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Runner stories: Richard & Zander

Zander Ross giving a thumbs up on a run

A couple share their passion for running, how the sport spurred a life full of travel, their favorite race memories, and more.

Meet Richard and Zander

Completing a marathon is a big achievement for any runner, but hitting the finish line after 26.2 miles with your life partner must be extra satisfying. Richard Ervais and Zander Ross would know — the couple have run about 160 marathons together during their nearly 15-year relationship, and they are eager for more.

Richard and Zander met in 2006 through International Front Runners, the global network of LGBTQ+ running clubs, and married in 2016. Their love of running and travel has taken them across the globe to Rwanda, Antarctica, Beirut and other destinations.

Their runs have changed over the years — Zander used to be faster. The couple would run the first half of races together, then Zander would kick ahead. But now, Richard is the speedier of the two. None of that really matters, though — running in races around the world together has strengthened their relationship.

We caught up with the pair to chat about their running origins and discover what running means to them.

Richard and Zander with their arms in the air mid race.

How did you get started running?

Richard: I was always more of a biker and a walker. The only time I ran was when I was late for something. But in 2001, a 10-year relationship of mine ended. On my way home on a bus, I saw a sign about signing up for the San Francisco marathon training program. I thought ‘Oh, a marathon, I have the time now.’

Zander: I was actually searching for some kind of intense workout because my doctor had told me I had high cholesterol and needed to exercise. I used to hate doing anything physical. One day, I was on a layover in Miami and as I went to the boardwalk, I saw several people running and thought ‘that looks like fun.’

I decided to try right there and then. I was in a dress polo shirt, cargo shorts, and regular sneakers. I ran my first 45 minutes. The next day, I was so proud telling my coworkers what I had done. And from there I bought “Galloway’s Book on Running,” which became my bible and my coach for my first race.

What do you love about running?

Richard: I don’t actually love running. I deal with running. What I do enjoy about the sport is the challenge, the fitness, the friends you make around the world. It’s a great excuse to travel, which is one of my biggest passions.

Zander: I love how rewarding this sport can be. I did not know what an incredible world of friendship, camaraderie, and experiences running would bring to my life throughout the years. I have not only met my husband but also made an incredible group of friends. I have even made a best friend or two that listen to my triumphs and problems while we run together. Running is great therapy.

Richard and Zander standing in a river after a race.
Richard and Zander in the middle of a race.
Richard and Zander running a race together.

What is your favorite race?

Richard: We love New York. It’s probably the one we’ve done the most together. It’s pretty special, but we also love Paris. Zander used to live in Paris, so it’s fun to do that one with him. And of course, Boston when we are able to qualify.

Zander: One of my favorite races and places was our trip to run the Antarctica marathon. The race was not easy because of the terrain — it was rocky, icy, and muddy. We were also a bit exhausted from rocking on a Russian ship for several days. But seeing this amazing place was an adventure I will never forget. That’s right up there with Rwanda and taking a trip to see Diane Fossey’s mountain gorillas. I could go on and on!

Any bad race experiences you’d like to share?

Richard: I don’t really like super-hot races in general. But The Polar Circle race was way too cold. Our tour guide in Copenhagen said “Every year, runners get snow, high winds, or extreme cold. But this year you’re very lucky — you’re getting all three.”

They bring you to a glacier and set you off. You’re running in snow up to your knees with 40-50 mile-an-hour gusts, and it was minus 30 degrees wind chill. After 10 kilometers, I got on a warming bus and I couldn’t feel my feet anymore. As I was cleaning the ice off my shoes and warming up, I watched runner after runner skip the bus and I kept wondering what was wrong with me. After another 10k, there was another warming bus and people kept skipping that one, too. I finished the race and it turns out that I was one of the few runners who didn’t get frostbite.

Zander: For me, it was the San Miguel Buzz Marathon in Paso Robles, California. They used bees in the logo, because you know, buzz buzz. But that’s not why I didn’t like it. The water stations were self-pour, and we didn’t see a single soul there. No people cheering, no spectators. It was not for me.

What does running mean to you?

Richard: Running for me is friendships, travel, fitness, and a great challenge.

Zander: Running for me means freedom, accomplishment, adding friends and deleting stress. And also means a long time to reflect and meditate.”