Central Illinois man, 62, goes the distance with 100-mile ultramarathon
In the long run, David Benson of Galva is glad he was able to complete a 100-mile ultramarathon this year — even if things didn’t go exactly as he had planned.
He was originally entered to compete in the Hennepin Hundred, which was scheduled for the first weekend of October.
“I was given an entry for Christmas by my wife, but of course everything fell apart this year, and everything was canceled,” he said. “So, I entered another one in Southern Illinois to try and get my run in, since I had done all of my training. I really didn’t want to train this hard next year.”
But the 62-year-old Benson was shut out of that event, as well, because the state limited the amount of entries in it because of the COVID pandemic.
“So, I just decided to run the Hennepin Hundred on my own,” he said. “I entered the virtual aspect of it, but I ran it solo. It was the same course of that they have every year.
“You have 30 hours to be an official finisher, and I completed it right about 24 hours and 30 minutes. My GPS watch said my moving time was in the 21-, 22-hour time.”
It was the first 100-mile event for Benson, who did not start his long-distance endeavors until he turned 50. But running turned out to be a byproduct of his initial plan.
“I was always a long-distance cyclist, and I wanted to do triathlons,” Benson said.
Those races included a swim of 2.4 miles, a bicycle ride of 111.8 miles and a running distance of 26.2 miles — a full marathon.
Benson, however, ran into a problem right away.
“I can’t swim,” he admitted. “So that kind of shot that down the tubes. I wanted to try anyway, so I tried swimming, and I knew I had to learn how to run.”
Benson started his running efforts by entering some 5K races before eventually graduating to longer distances.
“The only reason I got in it was that everybody else was doing it,” he said. “When your friends are going up and running in the middle of the winter, and, hey, there’s a shirt and a medal, you sign up and spend your money! It’s also the camaraderie of everybody and the friendships that you make.”
But the early 50-mile efforts didn’t go very well for Benson.
“I did the 50-mile option of the Hennepin Hundred in 2016 with Lucas (Raymond), and it was a learning experience,” he said. “At 45 miles, all I wanted to do was be done. The last 5 miles were awful. And we hurt so bad.
“But we did so much wrong. I didn’t train properly. I didn’t hydrate properly. I didn’t eat properly. I had the wrong shoes. I had the wrong nutrition packs.”
So, when Benson decided to jump to the 100-mile course, he had already corrected many of his prior miscues.
“And I just wanted to see if it could do it again, and to be honest with you,” he said about entering the longer race. “Other than just being crazy and doing something weird, I wanted to do something that nobody else had done. Runners do crazy things, and that’s one of them.”
With some online guidance from coach Nick Pigg, who lives in Kansas City, Benson was much better prepared this time around.
Pigg used to own a running store in Galesburg, which is where Benson learned more about running.
“I learned that getting fitted properly for a good pair of shoes is the best thing that you can do,” he said. “You can’t go to a Walmart or a Target and buy a pair of shoes and go out and run 15 or 20 miles. You can, but you’re going to pay for it.”
Benson, a 1976 graduate from ROVA (now ROWVA), also is in better shape now than when he was in high school.
“I was, for lack of a better term, kind of the fat kid that got picked on in high school.,” he said. “I’m probably 60 to 80 pounds lighter now than I was back then..”
Pigg has continued to educate Benson through his online coaching company, PR Project.
“This time I did so much right,” Benson said. “I hired a coach, I trained right, and my wife had my nutrition dialed in 100 percent. I had better equipment, and I just knew more about what I was doing. When I hit the 50-mile mark, I went, ‘You know, this ain’t bad! I don’t hurt near as bad as I did last time.’ ”
The Hennepin course started in Sterling and ended up in Colona. But Benson did not start the race as it was scheduled, after getting advice from a more experienced ultramarathoner.
“The race was supposed to start at 7 a.m.,” Benson said. “But this guy said that I should start at 3 in the afternoon, so that when you’re running at night, you’re more fresh and you’re not as tired. You don’t want to be out there in the middle of the night tired, take a chance on tripping and falling.”
With the help of pacers Raymond, Jason Olmsted, Julia Bernardi, Jeremy Randolph, Matt Davis and Cole Vanwassenhove, and the support crew of Benson’s wife, Roni, Andrew Ericson, Stephanie Diane, Brittany Fleming and Coupland Davis (Matt’s son), Benson started the run on Friday, Nov. 6, and completed the course the next afternoon.
“I’m probably not going to do another 100, but I plan on doing the 50 of that race next year if they have an in-person race,” Benson said. “And I’m signed up to do one in late March in Ottawa, Kansas, the Prairie State 50. There’s a group from Galesburg going, and my coach is going to be running it.
“I’m glad I did (the 100-mile event), but I’m glad it’s over!”
Johnny Campos can be reached at 686-3214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JohnnyCampos59.