A lot of familiar faces attend our weekly free runs, events, and grace the newsfeed of your social media. If you haven’t had the chance to get in depth knowledge of how these runners came to be…well runners, we decided to highlight a few of these faces to get everyone more acquainted and maybe inspire a few unfamiliar faces to attend in person.
Who is Amanda Bennett, and from where did she come?
I hail from Indiana, the Crossroads of America. I attended Purdue University where I studied Network Engineering Technology, and then I took a job with Lockheed Martin in Orlando, Florida. I lived there until almost 2 years ago when I moved here to Fort Worth, Texas.
How did you become a runner?
I started out as a swimmer, actually – a sprint freestyler, to be specific. I grew up in a pool, was quite the little fish. Swimming gave me the benefits of a strong cardiovascular system, but I loathed running.
In my senior year of high school one of my brothers was a freshman. He was going to join the cross-country team, and so I did, too, so we could do a sport together. I figured it would help condition me for that year’s swimming season. I was too much of a newb at running for it to really make a difference in my sprint races, but I was dedicated. I went to practice and the meets – sucking up every step along the way
I remember coming in last place at nearly every, if not all, of the cross-country meets, but I let it roll right off my back. I had pretty low expectations of my running performance and was only in it to spend some extra time with my brother. The fact that I didn’t put any pressure on myself was what led me to join the Purdue Triathlon Club. I never would have joined TriClub if I hadn’t done that one season of cross-country. Running my senior year of high school was the birth of my being a runner.
When you were coming in last but still running, what motivated you to continue? What did you tell yourself?
When I commit to something, I commit to something. I decided I was going to run cross-country my senior year of high school, and I did. I’ll admit, I didn’t give it my all, but I wasn’t in it for performance. In anything else I think coming in last would have really demoralized me, but I wasn’t looking to be a star here – I was looking to have fun. Obviously coming in last isn’t fun, but there’s more to being on a team than how your performance ranks against others. Dedication, commitment, the hope that maybe some of the running would condition me and improve my swimming performance, getting to spend time with my brother – these are the things that motivated me.
What did I tell myself? This is a tough question for me to answer. I don’t really self-talk too much – or at least I didn’t for these two athletic ventures. I just go and do. Actually, I vaguely remember telling myself “hey, I finished” after the cross-country meets. For me, finishing a meet was the goal – it didn’t matter how my finishing time compared to anyone. Finishing is finishing.
Learning to Love Running
I completed 3 Olympic triathlons my freshman year of college. I was too new to biking and running to do too well, but my goal was to finish and have fun, and that’s just what I did.
TriClub tapered off in my sophomore year. Studies also picked up and I found that it was tricky to get to the pool or fit a ride in, so I found myself lacing up and getting out the door for a run. That was when I started to really love running. It was a great break from school, it cleared my mind, gave me solitude, and was easy to make happen. I don’t remember what my first 5K was, but I signed up for a race and loved it. About a year later I was doing road races more and more frequently.
At some point in my college career I went home and convinced my mom to join me for a run. Her mom was beginning to develop a pretty severe case of Alzheimer’s, so my mom was eager to exercise, as it is a great way to ward off Alzheimer’s. Man, did she take to running! And then she jumped into triathlon, too! I always say, “I woke up a beast in my mother when I got her into running.” And it’s true. Maybe I woke up a beast of sorts in myself because she and I share a goal of completing a half marathon, full marathon, cycling race, or triathlon in each of the 50 states.
Why attempt a race in every state?
I did a Study Abroad in Australia my senior year of college. It was a unique experience. I am lucky to have travelled and lived in another country for half a year. Something I realized about myself and even fellow Americans in the USA was that, like Australia, my country is amazing, too. While abroad I made friends with people who asked me if I’d been to Yellowstone or Yosemite or NYC, etc. And I felt silly for having to answer that I hadn’t. It really opened my eyes to what a beautiful and wonderful country the USA is.
Shortly after graduating from college is when me and my mom came up with the goal of doing a race in all 50 states. It would be a life-long challenge, something to do with my mom across the distance of living so far apart, and it would afford me the opportunity to experience and see the USA. It’s not really a competition, but I tell myself my mom is “winning” because she’s a new empty-nester. She’s knocked out 15 states; I have 11 under my belt.
We like to do as many races together that we can. With my living so far away from home and family, training together virtually and checking in on each other’s workouts and progress has helped to keep us close.
One of my favorite half marathons was the Atlanta Half Marathon over Thanksgiving. I lived in Orlando at the time, and so I drove up to Atlanta as my mom flew in. I scooped her up from the airport and we had a fantastic girls’ race weekend. We bought a City Pass and did some fun touristy things, we had dinners and drinks, and enjoyed one another’s company. The race was a hilly course that neither of us was fully prepared for, but we sure did earn our turkeys that year!
In September we’ll be doing another rendezvous race. It’ll be a family ordeal: my parents, both of my brothers, and my sister-to-be will be meeting up that weekend! One brother will be in training, but the rest of us will be doing the Las Vegas Twilight Half Marathon! We’re all really excited for this reunion! I’m really proud of my family for being conscious of their health and so physically active!
You appear very organized as witnessed from several party planning and Ragnar events, do you approach your training the same way?
Haha, this is probably one of the first things people notice about me. I’m not perfect by any means, but I surely am a perfectionist. I get it from my dad. He’s logical, analytical, organized to the bone. He rivals me for my love of tracking and measuring things. And I’ve pretty much always been this way: I remember playing close attention to details and staying well organized ever since realizing education matters and really buckling down back in middle school.
I don’t always approach my training with precision planning, but it happens more often than not. Part of the thrill for me is in the planning – scheduling training sessions in my calendar, rounding up friends to workout with, registering and arranging travel and budgets for events. I’m a big believer in planning ahead because I get very frustrated at the thought of “man, I wish I’d…” Planning is my way of avoiding that frustration. But, again, for me it’s fun. I just really enjoy planning.
Proud to be a Social Runner
When I found the group on Meetup.com I figured it had to have been around for at least a few years. The group was so active and established – it had so many fun runs, drinking – ahem – social opportunities, and pictures. I’d been struggling in Orlando for years to find a good running group. Social Running was everything I was looking for in fellow pavement pounders.
I am not among the super cool who can say they were founding members, but I joined within Social Running’s first year when I made the move to Fort Worth in December 2013. Certainly the biggest factor in the move was my career, but Social Running sealed the deal for me. I had to be a part of it.
I quickly got involved with the group when I signed up for my first event with them, the 2013 Cowtown Half Marathon, and, in April 2013, my first Ragnar (SoCal). That experience was one I’ll always cherish and love to reminisce.
There’s definitely something for everyone, namely the Wednesday social runs. I love lacing up mid-week for those 4 miles along Trinity Trail. In the cooler months I enjoy bringing Heidi, my German Shepherd Dog, with me. Her breed needs a lot of exercise and intellectual stimulation, so the running and socializing is great for her, too. Sometimes she drags but more often than not she’s pulling me along. Almost 6-years-old, but she still has the energy of a young whippersnapper when it comes to Social Running!
Was an ultra-marathon just “the next step” or has it been a goal of yours?
I suppose my committing to an ultra-marathon was a combination of being the next step and being a goal. Right after I moved to Texas the 2014 Cowtown was held, and I remember the glory that was earned by that year’s ultra-marathoners. That was when I first really started to desire running one myself. A variety of things prevented me from doing the Cowtown Ultra this past February, but next year, baby, it’s happening!
The next chapters in my book of running include a sprint triathlon on Labor Day, the aforementioned Las Vegas Half Marathon, Ragnar Trail Hill Country in October, possibly another Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon, and the Cowtown Ultra in February. I’ve agreed to captain the Social Running Cowtown Ultra Team, so if you’re at all interested, let’s chat!
…my goal was to finish and have fun, and that’s just what I did.