Jeff Grits his teeth and powers through Marathon 2

November 3rd, 2014 by Danny Boren

No one has ever said that success comes easy.  And when you talk about marathon running, the depths of pain and mental fatigue that can assail you on race day are of a kind and intensity that can force you to question how far you can go before everything gives out.

On Sunday, November 2, 2014 Jeff Benelli stepped to the line in Springfield, MO to take on his second marathon in 2 weeks – and looked ahead to yet another marathon just seven days away.  Jeff had done his training, and he knew what a marathon would take.  But as the race started and the temperature dropped from 45 degrees down to 39 Jeff fought strong winds and immense visual challenges.  With crowds of people, Jeff fought to stay with his pace group in the early part of the race as he strained to use his limited vision to navigate through other runners.

As the early part of the race faded into the distance the run course did not let up from a visually challenging perspective.  With a poorly marked 1/2 marathon turn-off that confused many fully sighted racers, uneven pavement and metal poles set on trails that the marathon followed, Jeff had to dodge these obstacles – narrowly missing one of the metal poles at one point as he raced ahead.  Even with his intense focus Jeff still tripped and fell on uneven pavement, and a second time tripped over an orange cone during the race.  Those sorts of mental blows, and the eye strain from paying such close attention throughout a race as long as a marathon add an entirely new dimension to the level of effort required.

Then the cramps hit.

At mile 12 Jeff’s hamstrings started to seize up.  For the next 14 miles it was a race of pure mental toughness as Jeff “dead-legged” it all the way to the finish.  Gritting his teeth, and fighting through what he describes as the “most physically painful hours of my life” – this seasoned marathoner knew that he had set a mission for himself, and that despite the visual challenges, the falls, the cramping, and the severely cold weather he needed to get across the finish line.

As the race wore on, Jeff dropped back from his 3:40 pace group – knowing that he had yet another marathon coming up in 7 days, and if he pushed too hard any long term damage could take him out of that event.  In the end Jeff crossed the line in 4:20 – and placed in the top 20 of his age division, even with all of the obsticals the day threw at him.

Jeff is racing to cure blindness caused by Choroideremia, and he continues to push himself to a point that most of us can hardly imagine.  Click here to support Jeff’s incredible efforts at last Sunday’s race, and to support him as he lines up for his next 2 marathons in the weeks ahead.