Podcast: Episode 124 with Mike Rouse

By Mario Fraioli |

“I’ve said this many, many times. I’m 67 years old. I got busted when I was 33, got out of prison when I was 34. I spent the first 33 years of my life, Mario, everything was about Mike Rouse. Everything I did. What kind of great car can I have? How much money can I have in the bank? How big a house can I get? How can I have the prettiest girlfriend? How can I have the most success? The best title? How can I have all the things that society depicts as successful? Going to prison put me on a whole ’nuther plane and level. And I realized that the rest of my life I wanted to spend giving back because doing that is so much easier than trying to be somebody that you’re really not. So [for] 33 years, basically the first half of my life, was all about me. And since I was released from prison on February the 27th of 1987, everything’s been about everybody else. Now I can’t say that about every decision I’ve made and every action I’ve done, but for the most part, my life now is spent trying to give back to other people.”

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Mike Rouse is close friend of mine—I’ve known him for 10 years and helped him edit and publish his first book, Zero to 60—and he’s got an incredible story that I’m excited for him to share with all of you. I don’t even know where to begin when describing this man: Mike, who is 67 years old, started running in the mid-80s while he was in prison, where he served 14 months of a five-year sentence for possessing cocaine with an intent to sell. That experience behind bars changed his life for the better and led him down a path of running and giving back to the communities and causes that mean so much to him.

As a runner, Mike has done more crazy stuff than anyone I’ve ever known, which is saying a lot. Over the past 33 years he’s been involved in the sport, Mike has run over 130,000 lifetime miles. He’s completed 261 marathons, 34 50K races, 79 races that were over 50 miles but less than 100, 40 100-milers and/or 24-hour runs, 12 Ironmans, and 6 ultramans, where he’s a 3x age-group world champion. One of the coolest things about Mike is that he regularly uses his running as a vehicle to bring awareness to and raise money for causes and organizations he believes in, like the Blazeman Foundation for ALS, the Boot Campaign, Navy SEAL Foundation, and others.

This is a long conversation—the longest one I’ve ever recorded for the podcast to date—but I promise you that you’ll want to listen to it until the very end. It’s full of incredible stories and numerous examples of inspiration. Mike told me about overcoming cocaine addiction and discovering distance-running while he was behind bars, getting into the specialty running industry—an industry he still works in—not long after he got out of prison, why he’s comfortable being alone with his own thoughts and has never listened to music while on a run, the link between substance addiction and ultrarunning, his keys to staying healthy and motivated at the age of 67, what he means when he says to “be somebody” and “give people roses while they’re living,” and a lot more.

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