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Jake's Olympic Dream

Organized by: Jake Benton

Jake's Photo

THE STORY:

My name is Jake Benton and I want to tell you a little about myself and my Olympic Dream. I am 22 years old and at the end of my career at Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) in Joplin, Missouri. I am one semester away from completing my bachelor’s degree in biology - pre-med with a 4.0 GPA. My future plans include medical school, as I aspire to become a cardiothoracic surgeon. As much as I love medicine and biology, my true passion is running and that is why I compete in cross country and track for MSSU.

My running career began eight years ago when I started high school at Fort Zumwalt North High School in O’Fallon, Missouri. As a freshman, I knew I loved to run. I made it to the state cross country meet my freshman year and it has motivated me to train harder ever since. After a few more years, I realized, that I had potential in the sport. This led to my decision to accept an athletic scholarship and run for MSSU.

I have continued to improve as a runner, and I’ve fallen in love with it even more. I recently ran my first half marathon in Springfield, MO, placing first, 15 minutes ahead of the second place runner. I have come to the realization that I am not ready to hang up my spikes and walk away from this sport that has been such an insurmountable piece of my life. That is why I have decided to endure a vigorous training regime and qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

This goal is time sensitive, and as a competitive runner, my window of opportunity is now. With that being said, I am putting medical school on a hiatus. I will be taking my MCAT (medical college admission test) in the fall of 2014. The score I receive will be viable for three years. This will give me enough time to train for the trials for 14 months and then apply for medical school in the fall of 2016.

Through countless hours of research, I have developed a plan to train with some of the top runners in the world. Located in Northeast Kenya, sits a small town called Iten. "There are 17 American men in history who have run under 2:10 in the marathon. There were 32 Kalenjin (specific tribe in Kenya) who did it in October of 2011." These Kenyans have won about 40% of all international distance championships since 1980. It is almost unfathomable, but it is the main reason I have decided to train there. I will be living in Iten, Kenya from January 2015 to March 2016. With it very close to Europe, I will have some of the fastest races in the world available to compete in. I will race the Milan half marathon and Berlin marathon to run the times needed to qualify for the March 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles, California.

In Iten, I will be staying in a running compound called Run Kenya. The compound’s owner, Dan, has been very helpful in my preparation. My living accommodations will be the bare minimum. I will have running water for part of the year, and during the time it is unavailable, I will have to use a shared well on compound grounds. I will not have a bathroom in my room, as an outhouse is used in place of individual restrooms. However, I will have electricity so that I can cook my meals as well as communicate through internet and phone connections. This is especially important for all of those who consider supporting me. I have developed a Face Book page and a website where I will blog continuous updates on my training and cultural experiences. While many may think this is crazy, I find the simplicity of it all very appealing. It will allow me to focus more attention on running than I ever have before.

There will be a certain amount of time that I will not actually be running. It is during these times that I plan to keep myself up to date for medical school. I am in the process of gathering textbooks so that I can read and continue my studies while I am there. I am also in the process of connecting with the administrator of a local hospital in town. This will be the perfect opportunity for me to expand my knowledge while also sharing any education that I have obtained to care for the less fortunate in Kenya.

I have already begun saving for this exciting adventure; however, it is not a low budget venture. Among the expenses include air fare, living expenses, and food. It is for that reason that I am asking for your support so that I can achieve my goal of competing in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. I thank you all for your time and your support.

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Jake Benton

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