By Lucia Tonachel
On January 15, Professor Vicki “The Breeze” Bentley-Condit, anthropology, ran the Maui Oceanfront Marathon. Besides being an impressive physical feat, the race in Wailea, Hawaii completed Bentley-Condit’s goal of running a marathon in each state plus Washington, D.C. Although she seems nonchalant about this accomplishment, it places her in an elite category of runners across the country.
Bentley-Condit runs amidst very different groups of runners: some, like Marathon Maniacs, an international running club, aim to complete as many marathons as possible within a given time frame, but often race with less competitive times. To join the group, you must complete two marathons within 16 days or 3 marathons within 90 days, minimum, according to Marathon Maniacs.
But don’t mistake Bentley-Condit for a slow runner. On the contrary, Bentley-Condit places in the top of her age group for most races she runs. Given her speed, one of Bentley-Condit’s many goals for the future is to complete a marathon in each state plus Washington, D.C. with a Boston Marathon qualifying time in each. Some of her other goals include running her 75th marathon on her upcoming birthday and racing 100 marathons in total.
Though Bentley-Condit’s accomplishments are extensive, she has been racing for a relatively short time. After starting to run during graduate school in Atlanta, she was inspired when doing fieldwork in Kenya, though her initial attempts didn’t go far. After returning to the states, her first race was the Peach Tree 10k in Atlanta. However Bentley-Condit was challenged by the weather when she moved to Grinnell after the race.
“It’s really cold and it’s really hard … basically I quit because it’s so darn hard here. And then it took me … probably six years or so before I started running again,” Bentley-Condit said. The first race she ran in Iowa was the Happy Days 10k.
“So I did the 10k, and still had that ‘you know, I wonder if I could do a half marathon … you know I might try that down the road’… so [the Des Moines Half Marathon] was my first distance race,” Bentley-Condit said. “When I did that, I wondered ‘you know I wonder if I could do a marathon, I wonder what that would be like. So the next year I ran the marathon, and it was hard, and it took me a long time…but it was okay, and so that was my marathon,”
The marathon, all 26.2 miles, has since become her primary distance, although Bentley-Condit still races other distances. Perhaps the most notable include both 50k and 50 mile distances, some of those including trail running, which can be quite technical.
Since her first marathon, Bentley-Condit has never followed a training plan. “I’ve never had a coach, I don’t run with other people, never have consulted, just one foot in front of the other,” she said.
While many runners are gear and training-obsessed, Bentley-Condit is practiced and follows what works best for her. When asked about recovery time, Bentley-Condit smiled and explained that training plans focus on what you can’t do.
For Bentley-Condit, a week of running consists of about three runs, each clocking in around half marathon length (13.1 miles). Bentley-Condit runs only in the morning and listens to metal music. Her runs are a solo endeavor, a time to think about things in the day ahead. While she does not stretch and only rolls muscles out when painful, Bentley-Condit looks forward to chocolate milk after her runs.
Bentley-Condit is an accomplished runner who gives no regard to the advice of others, but rather to her body. It would be easy for ‘The Breeze’ to brag about her accomplishments, and with good reason. But even after completing 67 races, Bentley-Condit is clear about what it means to be a runner and to run a marathon.
“No matter what [speed], running a marathon is hard work. You’re on your feet, and you’re pushing … running marathons doesn’t get easier. It’s always hard work.”