In the philosophy of Roger Bourban , the words "I can't" do not exist. And it was precisely this way of thinking that launched his exciting and unique career.
Bourban was a restaurateur and chef whose hobby of running brought him international attention in 1979 when he qualified for the Guinness Book Of World Records as "The World's Fastest Running Waiter." That was no easy feat considering Roger not only ran marathons (26 miles, 385 yards) attired in waiter's togs (bow tie, vest and all) but toted a tray with an open bottle of mineral water as well. Not once during the race did he spill so much as a drop of liquid (3 lbs., 2 oz.) -- a remarkable demonstration of endurance, discipline and strength. After that, Bourban stayed on course and continued to set world records in various running events.
“Bourban won the 20K event by more than 18 minutes”
The 6'3" Bourban began running competitively in 1976 when the first annual waiters' races were held in California . That year he won both the Los Angeles Waiters' Race and the Beverly Hills International Classic 10K for Waiters, setting records in the 1K, 5K and 10K divisions. Roger Bourban subsequently improved his time in all events, and no one has yet to top his records [see Race Statistics]. In 1981 he even beat Daniel LeMoine, the French champion running waiter, in a showdown race in Paris (site of the original waiters' races dating back to early in the 20th century). Bourban won the 20K event by more than 18 minutes; however, running has always been much more than a competition for Roger, who claims, "In running, everyone is a winner. The real challenge is to reach within the depths of your capabilities and perform to the greatest of your potential."
Roger was always athletically inclined. As a child he excelled in skiing and became a member of the Regional ski team before turning to Judo. He made the Swiss National Judo Team and continued his formal training for 16 years, achieving a Second Degree Black Belt "Nidan" as well as winning the Sydney Cup in Australia in 1971. It wasn't until 1979, however, that Bourban started running seriously. Up until then jogging simply had been part of his judo training.
Running was not Roger's only passion. Born in Switzerland , where his parents owned a restaurant, he literally grew up around excellent cuisine. By his late teens, he was an experienced chef. To round out his education, he attended the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne ( Switzerland ), one of the most prestigious hotel/restaurant schools in the world. By the time he was 25, he had already traveled around the world twice, settling in the United States in 1972.
In 1976 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, Roger Bourban set his first Guinness Book World Record: without any assistance, he prepared 201 fruit tarts (9 ½" in diameter) in 11 hours, 55 minutes from start to finish, as witnessed by the hotel's Executive Chef and members of the news media.(GUINNESS:The Stories Behind The RECORDS." FASTEST RUNNING WAITER " by David Spetner.Copyright 1982,1981 by Sterling Publishing Co. N.Y.
During the 1970s, Roger was in great demand at some of the better continental restaurants in California , and in 1980, he took a turn with a restaurant of his own, Café Monet Bistro. Roger then served as General Manager of Nicky Blair’s, a popular Hollywood gathering spot of the stars from its opening in 1986 until a serious injury sidelined him. As “The Running Waiter” or “Le Garcon Rapide” (the fast waiter), Roger managed to combine his cooking and running passions by traveling around the world making television, radio and personal appearances. He officiated at waiter’s races; lectured on health, exercise and nutrition and gave demonstrations on cooking, baking and protocol for entertaining at home. During his versatile career, Roger Bourban appeared on numerous television shows and achieved international fame. He also found time to act in an occasional film, television show or commercial with energy to spare.
Back in 1976 no one really believed "The Running Waiter" would ever be able to complete a marathon, let alone set a world record and wind up on the cover of an edition of The Guinness Book Of World Records. Even more impressive is the fact that Roger's time of 2 hours, 47 minutes would have won the first four Olympic marathons! Bourban's best marathon time (without the tray and bottle) is 2 hours, 29 minutes.
During his running career, Roger Bourban won more than 200 international waiters' races and his world records in running events of various distances remain undefeated. His strength of character and physical talent earned him respect from not only race directors, the media and sport fans throughout the world, but from other athletes, including world-class runners, Ron Hill and Rod Dixon, who have trained with him. A real renaissance man, Roger has always believed, "Nothing is impossible. The only real loser is the one who does not try."