the Tour de France route produce unique challenges for a runner. Compared to her US endeavour, Zoe says it’s “absolutely more daunting and more athletically demanding. The run across America had no schedule and there were far fewer elevation changes. With this run I've set a goal to finish one day ahead of the cyclists and the mountain climbs are crazy. I’ve just finished up seven consecutive days in the Alps with major climbs every day, and I've got four more to go!”

Distance runner Zoë Romano, pre-race stretch.© Alexander Kreher

That means significant wear and tear on the body. “It’s a lot of body maintenance,” says Zoe. “Massaging, stretching, proper nutrition, enough sleep, ice baths when I can, jumping in Alpine streams when I can. Fortunately, I've got a great boyfriend who's with me filming my journey and he massages my legs and does some trigger-point work every night. Oh – and I have five pairs of shoes I rotate wearing."

Of course, while the cyclists hit the course with a speed goal in mind, Zoe’s mindset is to keep it safe and steady. The big difference is on the descents – the cyclists can take full advantage of the power of gravity, while for her every step is quad-jolting effort. But her 5'34 minute kilometer (nine minute mile) average pace is right on track to have her finishing ahead of the peleton in Paris, giving her time to watch the cyclists come in and circle the Arc de Triomphe.

Follow the last portion of Zoë's run on her website.