Chris Clothier, a 48-year-old father of five (ages five to 18) and a partner at real estate investment company REI Nation, makes it sound easy to get up and run four to five miles every day—despite that being a daunting idea for most of us.

This Dallas native is a lifelong athlete and runner. His family moved to Memphis in 1986, and his athletic career continued to flourish. Chris started on the varsity soccer team at Germantown High School as a freshman and went on to play at the University of Memphis. Post-college, Chris began coaching competitive soccer, training children of all ages for 25 years. 

Currently, Chris’s fitness routine centers on running, and a typical jaunt is four to five miles. While most runners love to track their progress on Fitbit or Strava, Chris’s approach is unique. “I run without a watch or anything. A good way to ruin a great run is by worrying about metrics like distance and speed.” 

Although balancing fitness and family isn’t always easy, he says that focus and prioritization are essential to maintaining balance. “My kids, wife, business, and health are all a priority,” Chris explains. “It’s just a matter of not falling into the trap that time is a limiting factor, and knowing that you may have to sacrifice those extra miles in order to spend time with the family.” 

Chris believes in ensuring that, above all else, every run feels good. “It’s hard to make running a habit when you’re overly focused on how fast you’re going; you’ve got to just do what feels good,” Chris says. “I’m not really big on racing and running marathons. I just like to run.” 

However, Chris holds two races close to his heart as some of his proudest athletic accomplishments: the 2018 Boston Marathon and the 2017 Keys 100 Ultramarathon. 

The 2018 Boston Marathon was a notoriously difficult race. “The weather was crazy—nothing any runner could ever prepare for,” says Chris about what some experts have called the worst weather in Boston Marathon history. There was unprecedented wind, rain, and cold temperatures. “I wasn’t ready for those conditions. That finish was 100% attitude,” Chris declares. 

His experience at the 2017 Keys 100 Ultramarathon was an entirely different tale. Chris decided to sign up for the race because there was a chance he couldn’t finish it. “I wanted to really challenge myself,” Chris says. “I had a blast, but I wasn’t properly prepared for that kind of distance.” He ended up withdrawing from the race after 60 miles. But his ultramarathon aspirations are far from over; he’s set to compete in the 2021 race in Key West, Florida. 

His first ultramarathon had a profound impact on him. His friend Jesse Itzler, who helped him prepare leading up to the race, was there to reflect with Chris after his return. “We were catching up at Shelby Farms, and Jesse looked out at the park and asked why I didn’t just host my own race out here.” 

That suggestion sparked Chris to establish the annual Big Buffalo 50, a 50-mile endurance run and relay event that attracted an astounding 800 runners to Shelby Farms during the inaugural March 2018 event. 

The Big Buffalo 50 is also an opportunity to give back. All proceeds from the race go to the Cancer Kickers Soccer Club, an organization founded by Chris and his wife Michelle in 2017. This family-run passion project is dedicated to providing a positive environment for kids battling cancer, fostering an atmosphere of positivity, fellowship, and confidence. 

The Big Buffalo 50 and the Cancer Kickers Soccer Club combine Chris’s passions: fitness and family. “This has really been a great opportunity for the whole family to stay fit and have fun together.” 

By Lucy Harrison

Photo by TIndall Stephens