July 18, 2013

Portland native runs Tour de France route

Zoe Romano is close to completing the course on foot, a 2,115-mile trek that has no known precedent.

By Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

On Sunday, British cyclist Chris Froome will likely pass beneath the Arc de Triomphe as champion of one of the world's most grueling athletic endeavors, the 100th edition of the Tour de France.

Filmmaker Alex Kreher is documenting Zoe Romano's run of the Tour de France course (see map) and has posted the following video updates:

Zoe Goes Running The Film - Video Update Week One

Video Update Week Two

Video Update Week Three

Video Update Week Four

Video Update Week Five

Video Update Week Six


He will have pedaled a bicycle through 21 challenging stages covering 2,115 miles – but he will finish the day after a 26-year-old Portland High graduate who plans to reach the famous Paris landmark on Saturday, having traversed the same steep mountain passes, arduous switchbacks and lengthy segments through the French countryside.

Without the aid of wheels.

Zoe Romano is running the Tour de France, an 11-week feat of endurance with no known precedent.

"It's mind-boggling," said George Towle, the longtime University of Southern Maine track and cross country coach who lives in the same North Deering neighborhood where Romano grew up. "Who in their right mind would even believe something like this is even possible?"

Besides the historical significance of the Tour de France run, Romano is also running about 30 miles a day in hope of raising $150,000 for the World Pediatric Project, based in Richmond, Va., about 10 blocks from where she now lives.

The project provides diagnostic and surgical care to needy children in Central America and the Caribbean. Romano's original goal was $100,000 but as of Wednesday supporters had pledged nearly $133,000.

"Originally, we were going to send four (weeklong) surgical missions," said project spokeswoman Jennifer Curtis. "Now we can send six."


This isn't Romano's first long-distance run. Towle met Romano in a local coffee shop more than a year ago when she was plugging away at a book about her first big adventure -- an unsupported transcontinental run across the United States in early 2011, the first ever done by a woman.

That resulted in a $15,000 contribution to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Curtis was initially taken aback when approached in January by Romano and her German boyfriend, Alexander Kreher, who also serves as documentary filmmaker, photojournalist and driver of the support car containing Romano's supplies.

"I was in disbelief at first because it almost sounded impossible," Curtis said. "But we invited her to come on over and she got our mission right away. She was most impressed with our capacity-building program (to build medical infrastructure in the region). We don't just save lives, we try to prevent diseases."

Romano and Kreher flew to France in mid-May (followed four days later by their luggage) and Romano started running. The Tour actually began June 29 on the island of Corsica, but she plans to run the 317-mile island portion after tackling continental France.

As with her run across the United States -- during which she pushed a baby jogger carrying supplies -- Romano has been providing updates on social media. She posts on Twitter, Facebook and her Zoe Goes Running wordpress blog.

She has written about a wild boar encounter, weeks of rain and overcast skies nearly breaking her will, the beauty of French landscapes and the warmth and generosity of the people she meets.

"It's a way to connect, because what we're doing is isolated from everyone back home," she said by phone after a recent 26-mile day in the Alps. "We understand it's more than just a run, more than just a film. It has connected us with a lot of people in ways that are still surprising us."


Romano is the second youngest of four children, three of them girls. At Portland High she played lacrosse, softball and soccer. The running bug didn't bite until college at the University of Richmond, where she played club sports and earned degrees in Spanish and international studies.

(Continued on page 2)

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