On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal took a break from covering the government shutdown, to run a sports story.
Not just any sports story, though — a Q-and-A on Blake Benke. He’s a 37-year-old ultramarathoner from Westport, who “trains by running 31-mile loops of the entire island of Manhattan.”
Last month, Benke competed in his longest race ever: “the 153-mile (153 miles!) Spartathlon in Greece, which traces the epic journey of Pheidippides from Athens to Sparta.”
Benke — who has 2 kids, and still manages to find time to work on Wall Street — finished in 28 hours, 29 minutes and 34 seconds. He was the top US finisher (13th overall).
I got tired just reading about his accomplishments. But I rallied, and with the adrenaline pumping managed to pick out the best parts of the WSJ interview.
OK, so how you feeling for a man who ran 153 miles in basically one day?
Good. For the most part, I feel pretty recovered. My legs…they’re relatively good. The only real issue is a little fatigue from jet lag, which usually takes a couple of days.
The international feel was a really amazing feeling, being one of a few Americans. And then this one’s considered kind of like the Mount Everest of road ultramarathons. My strength is the road ultramarathons, not so much high-altitude, trail 100-milers, just because I don’t train up there. But roads can be very unforgiving, too. It takes usually someone that can take the pounding.
But the landscape of this one was amazing. You start in the city, but then you’re going along the coastline. You’re going through olive groves, goat farms—you really got to see the country. Even my crew, they were amazed at what they saw along the way and the people they met. It was amazing how many people had spent time in New York.
Did you get lonely at all?
Oh, yeah. Absolutely. There’s always self-doubt. There were times when you feel off. For the most part, I felt pretty good. The night [running] went fairly well for me because I had a lot of downhill too, which helped. Really the worst part for me was the second day when the sun comes up and you start to feel that heat again. That heat was just pulverizing. Luckily I finished early.
What was crossing that line like?
Amazing. First of all, when you come down, you make a turn that’s probably a quarter of a mile. The streets are lined with people and kids, and the kids come and they’re right alongside of you. Then all of a sudden they played “Chariots of Fire” and you officially finish when you touch [a statue of] King Leonidas. I have never experienced anything like that.
Now do you have a newfound appreciation for Pheidippides?
Oh yeah. Total appreciation for the distance and the history of the race.
How many pairs of shoes do you go through?
I went through 1½ pairs. I started running in a pair of shoes and my big toe kept hitting the front of the shoe. It really hurt. So I swapped [one] out. I always bring a half-size bigger, so I’m like, “Give me a left shoe.” I was the man with one blue shoe. I swapped out the left shoe and it made all the difference in the world.
Have you gone on a run since you got back?
No. I think I’m going to try not to run for a month. Now I have some time to get a physical and take care of some other items. It’s a good time to rest and let the body heal up. I’m energized. I think there will be some type of return, but not for maybe a year or two.
Are you going to lie on the couch and eat a zillion potato chips?
I don’t think so. I’ll probably just do some more cross-training. I’ll stay fit. But I’m definitely going to back off!
“06880” readers: If you have the energy to read the entire interview, click here.