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Enjoying The Process: An Interview With Chris DeNucci

Time:2017-08-05 18:06Shoes websites Click:

Chris denucci

Chris DeNucci finished 20th male at the 2015 Western States 100. Then, in 2016, he finished ninth, and, in June, in the race’s 2017 edition, he improved to a fifth-place finish. A radiologist at Stanford University by trade, DeNucci understands that success—in running, academics, or life—is the result of a process. But the San Francisco Bay Area, California resident may never have discovered his penchant for endurance events if not for an intestinal disease that led to serious health issues, complicated surgeries, and a book about the Appalachian Trail. Suffice it to say that his path to the track in Auburn has been an interesting one.

Put up your feet, listen to this audio preview, and then read on to learn about the bearded doctor, Chris DeNucci.

iRunFar: You grew up in a military family.

Chris DeNucci: Yeah, every time I tell people that, people ask, ‘What branch?’ Like my dad was on the front lines in a tank or something [laughs]. He was a dentist in the military. Still, it’s a vital part of the healthcare system within the military. Growing up, we moved around quite a bit. I was actually born in Arizona. We lived in Texas, Maryland a couple times, Alaska—so, I kind of got a taste of everywhere throughout the U.S. It was an interesting childhood.

iRunFar: Did your family stay active?

DeNucci: I grew up in a pretty active family. I was encouraged to play sports but I was also really interested in sports. I played all sorts of sports. My sisters were always really athletic too. It was kind of part of our family. It was never on a super-high level but we were all doing that stuff because we liked to be active. I remember growing up that I really wanted to be a professional hockey player and a professional baseball player. This was at the time when these dual athletes were coming out, like Bo Jackson and Deon Sanders. I remember wanting to be something like that, a jack of all trades.

My parents were the type that woke up every morning and took the dog for a run for three miles. My dad was one of these early marathoners in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. Not everyone was doing it then. They were the guys who wore minimalist shoes and if you drank water [during a run], they thought you were weak. So, I was exposed to that, though I didn’t necessarily aspire to it at that time. In thinking back, I was surrounded by that.

Chris DeNucci 2

As a kid, Chris DeNucci pursued his first passion, hockey. All photos courtesy of Chris DeNucci unless otherwise noted.

iRunFar: What was it like to move around so much as a kid?

DeNucci: As a kid, I thought it was awful [laughs]. It was uprooting from friends and stability. Often in a military family, it’s one place for only a year or two. You meet people, get into a school, and then you get assigned to a new place. It was tough as a kid. You don’t fully understand these things as a kid, either. I remember when my dad got assigned to Alaska, I really thought we would live in an igloo because that’s what I had seen in cartoons [laughs]. It’s really the unknown, as a kid—it was scary.

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DeNucci in Alaska, one of many places he lived as a kid–and not inside an igloo.

iRunFar: To jump ahead, do you think the unknown became familiar, and that’s why you got interested in ultrarunning? Ultrarunning is a lot like a quest into the unknown.

DeNucci: That’s an interesting question. I had never thought of it in that context. But, you know, getting uprooted all the time, fitting in was never easy, but once you do it, you have a sense of accomplishment. You go to the unknown, you conquer the fears of showing up in a new place with people you don’t know, and then after you’ve been there, you feel like you’ve overcome that fear.

Ultras are very much like that, going into the unknown, especially as you start going to longer distances and doing more difficult courses. You don’t know if you’re physically or mentally able to do it. It’s not until after the race that you get that satisfaction, after you experience the challenges and the hardships during it. Maybe it’s that post-race satisfaction that keeps you coming back, and maybe I did get a taste of that as a child in a different setting.

iRunFar: Did you learn anything from moving around all those years?

DeNucci: One thing it allowed me to do is adapt to different situations and handle different situations and meet people and try to fit in and find commonality with people who have different backgrounds. I think I did that a lot through athletic endeavors. I went to three different first grades. And it was always, Who’s the fastest kid at recess or in gym class? If you could excel in those areas, you could more easily make friends. I remember racing people and trying to do that as a kid—play baseball or soccer or whatever it was at the time.

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