Have you ever wanted to go out and run 200 miles of mountain terrain just because you could?
This is a question that not a lot of people ask themselves, but what if you could? What if you could just go and do because you were physically and mentally prepared to do so?
My name is Ben Light, and I am a husband, father, ultrarunner, coach, and overall life-liver from Heber City.
For the past decade, my second home has been the mountains here along the Wasatch Front. If you have had the chance to spend even a few minutes in the mountains of our state, you know that we have something special here in our very own backyard. And, if you’ve ran or hiked any of the trails, you likely know that there is nothing like constant forward motion along the uneven, rocky terrain of a mountain trail, surrounded by nature and its ever-changing environment as each season passes.
As an ultrarunner specializing in distances greater than 200 miles, I’ve experienced not only the ever changing-terrain, but the human element that comes with completing long distances.
I know what it’s like to have big goals and, over the course of time, see those goals slip away and return by digging deep to find something inside myself that I didn’t know was there. I know what it’s like to run in the dark; needing to find the light within until the sun comes out to light the day and carry me through to another one.
In 2018, I competed in the Spine Race in the UK, which is a 268-mile race in the dead of winter. I knew going in that I would be facing some tough conditions — but I was prepared — at least to the best of my ability.
During that race, the weather turned, and we were hit with Britain’s biggest storm in over 30 years. Wind and snow not only made it so that we couldn’t see any farther than two feet in front of our faces, but it isolated many of us racers on the mountains with nobody coming to help us.
Here I was at one of the highest plateaus of the course; traveling across Great Britain in terrain I was not familiar with, and in conditions that were really scary. To put this in perspective, it would be like going across a tundra area of Wyoming in the middle of a snow storm. I had snow up to my knees, and I couldn’t see the trail. I found myself relying solely on my GPS units, and post-holing in knee-deep snow for 20-miles through high winds and next to zero visibility.
At that point in time, I had to utilize every bit of mental strength and every tool of survival to endure what was definitely a life or death situation. If I was to stop, without a doubt, I would freeze to death. During that time, I had to dig deep. I had to really internalize and focus on that present moment. I had to endure and keep moving forward in order to get through.
Why am I telling you all of this? Why would someone put themselves through experiences like these?
Simply put: Because experiences like these really show us what we’re made of. Experiences like these help us to know ourselves a little bit better. Experiences like these help us understand what we are truly capable of.
Training for Life
As an ultra-runner I not only run races like the one I just told you about; I run as a way to give back to the community through community projects and as a coach.
For instance, during the summer of 2020, two of my long distance running friends and I decided to link up the Bear 100 and the Wasatch 100, which are two of Utah’s Iconic 100-mile ultra marathons, and finish up here in Heber Valley. We trekked over 300 miles, and did it all to raise funds to help a local paraplegic athlete acquire the tools he needed to train for his first Ironman.
With all the races and projects I do, friends and fellow athletes will often ask me, “What’s the next big thing, Ben?” My answer is always the same:
I am Training for Life
As a husband, father, brother, son, friend, and member of the human race, it is important that I keep myself healthy so I can fulfill all of my responsibilities that go along with all of those roles. And, when my kids say, “Hey, dad! Let’s go for a hike;” or my wife needs someone to pace her during a race; or when a longtime friend calls, asking me to go on an adventure, I know that my fitness level is where it needs to be to be able to say yes to all of those things. This may sound trivial, but as one who loves spontaneity and adventure, being able to have a healthy body that can take me places is important to me.
A few years back, I received a phone call from a friend asking if I was interested in running/climbing the Grand Teton in Wyoming. Ever since I laid eyes on that majestic mountain it’s been on my bucket list. Although I would not recommend those without the technical expertise to free climb the Grand Teton, for me, I was grateful that I had the fitness and technical skill set that opened the opportunity to spontaneously accept the invitation. It was a mind blowing experience that words can’t even describe.
Spontaneity aside, being able to adventure at its most basic level, means that my body is healthy. For me, that means more than any grand adventure or long distance run or hike.
When I was in high school, I had a mild ski accident that resulted in compressing my L4-L5 vertebrates. This has been an ongoing challenge for me; throwing my back out has happened more times than I’d like to admit. Due to this, I have had to make sure that I maintain a healthy weight, so I don’t aggravate my back. Running, strengthening my core, increasing my flexibility, and changing my diet to be cleaner, while also increasing lean proteins has helped me to be healthy, so I can live life everyday healthy and free of pain. But it’s more than physical health and recreation: it’s about life.
Keep Moving Forward
For most of us, life is not a straight path without obstacles. Life throws us snow storms in foreign terrain. Life can even leave us alone to walk in metaphorical knee-deep and blinding snow with no way out but to keep moving forward.
This is why I do what I do, and share my passion with so many others.
Because sometimes life is full of beautiful, breathtaking terrain as far as the eye can see, and you feel like you could keep going forever just the way it is. And some days are dark and cold and long and scary, and you feel like you can’t take one more step.
But, I am here to say that you can. I am here to show you that you can adventure your potential because we all have room to grow, and there are so many amazing mountains left to climb.
Does this article speak to you?
Here are a few things to help you get started on your road to going the distance:
Baby steps. Nobody went 200 miles without taking that first step. Step, and then step some more.
Find a support group. While the ultimate goal is to be accountable to yourself; having a few friends or even a coach to help keep you accountable is a great way to start and hold on to for as long as you need.
Keep a journal. This is great for writing everything from goals, to documenting your daily progress, and even failures. Journals have a way of keeping us honest with ourselves, and are a great tool for reflection as you move on in your journey.
Trust yourself. You are the one who knows your body and mind. You know the challenges you have experienced and what you are capable of overcoming if you just listen. Trust in the body and mind that you have, knowing that it is capable of more than you know.
Embrace the moment. Whether you are able to run two miles or 200 miles — whether the moment is miserable or enjoyable — embrace the moment. Sit with yourself in your challenges and triumphs because it is all part of the journey that you are experiencing right now.
Last but not least. Invest in some running gear, because you’re gonna need it!
Connect with Ben
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