Ultrarunner Zach Miller is known as much for his unique living situations as he is for running long distances. The 29-year old spent the first two years of his life in Kenya, lived on a cruise ship in his early 20’s and now caretakes a cabin halfway up Colorado’s Pike’s Peak, at 10,200 feet. He won both the JFK 50 mile in 2013 and the Lake Sonoma 50 mile in 2014 while living on a cruise ship, training on a treadmill, in stairwells and at ports of call on six different continents. In 2015, Zach became the first American male to win the 101-kilometer CCC race in Chamonix, France, one of the sport’s iconic races. Since then, he’s won Madeira Island Ultra Trail race in Portugal, The North Face 50 in California (both in 2015 and 2016), and twice placed in the top 10 at the prestigious Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 170K.
Zach grew up in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, roaming the hills to avoid being inside. A mediocre track and cross-country runner in high school, Zach ran cross-country at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. He didn’t realize his full potential until 2013, when his former high school coach convinced him to sign up for the JFK 50, the oldest ultramarathon in the country. That win set his life in a new direction—one that’s been filled with great success ever since.
At Barr Camp, the off-grid hostel Zach shares with his sister and brother-in-law, and some 25,000 hikers per year, Zach spends his days chopping woods, cooking spaghetti dinners and doing dishes. In between camp chores (and often in the dark), he runs up or down the mountain, no matter the weather. His training program mimics his minimalist lifestyle—he’s one of the few professional distance runners who shuns GPS tracking devices, preferring to rely on his senses and innate sense of direction and pacing.