San Diego’s ‘Barefoot Elvis’ completes 100th Rock ‘N’ Roll race
By Danielle Dawson,2023-06-05
SAN DIEGO — San Diego’s very own “Barefoot Elvis” made his way across his 100th Rock ‘N’ Roll running series finish line after completing Sunday’s half-marathon.
Henry Chan, also known as the “ Barefoot Elvis ,” has become a well-known figure at the annual race event in America’s Finest City — each year donning the King of Rock and Roll’s quintessential collared jacket, sunglasses and up-do all while running without shoes.
The 62-year-old started running in the late 80s, participating in triathlons with “Competitor” magazine founder, Bob Babbitt.Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon celebrates 25 years: Winners, photos
“Triathlons helped get me into barefoot running since you run barefoot in the [swim to bike] transition of the race,” Chan said in a press release. “Eventually, I found I was getting injured less by running barefoot. I like feeling the ground, there’s more feedback.”
In 2011, Chan dropped the shoes all together for his runs, completing his first Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon the next year. But it wasn’t until 2014 — after some encouragement from Babbitt — that he started dressing up as Elvis Presley for his races in the running series.
Dressing up as Elvis during the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon started as a trend during the series’ inaugural race in San Diego back in 1998 when duathalete Kenny Souza led the race dressed as the legendary rock and roll singer.
Since then, running Elvis-es have been a race staple for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon, which now hosts events all over the world. According to Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon organizers, the most runners donning the King of Rock and Roll’s iconic look was 157 participants during the 2008.
“It’s an experience,” Chan said. “Unless you have run as Elvis, you really can’t understand it. Everyone is shouting out ‘Elvis’ and cheering you on. You are the race.”
After his first time donning the outfit, Chan started branching out from the San Diego race, completing races around the world through the event’s Tour Pass.
“It’s hard to not sign up for a race because it feels like people expect Elvis to be there, and that’s me,” he said.
According to race organizers, Chan completed 11 series in one year, setting him on a mission to complete 100 Rock ‘N’ Roll series races.
“I started seeing friends who were reaching 100 Rock ‘n’ Roll races, and thought, ‘I can do that too,” Chan said excitedly. “I crunched the numbers based on the races that were available.”
He finally hit the big 100 during the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon’s big 25th anniversary race, with his feet literally pounding the pavement for Sunday’s half-marathon distance.San Diego among top hiking cities in US: study
More than 25,000 runners participated in this year’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon event across the weekend’s three race routes. Of those who completed this year’s race, 40 were “Legacy” runners who participated in each event since the race’s first year.
While Chan isn’t considered one of the Legacy runners, the milestone he hit Sunday will go down in the races’ history books.
“It was important for me to have my 100 th race be in San Diego where it all started for me and the series,” he said.Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.