There are people out there that take everything in stride and just let the world unfold around them, and there are people who have decided there is so much negativity in the world it is much easier to be oblivious to everything. Either way, in my opinion, if it makes you happy, then do it. There are a few people out there, that have a passion for making the world a better place. There are those who find one cause and passionately support it, which is phenomenal, but a rare few people out there are able to spread their power of influence, courage, and passion to every cause, organization and individual in need they can. My friend Ben is one of those people.
Before I tell you about his cool “Run for Cause” fun runs, or the races he has organized and the races coming up, let me tell you about Ben Mena the runner. Ben and I met through friends from my tri-club the A-Train and some friends from the Run Progressive track workouts. I knew of him and knew he was fast, but that didn’t justify what I saw when I first ran with him. I am amazed at people who can run a marathon with 7:30 average per mile pace. This guy hammers through half-marathons in under 6-minute miles and then will turn around and bike for 20 without skipping a beat.
My favorite memory of watching Ben was actually a cycling workout. Ben was coerced into joining us and Pete (Tribute #2) let him borrow his road bike. This bike had pedal cages on it because Ben didn’t have cycling shoes or cleats and this was going to be his first ride. Well, Ben goes out in front with the “A” group and is really strong. We all thought, “OK, we will just hang back here and watch him die out and pick him up at the turnaround.” He reached the turnaround and just kept going and beat us all. First time out! A few weeks later he decides to do a duathlon in Orlando for the first time and he finishes first, overall. Ben’s VO2 max is off the charts. Maybe that is why he continues to help those in need, with a VO2 max that high, his heart is huge.
Ben organizes a monthly fun run in Brandon, Florida that gives to a different charity each month. I have been running in every one since July and I have seen no less than 50 people at any of them. He also is part of a duo with Beth Shaw (Dis-com-BOB-ulated Running), of which they have successfully completed their first race called the Shape Up for Summer 5k and now they have another one coming up called the Corporate 5k in downtown Tampa. The Shape Up for Summer 5k had well over 750 runners which is well over what they expected and as I used the race as a culmination runs for my clientele, let me just say it was one of the best organized 5k runs I had participated in. Beth and Ben did a really amazing job, so if you find a race organized by MenaShaw Races, you can be sure to have a great experience.
With that being said, Ben has another race he has organized and this one has an interesting spin on it while helping out some people that can really use it. I will let him tell you in his own words. Let me introduce, Benjamin Mena.
Benjamin (Ben) Mena
Birthdate: 8/25/83 – Virgo
Place of Birth: Virginia Beach, VA
Place growing up: Charleston SC and Bremerton, WA
High School: Cocoa Beach High
High School sports: Soccer, Cross Country, Track
College: University of Central Florida
College Sports: Cross Country, Track
Other Sports: Ummmm….. nope
I usually describe you as one of the fastest runners in the Tampa Bay area. What started you running?
I used to be the guy that would make fun of the runners and throw stuff at them. (in HS). I thought running was dumb and pointless. So after a win-less soccer season, the soccer girls tried to convince me to run cross country to prep for soccer… I said yeah right, that’s dumb… their response was just run behind us. What teenage guy can say no. after my first year running (JR year) I developed a passion for it and it quasi-took over my life.
JR year was just an introduction to the sport. Our workouts were easy as hell, but the one thing I loved my coach for (she was hot also) she taught us all how to make running fun and enjoyable. My Sr year of high school we had a new coach. She had a background as a professional runner, so she knew her stuff. She helped give me the dream of being a college athlete. At that point, I wasn’t good enough for any college team but I worked my ass off as hard as I could. I had the one gift that every coach wants in their athlete. Burning desire to make it.
The summer before college was pretty crazy. I was working 5 jobs to try to get ready for college (until my car died) then I had to drop my job at Publix [Supermarket]because it was a 20-mile bike ride each way). I would bike to my different jobs, then get home and run and then would be able to start hanging out with friends after 11 pm. During that time I would never miss a run no matter how bad I wanted to have fun.
I still to this day don’t know why coach chose me out of all the other walk-ons.. but I am thankful she did. I ran with my heart and I knew I had more to prove that everyone that came in on scholarships. (I also didn’t have a car… so I got a lot more miles in than most people. Outside all the running I was walking 5-14 miles a day to and from, and around school) By the end of the first season, I was granted an athletic scholarship and the following year I was team captain…
|Ben doing what he does best|
What and When was your first 5k time? What and when was your fastest 5k time?
Year of high school. I don’t remember the time but I was low 20s, but my fastest was 15:20 in college.
What kind of workouts did you do to get that fast?
You don’t want to know the schedule. But my favorite workout was mile repeats!
What was your average weekly mileage?
60-80 was the average. During the summer we would crank it up for base building. My highest week was 112 and 90% of those miles were done along the Appalachian Trail.
I mentioned above that you hold a monthly fun run named “Run for a Cause” at the Cork & Olive in Brandon. How did that come about?
Just had the idea while at the bar. I love hosting fun events for people… and it came about from there. our first event I was hoping for 10 people… and over 50 ended up showing up.
How many different charities have you hosted?
7 or 8 now
If someone had a cause they would like to have hosted at one of your events what is the best way to contact you? Best is through FaceBook.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has devastated the country. You chose to act quickly and do something about it by hosting this Virtual Run. Can you give the details?
This is a virtual half-marathon and virtual 5K. Since it is virtual, you can complete it anywhere in the world. You can run, walk, swim, bike, anything you like, and you can complete the 13.1 miles or 5K all at once, over the course of a week, or whenever you can. Just complete all miles between now and Jan 31st. This is on the honor system – you do not have to report your miles.
The registration fee for the Half Marathon is $30.
Register Here: http://www.active.com/half-marathon/tampa-fl/sandy-hook-elementary-memorial-half-marathon-and-5k-2013
Event Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/events/186264894845690/
What gave you the Idea?
I am on the board for a few charities, and I was already researching a way to do a virtual 5k. When the devastation occurred, I couldn’t sleep, so I mulled it over for a while and by Sunday I had it up on Active.com and Facebook and 200 people already had agreed to participate. Today on Facebook there are over 1800 that have committed and a little over 250 that have actually signed up on Active.com
It grew a lot faster than I thought. It went viral. I originally thought about a few people here in Tampa to raise around 1000 dollars, but now it is well over that.
|Beth and Ben|
Do you have any other races coming up?
Beth and I have been organizing a Tampa Bay Corporate 5K.
This is an event where the runners choose one of the 4 charities that this race will give back too. Every person that registers for the race will get a vote (fill in the blank) for the charity of their choice. The charity with the most votes will receive a portion of the proceeds along with Little Things for Cancer, Cystic Fibrosis (Tampa Chapter), and Operation Helping Hand.
You can get more details on the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/131275133693630
or on the event website: http://www.tampacorporate5k.com/
|Ben and his fiance Jennifer|
|Ben and the Goof|
If you have been following this goofy blog then you probably read in the post “State of the Goof” that I currently coach new runners to their first 5k race. I also mention that there is no other feeling like the emotion I get from watching my runners cross the finish line.
Today was no different. A couple of my runners had mentioned the Lowry Park Zoo Run because it looked like a lot of fun, so by a majority vote we decided to adopt that event as our culmination run. Others may call it an assessment run, because it is the final after the course. It is the race to see if the coaching and training was successful. I am here to say that to those whom participated, it was extremely successful. Just writing this I am getting excited remembering the faces on these women and the strength I saw as they fired over the timing mats at the finish line. What a feeling!
|The last workout before the Zoo Run|
Some of these runners had trouble with the very first workout which is a 5 minute walk followed by a 3 minute run, another 5 minute walk, a 2 minute run, completing with a final 5 minute walk. Now here they are 10 weeks later running a 5k (3.1 miles) straight without stopping. What an improvement. Barely 3 minutes to over 30 minutes in 10 weeks and hopefully having fun running it. (At least I hope.) I tell my students in the beginning that I have four goals for the coarse;
- They adapt my formula for natural running
- They remain injury free for the 10 weeks
- They complete the course with a 5k run where they run the entire race
- They have fun running.
I also tell them that in my opinion that until a person can run at least three miles straight that they cannot make an educated opinion on if they actually like to run or not. At the end of the course I expect one of three things to happen;
- They love running and they make it a part of their lives (My favorite choice)
- They don’t mind running and they use it as just a supplement to their fitness routine
- They still dislike it, but at least they have the fitness level to make that educated opinion
|Linda – 1st place AG|
Today I had 10 runners whom all crossed the finish line. Each one of them PR’d (Personal Record) whether it was their first record ever or if they did complete a 5k in the past. I am absolutely ecstatic about their successes. I had one of my women finish first in her age group of which we all stayed to watch her get her medal. Four of my runners were top 10, two of which were top 5, but mostly everyone finished strong, with no injuries and with smiles on their faces.
I started the course with twenty-three new runners and through attrition of work, family, lack of motivation for some reason, I ended with around fourteen of which only nine of them were available for this date. Either way, I am super proud of my team. This is my favorite day every ten weeks. It is obvious that they all still have different fitness levels and speeds so they do not finish together, but I get so excited that I end up running almost double the course running back and forth to encourage them, and I love it.
|My Champions after the Zoo Run|
My favorite way to go about this is to take the first two miles of the course and run back and forth between the fastest runners and the slowest runners, pacing along side each one to keep them motivated. When the fastest of the runners hits the last mile I try to be there to run with them through the finish line which usually means I am highly encouraging them to sprint to the finish line. After crossing myself, I head backwards through the course and start catching the other runners and I run them in as well until I get to my last athlete which by that time the rest of my group is waiting at the finish line cheering him or her in. Today was no different and I had a blast doing it.
FYI, just for shiggles – my time was around 30:10, but I had 4.25 miles already logged by that time.