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Ricardo Benitez doesn’t have femurs in his legs, but he’s never let that hold him back before. Despite his limited mobility, the 19-year-old, who was born with a rare condition called femur hypoplasia, lives an active lifestyle—he even plays football at Baylor University.
And now, he’s preparing to take on one of his biggest challenges yet: a marathon.
Running has always been part of Benitez’s sports life, yet long distance was never his thing. The only other race he’s completed was a 5K once as a kid, but he doesn’t really remember it.
But Benitez is constantly looking to tackle greater challenges. Last September, he considered the idea of a marathon when he was watching a documentary on Netflix called “The Iron Cowboy,” about James Lawrence’s Guinness world record for doing 50 Ironmans in 50 states in 50 days.
“We all have abilities,” Benitez told Runner’s World. “I may not have the same mobility as someone, but I can still run. God gave me the ability to move, and I want to use it.”
Benitez has been building up to marathon shape ever since he signed up for the Silo District Marathon in his hometown of Waco, Texas. The race, scheduled for April 25, was postponed until October because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Benitez still wanted to put his training to good use, so he’s decided to run his own marathon in Waco on that same day.
“There’s no ‘how to run a marathon without femurs’ training plan I can follow or Google,” he said. “I was trying to run everyday, but my body got fatigued, so I did what I could.”
One training challenge for the new distance runner has been his long runs. He’s not as fast as most runners, so finding time to get his miles in was tough for a full-time student and student-athlete, even with classes moving virtually. His longest run came in January when he attempted a 13.1-mile run, but ended up getting sick and only making it 7.5 miles.
Instead of mileage, Benitez has focused on heart rate-raising workouts like HIIT, doing sessions on the rowing machine and with weights, and other cross-training like rock climbing and swimming.
Though it hasn’t been the traditional marathon build up, Benitez is ready for his first 26.2. He’s mapped out a course and will run alongside two friends who will carry his fuel, which will also be unorthodox.
Because he’s planning to run for nine hours, he needs more fuel than most runners. He’s banking water, Gatorade, and cheese quesadillas—inspired by watching YouTube videos of Courtney Dauwalter, who he considers “the GOAT,” crushing 200 milers—to give him the energy he needs.
“There’s no other option than crossing the finish line,” Benitez said. “I’m either going to finish, or I’m going to die, and I’m not planning to die, so I’m doing this.”
[Want to start running? The Big Book of Running for Beginners will take you through everything you need to know to get started, step by step]
Another reason Benitez wants to run now is to acknowledge his fundraising—he has been raising money for Camp John Marc, a camp for kids with chronic medical and physical challenges that Benitez attended between the ages of 10 and 17. (You can donate to his cause here.)
“I wouldn’t be running this marathon if I didn’t go to that camp,” Benitez said. “Kids go there and can’t tie their shoes by themselves or push their own wheelchairs, but they come out being able to. You just have so much confidence when you leave there.”
It’s that confidence and independence that drives Benitez to go after goals like a marathon. Just like Camp John Marc showed him he was greater than what people thought of him without femurs, he wants to inspire others to conquer great goals in their lives no matter what.
“Let’s say there’s a kid with a disability and he may not have the same mobility as kids at school,” Benitez said. “He may feel defeated or rejected. When they see me, like I see others out in the world, they may want to go out and do it too. The biggest thing for me is I don’t ever want to live a life without.”
While tapering and getting motivated for his race, Benitez continues to watch running videos of his favorites, like Dauwalter, and though he admits he’s nervous, he’s ready to show the world once again that he is more than he looks.
“I want to be one of the best athletes of all time,” Benitez said. “I’m not going to hold a record, but I want to do everything I can, using all of the ability my legs give me like climbing mountains, doing an Ironman, and seeing how far I can take this. What’s about to happen is going to be a lot for me, but I’m excited about what it will mean to me and hopefully others.”
Editor’s note: According toe Benitez’s Twitter account, he completed his marathon on April 25.
My name is Ricardo Benitez. I was born without femur bones. Today, I completed a marathon😀 pic.twitter.com/1aLRfb51X8
From: Runner’s World US
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