Friday, May 3, 2013

A quick note

To those people interested in meeting up with me:

I appreciate the support. You should know that I take occasional breaks to change gear/clothes, get supplies, use the restroom, etc.

It can be very unpredictable when I will take a break. Most breaks will be short, but I may occasionally take longer ones to attend to blisters, etc. If you want to decrease your chances of missing me when I'm on a break, go clockwise around campus, and spend some extra time near the LLC West building. That is where I will be taking my breaks, and if you miss me, I'll probably be back out shortly. Please check my Twitter page, https://twitter.com/benclark314  before you go looking for me (you don't need an account on Twitter to view the updates). If I have to stop for whatever reason, I'll probably post it there. And if you still miss me- it wouldn't have been time wasted. You would have just enjoyed some fresh air and exercise! That's always good.

Also, the donations station will be up only in the evenings (from roughly 4-8). Stop by and make a donation! The people manning the station are good friends of mine, and they are kind people.

If you want more frequent updates, please follow my Twitter page (https://twitter.com/benclark314). There, I will post my mileage updates, etc. Also, like my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/RunningForAutoimmunity.

I don't want people to stop me when I'm running, but if you would like to run alongside me, or walk with me (when I'm walking), feel free to do so. I enjoy the company.

I know many of you are friends of mine who are busy studying for finals, or even preparing to graduate. I wish you all well. Remember that physical activity can improve focus and boost your test scores, so get out, and RUN!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Next run

I will be doing my next run (a 72-hour run) about a week from now:
*Start time: 9:00 a.m. on Friday, May 3
*Start location: NW corner of LLC Parking lot (the intersection of 15th Ave. N and 18th St. N in Fargo)
*End time: 9:00 a.m. on Monday, May 6 (same location as start)
*Route: Counter-clockwise laps around North Dakota State University campus
*Donations: Same charity: AARDA. In the evenings (roughly 4-8 p.m.), a donations station will be at the Stop-N-Go on the corner of 12th ave. and University. Also, you can donate online (or find instructions for check or money order) here: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/benclark/runaroundcampus2

I don't update this blog very often, and I don't intend to. I don't like attention, for a number of reasons. It feels threatening to me- it can morph us into something we are not. Plus, it doesn't really do any good in the end. I could have all the attention in the world and be the loneliest person in the world. I insist on doing this for others, not myself. It is all too easy for us to fall victim to our own egos, or even to delude ourselves into thinking that our intentions are more pure than they really are.

And- while I like the idea of inspiring others to be the best they can be- please realize that certain kinds of inspiration will only get you so far. There is a classic story, of the drug addict who becomes inspired and changes his/her life around, using running to battle personal demons. That is very good for them, and I applaud the successes like this. But until that person becomes introspective and faces his/her true identity, he/she hasn't really solved the core problems. Running can become a drug. People joke about being "addicted to running." Personally, I don't believe that's healthy or even something to joke about. I could stop running at any time. I would miss it, but I don't require it to be myself. We need to be at peace with who we are.

Also, I don't really see what I am doing as impressive; I am not even close to being on par with elite runners. I don't train very much, and I never know how I will perform in a given race (especially this upcoming run). I may run an impressive 300 miles in 72 hours, or I may sprain my ankle and make it only 3 miles. That doesn't matter to me. I am only doing this to raise money and support my family and community, and to gain introspection. So- I will answer questions from those who are genuinely curious, but I will not let people distract me from my true purpose here. Please don't tell me I'm a hero. Instead, honor me by looking at yourself and discerning whether or not you are content in life.

College means different things to different people. For me, it has taken everything I thought I knew, and put it into question. In a figurative way, college has completely ripped me apart and then sewn me back together. I used to believe I could have anything I wanted if I worked hard enough. While this is mostly true, college has forced me to acknowledge that it is not necessarily so. And perfection, while desirable, is seldom attainable. I am a perfectionist, but I've learned not to derive satisfaction exclusively from performance. Perfection is something to aspire to, not require. Contentedness and complacency are inner qualities that pivot on nothing other than our own spirituality (or, if you're an atheist and you don't believe in spirituality, call it your existential self-authenticity, or whatever you have come to know).

As I said in my TEDx talk (which I will post here as soon as it is available), I was very slow and reflective in high school. During those years- some of the most painful and exhausting years of my life- I learned to have the greatest peace and generosity, as well as control over myself and my emotions. But those kinds of lessons do not come without tests. College has been a sort of test for me, and frankly, I'm just happy to be alive right now. I've needed to take a step back and reevaluate everything. If you thought I was superhuman, think again. I am only a man. I am susceptible to the same thoughts, feelings, passions, and desires that everyone else is. This doesn't come easily for anyone.

There is a difference between being carefree and being complacent. I can think of a number of times in my life where someone has expressed dissatisfaction with me. But, no matter how extreme the dissatisfaction or how severe their reprimands, I've always been the most peaceful when I knew that I was doing my best. It didn't matter if I was failing miserably, or getting into serious trouble (and yes, even I have gotten into trouble before, however undeserving). As long as I was doing my best, I was at peace inside.

The only problem is: it is almost impossible to do our absolute best. We can almost always do better, unless we are pushing our limits.

That's a big part of what running is for me: pushing limits to be the best I can. Maybe it is my way of giving back to a community from which I have received so much. Or maybe it is my way of communicating to someone that I forgive them. It can be any number of things, but ultimately, it is about being the best person I can be.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Post-run 400-mile update and 72-hour run details

Well! The ultracentric 72-hour run begins tomorrow.

I never did give you guys (my followers) an update on the 400-mile run. However...the update I was going to post has turned into the beginnings of my honors senior paper! Sooo...this will have to do.

I don't run for endorphins. They are a nice by-product of my efforts, but I believe that longer-distance running ultimately brings more pain than it does pleasure. So why run? I've found that it is a good way to figure things out in life. We can never have answers, but we can achieve understanding. For whatever reasons, I feel like running gives me greater stability and understanding. And I want to be the best person I can be. Why let pain (or the fear of it) stop me from becoming a better person?

The past few months have given me time to reflect on my 400-mile run and what it meant. Sometimes- and I say this without a tone of drama, but with blatant honesty- it seems like we have to let a part of ourselves die in order to grow. We develop dreams and ideals in life that simply aren't realistic. Just as children outgrow their toys, so do adults outgrow their beliefs, hopes, and feelings. Running helps me let certain younger parts of myself die. It is hard to overcome ourselves in this way; it was never meant to be easy. But it seems like it's what we are supposed to do.

Tomorrow, I will begin a 72-hour run. The run will consist of laps around a 2.00-mile loop. The distance is not determined, such that the winner is the individual who runs the most laps in the given time period. I have no idea how far I will go. We shall see!

The race website is here: http://www.ultracentric.com/
And, as usual, I will be running for AARDA. I haven't made as many fundraising arrangements as I did for the last run, but all donations are still very much appreciated: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/benclark/ultracentric72-hourrun

I've received a lot of respect from many people. The truth is that, inside, I am really just a human being like anyone else. I have just as many issues as most people, if not more- some of them really big, too. Running, to me, is a way of confronting obstacles in life, and saying that I will be better than my human desires. I will not surrender.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Update

Hello everyone.

It has come to my attention that there is a renewed interest in my blog. That is good!

I am a bit preoccupied with college at the moment. However, I hope to have more updates to come.

My next ultramarathon will be the UltraCentric Gold Rush in Grapevine, TX. I will be competing in the 72-hour event, and I hope to run at least 250 miles (however, these distances can be hard to predict). I will be doing this race for AARDA, and if I place in the top 3 (i.e., receive money for competing), I would like to pledge my winnings to AARDA.

Please stay posted for future updates, and thank you all for the support.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Run Around Campus Update

Please donate! http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/benclark/runaroundcampus

Follow my progress:

Twitter (this will be the main source of my run updates): http://twitter.com/benclark314

On my twitter page, you will find links to a Nike+ webpage which uses GPS to outline my run. It outlines the course of the run in accelerated time and is very engaging to watch. Here is an example of one of my sets today: http://nikeplus.nike.com/plus/activity/running/detail/2024604115?external_share_id=a652e705-e6ed-43eb-9532-3c678d4e55ca

A good friend of mine, Poodus, has been kind enough to make a professional documentary of the fundraiser. You can watch it here. Thank you, Poodus! http://vimeo.com/47366035

As the run progresses, Poodus will post occassional update videos on his Youtube channel, found here: http://www.youtube.com/user/Poodus/feed

Also, a new Facebook fan page is in the works. Don't expect much from it during this run (I will be relying heavily on Twitter in the days to come). But, please like this page, and stay tuned for my future runs: http://www.facebook.com/RunningForAutoimmunity

I mentioned earlier that the donations station would be in the northeast corner of the Fargodome parking lot. However, the Fargodome didn't want me arranging an event in their lot (even though it is empty during the summer months). Soooo...we may set up on the median between the sidewalk and the street OR we will set up elsewhere. Otherwise, you can simply drive around campus looking for me. Stay tuned on Twitter for updates.

Once again, don't forget to DONATE!!! http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/benclark/runaroundcampus

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Run Around Campus

Last summer, I ran 366 miles (across the entire state of North Dakota) in 6 days, 22 hours for the Minot Area Community Foundation after a devastating flood struck Minot.

This summer, I will be doing a similarly long fundraiser run for the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association.

The run will take place around NDSU campus in Fargo, ND. To see the route, look at the map below (the route will go from 19th Avenue North to 12th Avenue North, and from 18th Street North to University Drive). My path is outlined in red, with arrows pointing in the direction I will be running. One lap around campus is 2.97 miles.



I will be running consecutive laps from 3:00 p.m. August 12 to 3:00 p.m. August 19, and I hope to accumulate around 400 miles, assuming I don't encounter any major setbacks. I will probably be running at all hours, day and night, allowing a daily 30 to 90 minute nap and a shower every afternoon. At times where I am not feeling well, I may switch to walking.

If you live in the Fargo/Moorhead area, I would be happy to have you run along with me! However, if you want to join me, I request that you make a donation to my charity, AARDA. I will have friends and volunteers stationed in the northeast corner of the Fargodome parking lot (on the corner of 19th Avenue and University Drive) who will be receiving donations throughout the day on my behalf. Please stop by, see how the run is going, and make a donation!

If nobody is at the donations station, chances are that you can find me by driving clockwise around NDSU campus (clockwise, because University Drive is a one-way street. I will be running counter-clockwise around campus, to face you as you drive down it or in the same direction around campus). I will be wearing white clothing with AARDA written on it. If you don't see me, chances are that I am taking a break and will be back shortly.


I've noticed that several people do not understand the fundraiser because they do not believe that it is possible to run this distance. Make no mistake: this is not easy. Yes- I will be running all week. Yes- it is humanly possible to do so on only a few hours of sleep, and yes- it is every bit as painful as it sounds. This kind of running requires immense patience, commitment, and sacrifice. This cause is very personal to me, and if I can run 400 miles to support it, I believe that anyone reading this blog should be willing to consider donating a small amount to do the same.

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Please donate to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association with check, money order, or credit/debit:

You can donate a flat amuont, pledge an amount for every mile I've run, or pledge an amount if I can manage to complete my goal of 400 miles within the week.

If you are donating directly to me, checks written out to AARDA are preferred.

Alternatively, you can donate online with credit/debit at:

http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/benclark/runaroundcampus

or by check or money order mailed to the following address (please include my name on the memo or a note in the envelope so that AARDA can tally the donations I've raised):

American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
22100 Gratiot Ave.
East Detroit, MI 48021

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Inspiration

I've noticed that many people want to hear more about my running. You may be surprised that such feats of endurance are possible, you may be curious about how they can be accomplished, you may find it inspiring, or you may find it entertaining. I used to enjoy stories about ultrarunning. They are fascinating and captivating to those of us who are unfamiliar with them, and in many ways they are a necessary part of our development.

The truth is that I have become somewhat tired of telling people about some of these things. I deal with pain and distress all the time; that is how you get good at it. Whether emotional, physical, or intillectual, I have always found pain in my life, and I don't really want to entertain people with it.

Over the years, I've had a few people ask me for inspiration. First off- I'll say very honestly and bluntly that I'm not the greatest runner alive. I am fairly ordinary as far as ultrarunners go. You needn't look to me for inspiration.

If I can inspire people to live better lives...that's an added bonus. I was once inspired by runners I knew. But the ultimate question to ask- if you're looking for inspiration- is: Why do you want to be inspired? Do you want to become better in some way, or do you want to be entertained? If it's entertainment you want, you will not get it from me. I'm willing to humbly share my experiences to a curious audience, but I will do my best not to parade around self-rightously, relating tales of pain and how I have fought and overcome it. I've seen athletes do this, and I've found it distasteful. Frankly, I have gotten hurt so deeply, so many times, and in so many ways in life by this point that to talk about any one of these experiences seems petty. As far as overcoming the pain? That is the only option I've ever really believed I had. To me, accepting defeat would be far more painful. True, I have failed from time to time. Sometimes terribly, sometimes many times. At other times, I have fought one battle successfully whilst failing at another. But I've always maintained a simple but effective philosophy of doing my best.

I don't think running is about health or physical activity. It is about life and becoming a better human being. That being said, I believe inspiration is more an internal matter than anything else. If you truly care about self-betterment, then you needn't look to me for inspiration so much as you should probably look within yourself. Be careful that you don't just want entertainment- that will ultimately give you nothing useful. Care about your goals, know what is possible, and attempt to do the seemingly impossible. Even if you fall short, you will learn about yourself in the process, which will set you up for your next endeavor.

In my experience, when pain reaches its maximum, it is blinding. In these moments of blindness, I am left with nothing other than myself. No pump-up music, no motivational speaker, no inspirational stories can carry me through the pain. All I am capable of seeing is what I want. This is where I am tested and where I grow. Success becomes a question of how pure my motives are. Running is a continual practice of self-refinement.

If you deeply want to prevail, that is what you will see when you are blinded by pain, and you will probably overcome your obstacles. If you want comfort, entertainment, attention, or endorphins, you will probably start pitying yourself for not having these things, and you will defeat yourself. In a very abstract sense, you must let yourself die if you want to succeed.

I don't recommend that you to seek out pain. That is called masochism, and it's unhealthy. I believe that life can be fun, pleasant, and peaceful. However, these things require a healthy balance. I deviate from that balance, but only in the pursuit of becoming a better person. This way of living has its price, as do all ways. Personally, it has been many years since I've experienced real peace or happiness. It should be known that the extremes I go to in my life are suitable for me and how I choose to live, but they are not right for everyone. I truly believe that I am not inspirational and that each person needs to find their own source of inspiration if they want to succeed.