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

(Continued from page 1)

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


As a college sophomore, Romano developed an infection in her lymph nodes serious enough to require surgery after strep throat went untreated. She wound up spending eight days in the hospital, hooked up to a breathing tube, unable to speak, strapped into her bed at night so she wouldn't rip out the respirator.

"During that time," Rick Romano said of his daughter, "she convinced herself she wanted to do something special."

An idea for an East Coast bike trip transformed into the Pacific-to-Atlantic run between January and May of 2011.

Among her revelations was the inherent goodness of strangers, who offered a warm meal, a clean bed or simply support for a 23-year-old woman with spunk, grit and determination.

"I truly feel like I can chase down any dream I have," she blogged after finishing that run from Huntington Beach to Charleston, S.C. "I just have to take the first steps. ... I honestly believe this is true for each and every person. There's nothing special about me."


Halfway through a book about that journey, she got antsy for another adventure. She and Kreher considered an Icelandic circumnavigation before settling on the Tour de France, a famous sporting event with a challenging course that doesn't include women, although six female cyclists did ride last year's Tour a day ahead of the men.

Romano found out about them while doing research for her trip. "They gave us some great advice," she said. "Bring a good rain jacket!"

She needed it May 18, the day she started her personal tour in Nice, France. Since then, she's been averaging 30 miles a day at a roughly nine-minute mile pace -- which picked up considerably when, with Kreher nowhere in sight, a wild boar burst from nearby woods.

"I've never been so scared," Romano said. "I mean, I'm afraid of dogs, and here was this big disgusting-looking wild boar grunting at me. I turned around and booked it."

Weeks of rain and cloudy skies made an already arduous task seem even more daunting. The absence of sunshine took an emotional toll on top of the blisters, aches and pains that come with running over a route designed to make professional cyclists wince. The total elevation gain alone is more than 100,000 feet.

On the worst day, in late June, with a calf injury, swollen feet and an itchy red rash, Romano went to sleep wondering if she would be able to make it. Next morning, the hoteliers greeted her with news that they had spent the night reading her blog, and that both room and breakfast were gratis. Oh, and take this box of fresh croissants and local cherries.

"Things got better from that point," said Romano, noting the sun's emergence, the discovery of 30 euros (about $41) on the ground and encountering other generous hosts, often through the warmshowers.org website set up for traveling cyclists.

She tackled the Pyrenees in early June and emerged from the Alps on Wednesday. She scheduled eight rest days among the 64 she figured it would take to cover the demanding course.

The steep climbs and shin-pounding descents are what make this run far more difficult than her 2011 transcontinental journey. Plus, the first run was on her own schedule, with no particular end date.

Upon entering the Alps last week, she admitted to still having doubts.

"There hasn't been a day yet when I thought, 'I have this. I know I'll finish when I want to in a way I want to,' " she said. "Every day is still kind of a question mark."

So she continues her routine. Up early, eat breakfast, run until 5 or 6 p.m., drive to a host's house or find lodging, eat dinner, stretch, massage, core workout, update her blog (if Internet is available), then to bed.

If all goes well, Romano will remain in Paris to see the Tour finish, then drive eight hours with Kreher to board a ferry to Corsica for her final stages. She plans to fly back to Maine on the night of Aug. 2, giving her a few hours before the start of the Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race in Cape Elizabeth.

"It would be cool (to run), but I don't have a number," she said. "I can at least watch." 

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:


Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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