Chris Mocko is a name amongst a growing list of elite trail runners who turned to ultras after a background in competitive track and road running. Having been a walk-on at Stanford University and having taken marathoning quite seriously after college, Chris is no stranger to hard work. His many years in the sport are evident when he races, as he exudes a sense of patience and calmness that one gains through years of experience.
Where Chris really stands out, though, is through his infectious attitude. In witnessing Chris at both of his last two races, I never saw him without a smile on his face, and he was likely shouting something to his family or peers that lightened the mood of the ever-intensifying aura of the trail scene.
Chris has a long list of ultras to his name, breaking into the sport in an impressive fashion. In 2016, Mocko snagged a notable 7th place finish at Western States. While he flaunts a funny and lighthearted attitude towards the sport (and life, generally - have you seen The Mocko Show?), runners don’t place 7th at Western States without a certain level of seriousness and competitive drive.
I first saw Mocko race not too long ago, at a small Aravaipa race in Phoenix called the Pass Mountain 50k. Chris popped up to the front of the starting line at the very last minute, sharing laughs and high-fives with his fellow racers. The race had a bit of extra competition this year, as some locals who were scheduled to do the TNF 50 Mile Championships needed to unleash their training elsewhere, once TNF was cancelled due to the California wildfires.
After the start, I saw the front of the race at about 8 miles, and they were cruising. Chris was in 3rd, a few minutes behind first. He yells to his parents, “I told you the course record would be crushed!” I saw him again with about 8 miles to go, and he had moved into 2nd, still a couple minutes behind 1st, who was still looking strong. Mocko continued nonchalantly chatting with his parents during the race, asking for information on 1st place, but was clearly now in hunt mode, gaining momentum in the second half of the course.
I meandered over to the finish line with plenty of time to see the leaders come through. I saw Mocko come around the corner, on pace to handily bury the course record. Sporting his signature ear-to-ear smile, Chris performed his (also signature) limbo-through-the-finish-line-for-first-place move. Stephen Kersh came through in 2nd, not far behind. Mocko snuck up on him with about 2k to go, moving with confidence. Notably, Stephen said to me after the race, “I had some blisters. I should have used Happie Toes.”
I, along with almost 10,000 others, watched Chris’ recap on The Mocko Show after the race. “Not every race is gonna go perfectly, but you can’t get demoralized when one effort doesn’t go the way you expect, there’s always a better effort on the horizon, and you just have to be patient, try to stay positive… stay happy, keep smiling, and you’ll find that mojo again… I hope this is the start of greater things to come in 2019.”
He did have one more race, however, in 2018. Mocko flew to South Africa a couple weeks after Pass Mountain for Ultra-Trail Cape Town. Unfortunately, his mojo was stymied a bit when his luggage didn’t make it to the Southern Hemisphere. A long list of essentials for the race’s mandatory gear check was left in Chicago, but, luckily, a fan of The Mocko Show came through and helped Chris get everything he needed the day before the race (including some SNB! - shoutout to our S. Africa distributor).
During this conundrum, Chris lowered his expectations to more of a just finish the dang thing mentality. While disappointed with a 14th place finish, Chris did indeed finish the dang thing, even after verbally admitting to his fans via mid-race self-taken video footage that he was going to drop out around mile 35. The terrain was more technical than any American runner expected, but that patience and determination helped Mocko keep calm and get to the finish line.
Going into 2019, Mocko has resolved to make some changes. After departing from the tech world (he left his job at Twitter last month), he plans to fully commit to running, this time with no intention to return to that 9-5 life. Chris’ most lofty goals for himself re: this “running” thing are to get a girlfriend and win Western States, in that order. We can’t wait to see what you accomplish, Chris!
Photos courtesy of Stephen Kersh & Sarah Cotton