The Knowledge

The Truth About Zach with Brandon Stapanowich

This is the part of the Zach Miller issue that Zach Miller didn’t want to happen. Why? Because this is the part where we get all the dirt on him from one of his best friends: Brandon Stapanowich.

Zach and Brandon were roommates in Colorado back in the day, and we figured Brandon would be good to talk to because he’d know a few things about Zach that maybe Zach wouldn’t bother mentioning in his interview—things relating to bananas, perhaps, or maybe outrageous things involving paper plates... Will Zach and Brandon still best buddies after this? It’s unlikely given the shameful and scandalous details Brandon dished. Actually, it’s not scandalous at all. In fact, it’s the opposite of scandalous, and it was Zach’s idea that we chat with Brandon because Brandon knows Zach inside and out, plus he’s lovely dude. That’s a bit disappointing, isn’t it? You thought we’d gone all supermarket tabloid (next month: Bat Boy’s First Ultra). The bananas and paper plates thing, though, that is true. Wait till you read it. Yikes.

Hey Brandon!


I’m calling to chat about Zach. You’re one of his oldest friends, aren’t you?

Modern-day friends, yeah. He was my roommate around 2013–2014. He’d just finished the cruise ship chapter of his life and was looking for a place to live, and a mutual friend—Alex Nichols—had connected us and it ended up working out. He moved to Manitou Springs, Colorado, and we were roommates for a couple of years before he took his position at Barr Camp, which was the caretaker position on Pikes Peak.

Right, and was he a good roommate?

Oh, yeah, yeah. 

Was he tidy?

Yeah. It was a small place, like, a one-bedroom with a loft, and he took the loft. So, close quarters, but, you know, for not knowing the guy, we got along really well.

So, it was just the two of you?

Yeah, yeah.

And you moved in together without having met, and he was definitely a good roommate? 

Yeah, he was.

What about you, though. Were you a good roommate?


I mean, I think so. We never got into arguments or anything like that. I think it helped that we had somewhere interesting to run. That probably kept us out of any trouble.

So, you guys trained together a lot?

Yeah, a little bit. Although, Zach’s recovery days were my workout days, pretty much. But he was always up for checking out different trails in the area, or to go explore a peak, you know, take a sled up Pikes Peak in the snow. He was pretty much game for anything. 

'Well, one time, I counted over sixty bananas in our one-bedroom place, and only three of them were mine.'

Did Zach ever have any nicknames?

Well, at that time, the major one was ‘Banana Boy’.


‘Banana Boy’?


Why ‘Banana Boy’?

He was really into bananas. That was like his go-to thing.

How into bananas was he that his nickname was ‘Banana Boy’?

Well, one time, I counted over sixty bananas in our one-bedroom place, and only three of them were mine.


He just loved bananas, I guess for the potassium. I feel like he’s scaled back a little bit, so I don’t know if you can call him ‘Banana Boy’ still, but that was his favorite food back in the day.

For real, though, sixty bananas?

Yeah, that was the record: sixty bananas.

What’s one of your fondest memories of that time, besides all the bananas?

Well, I think just having an adventure buddy, y’know? He was always up for anything. For long adventures in the mountains, I’d always have a friend to go with and he was great company. I mean, even at that point, he was running for Nike and sponsored, but I think the special thing about Zach is he’s very unassuming, like, you meet him and you’d never guess that he’s the elite athlete that he is, and I think that’s what makes him so personable and easy to get along with.

Yeah, I’ve noticed that through the making of this issue of POSSESSED. He just seems like a regular dude—even though in respect to running, he’s not regular at all. 

Yeah, chances are he’s a got a hole in one of his socks and he’s wearing a dirty hat... There’s just no pretentiousness about him. 

What’s his secret, though? Why is he who he is and how is able to perform the way he does?

I think he just loves it. I don’t think his training would change much if he wasn’t sponsored or at the elite level that he is. I think his training has evolved, though. When we were roommates, his standard was a three-hour run every day. 


I don’t remember where he got that from. Now I think he takes easier days and harder days, but that was his thing. So, if he worked and got home late, he’d still find a way to get in three hours. Like, if he could only do an hour in the morning, he’d get the rest in after work. He just has this consistency. But I don’t think he does it because he feels obligated, I think he just loves it that much. 

Did you see him do much cross training or strength work?

Oh, yeah. [Laughs]


Yeah, he would do, I think, at least five minutes of core every day, but [Laughs]—


—well, one of the things he did... [Laughs]

'He’d do a paper-plate work out where he’s standing on paper plates and doing all kinds of squats and lunges, and the paper plates had some slide to them...'

What’d he do?

We had, like, a tiled floor, and I don’t know where he got this from, but he would do this paper-plate workout.

Paper-plate workout?

He’d do a paper-plate work out where he’s standing on paper plates and doing all kinds of squats and lunges, and the paper plates had some slide to them—

On the tiled floor.

—Right. And he would do that for stability and, I guess, to engage his core muscles a little bit more. But I just remember he would be standing on paper-plates in the corner.


So, what you’re telling me is your home with Zach was littered with paper-plates and banana skins.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

You’re an ultra-runner, too, right?

Yeah, I enjoy long distance running. I’m usually good for one big adventure each year. I like the 100-mile distances and other long adventures.

Have you raced with Zach?

Well, he’s paced me, but I think the only race we’ve done together was a fundraising race for a children’s hospital, and it was a stadium race, so we were running at the Air Force Academy, and you run up and down these stadium steps around the top tier and then up and down the middle tier, then the bottom tier, and you finish in the middle of the field. It was like a time-trial thing, so they started people every twenty-seconds or so.

How’d you go?

Well, I ended up beating him in that race—

You beat Zach?

Yeah, but you didn’t know until they posted the results. I only beat him by a second, though. It was a very small-scale thing, but that’s something I take pride in.

The day you beat Banana Boy.

It was a great day.


And he probably didn’t even know I was racing him.

What do you think of his athletic career since you lived with him ten years ago?

Well, I think it’s pretty impressive that he’s had the longevity that he’s had, and the variety of races that he’s done. I think he’s raced on 100k road championship? You’ll have to check with him [the 2014 IAU 100k World Championships], but I remember thinking that was kinda out of his wheelhouse: hard, paved surfaces and not a lot of climbing—polar opposite to what he does now. So, yeah, his longevity and ability to adapt. I feel like in the last five to ten years the sport has definitely become more competitive and it’s hard to stay on top for long, but he’s found a way to do that because he’s always loved it so much and wants to do it into his 70s and 80s and beyond.

'I think he’s pleased with where he’s at. As long as he continues to do what makes him happy and what he’s passionate about he’s going to do well.'

Did he ever cook you up a batch of fastnachts back in the day?

Ah, no. I think that’s kind of a recent thing. 

But you know about them.

Yes. I know Zach loves giving back where he can, so it’s not uncommon to see him at a race just helping out, cheering people on, or doing the donuts or popsicles or various treats. I was actually marking a course tonight and he showed up—he’s in Colorado right now—and he showed up and said he’d be through tomorrow to make some donuts. 

They sound delicious. He actually gave us the recipe for this issue. Do you think Zach was born an ultra-runner or he just loves it and that’s what allows him to excel? Because when I look at him, I just see... I mean, have you looked at his legs?


Yeah, but, I mean, that’s what I meant by him being unassuming. He’s not a tall guy, and I don’t think you’d guess he was professional runner... I mean, the moustache stands out. But yeah, he’s got tree trunk legs and he’s super strong, plus he ran in college so he has that speed as well, but I really think he’s just durable and able to push himself into places of pain that maybe not everybody can contend with.

Okay, Last question: what does the future hold for Zach Miller? Personally, I’d like to see him go back and win UTMB. I think everyone wants that.

Yeah, I mean, with the surgery he had in 2021 [for Haglund’s deformity], that was kind of an uncertain time, but last year was the best result he’s had, and I think he was really happy with how things went. He didn’t win, but as far as the effort and the time and everything else, I mean, I think he’s pleased with where he’s at. As long as he continues to do what makes him happy and what he’s passionate about he’s going to do well.

He just needs to continue following his bliss.