Last weekend, our hometown of Solana Beach, California, was the vibrant backdrop for our annual Rally and World Championship Weekend. Among the highlights of the events and activities was the recognition of our Authentic and Inspiring Award winner. This special accolade is reserved for riders who exemplify a genuine passion for the ElliptiGO experience and who have inspired our community with their actions, words, and achievements. This distinguished recognition was bestowed during the Awards Ceremony and Dinner, hosted by the Global ElliptiGO Riders Club (GERC).
It is with great pride that we introduce Benton Runquist as our 2023 Authentic & Inspiring Award Winner!
Take a look at the Global ElliptiGO Riders Club (GERC) all-time statistics page and you’ll see Benton Runquist near the top. He rode the second-most miles in 2021, GOing 21,296 miles. As he rode toward the number-one spot for mileage in 2022, riding 15,695 miles during the year, we honored him as the November 2022 Rider of the Month.
Today, with more than 71,000 total miles ridden, Benton is currently number two for lifetime distance. What makes that accomplishment particularly inspiring are these facts: Benton only started riding his ElliptiGO regularly in 2020, when he was in his 60s, and after he was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.
ElliptiGO CEO Bryan Pate says, “Benton was the obvious choice for the Authentic and Inspiring Award this year for so many reasons, but primarily because he is such a positive force within the community. Yes, his absurd riding achievements are amazing and inspiring, but his constant smile, relentless energy and aura of joy are what truly make him special. We’re lucky to have him representing ElliptiGO out there on the roads for four to five hours, 350 days a year, and we appreciate him consistently encouraging everyone to do their best.”
Benton was very surprised to win the honor. He quips, “I sure wish I had worn a nicer shirt to the awards ceremony and dinner!” While he modestly says he’s “just a guy who loves to ride,” he adds, “I feel really honored, of course. I hope I can continue to ride, push the envelope a bit and be an inspiration doing something that I enjoy so much.”
We spoke to Benton earlier this month to find out why he started riding massive miles, how he’s maintained his high-mileage riding in 2023, and what his goals are for 2024 and beyond.
How Benton Got GOing
Benton, an orthodontist, lives in Davis, California, with his wife, Pam. The two were avid runners—they even placed second in the “Husband/Wife” team division in the 1992 and 1993 Honolulu Marathon. Like many runners, they experienced injuries from time to time. So in 2014, when a fellow running club member was selling an ElliptiGO bike, Benton and Pam bought it. They used the bike as needed for rehab, and then got right back to running.
Then 2020 arrived with a variety of challenges. It was a tough year for everyone. For Benton, it brought foot issues that deterred him from running, the temporary closure of his orthodontic practice due to the pandemic and a diagnosis of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. This triple whammy of setbacks left Benton feeling down in the dumps.
Benton decided he needed to reinvigorate his life by trying something new. He vowed to get on his ElliptiGO bike and ride every day in May. That was the start of something new, all right. The following month, Benton joined GERC and the GOGO Challenge. “I don’t know why it took me so long to join,” he says, “but seeing the distances others had achieved was incredibly motivating and I wanted to do the same.”
And so, after riding regularly for only a few months, Benton set a goal of riding 21,000 miles in 2021. It turned out that Allen Kilpatrick was also vying to ride the same difference that year. The two men racked up the mileage and inspired each other to GO further.
Benton recalls, “I would try to ride 40 miles before work and 20 miles after. That’s what it took. For me, it was an average of 59.75 miles a day for the 355 days I rode. Absolutely crazy!” Benton and Allen both surpassed their goal, with Allen riding 21,406 miles, the most miles in 2021.
As he racked up the miles, Benton was amazed by how much ElliptiGO bikes minimize impact. He has found that the longer he rides, the better he feels. He explains, “I believe that due to the endorphins our bodies release, I actually feel better 70 or more miles into a ride than at any other time.” So he often adds mileage to rides that are already very long.
After his first ride with the Davis Randonneuring group, he kept GOing, extending it from 127 miles to 144. He likes to ride to and from the annual Sacramento Century Challenge, making his total distance more than 150 miles. After his first double century (200 miles), he rode more than 50 miles the next day. (Benton says he was searching for donuts!). This year, he extended the Davis Double Century to a 225-mile ride. Why? Benton says, “Because I felt so dang good and I just didn’t want to stop!” He adds, “I love the feeling and thinking, ‘I can do this!’ My body is not yelling at me to quit, but to keep going!”
The pinnacle of mileage maximization for Benton was the 2023 California Coast Classic (CCC), which he completed earlier this month. The bike tour is a fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation. The course travels 525 miles over eight days, from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Benton was the sole ElliptiGO rider this year, and he was proud to join the ranks of past CCC ElliptiGOers Mary Decker Slaney, John Pilkington, Lamorna Swigart and Jane LeGore. “This ride really should be on everyone’s bucket list,” Benton says. “It was an amazing eight days of riding and camaraderie.”
While 525 miles is an epic distance for mere mortals, for Benton, it was a fantastic event—but not quite enough mileage. So, he rode 105 miles to San Francisco to the ride’s start. Then he rode the 525 miles down California during the CCC. And then he pressed on from the CCC’s end in Santa Monica to Torrey Pines in San Diego, California.
“That last day was by far the toughest,” he says, with 4,000 kilometers of climbing and 110 miles. “All it did was energize me and put me in a great mood!” He compares it to the feeling of finishing a marathon—but over a longer period of time! All told, he completed over 11 consecutive days of riding, more than 860 miles and 41,000 feet of elevation.
“It sounds like a lot, and it is,” says Benton. But he’s always quick to give a fellow ElliptiGO rider a shout-out. “Just think about what Stuart Blofeld did: the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur is over 750 miles and he did it in 77 hours. Not DAYS, but hours! Now THAT is a feat!!!”
“It’s Just Riding”
While some riders have a regimen of distance and cross-training, Benton says that for his own mileage accumulation, “I wouldn’t call it training, just riding. I try to go every day, rain or shine, whether it is windy or not.”
A rear-view mirror is a must for Benton—“I will not ride without one. Just wouldn’t feel safe!” He uses his riding time as reading time, listening to audiobooks from the library via the Libby app. He uses an Arundel water bottle cage to hold a Bose Soundlink speaker, mounts his phone to his bike, and listens safely as he rides.
Benton makes his ElliptiGO bike a key component of his daily life and his preferred mode of travel for errands. “Those who follow me on Strava will see that I like to stop and take a lot of pictures, visit libraries, go to bakeries, run errands, and of course ride to and from work,” notes Benton.
He once rode 75 miles to Sonoma to attend a wedding. He also rode 92 miles to a library in Petaluma—while his wife, Pam, was breaking a six-minute mile on her 60th birthday. She ran 5:57, and then shaved another second off that time 10 days later, running 5:56. “She’s the real athlete in the family,” shares Benton. (He also added that she picked him up at the library after her speedy mile and they went out to celebrate both her run and her birthday!) He proudly notes that she’s on pace to “run the year,” meaning that she will complete 2,023 miles by December 31 this year.
Making Healthy Strides
When asked about his health, Benton replies, “After work today, my ride included a stop at the hospital for a blood draw.” He describes his illness as a “numbers game,” because factors like white blood cell count dictate when he should receive treatment and what that treatment will be.
Benton recommends two books: How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger and You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren. “Both are life-changing,” he says. “I know now, after reading Mark’s book, how important strength training is. Don’t wait for a wake-up call. Put your body, health, and diet first!”
As for the numbers game, “I try not to think about it,” he says. “When it happens, it happens. But that’s not to say that I’m not trying to do something about it. It really is the reason I’m out on the road for so many hours. Not that anyone told me it would help … but I can’t believe it won’t!”
ElliptiGO Goals and Advice
For 2024, Benton is already planning to ride the CCC again, which will be held September 21 to 28 next year. He plans to do the Davis Double Century again, and he’d like to complete the California Triple Crown, which is three double centuries in one calendar year. By Rally Weekend 2025, Benton would like to hit 100,000 lifetime miles. And he’d really like a sold-out Stand Up to Cancer 11R, so he’d be happy to trade one of his 11Rs if anyone is willing. He would add that to his stable, which includes an MSUB, RSUB and 8S.
While he’s planning to stick close to riding a total of 15,000 miles a year (specifically, he aims for a numeric palindrome: 15051 miles), Benton is happy to cheer on anyone who wants to shoot for 24,000 miles in 2024. “I can’t wait for someone to go farther,” he says. “I would REALLY love it if another two riders did it in the same year, as Allen and I did. That was fun!”
For new ElliptiGO riders who want to increase their mileage, Benton recommends that they find or map a large loop in their local area, and gradually increase the number of times they do it. He recalls that when he got started, “Right out my front door I had a three-mile loop, and I thought it was really something when I would do a ‘Five for Friday’ (15 total miles) ride.”
“Bottom line, just give it a try,” advises Benton. “Go farther than you think you can, and you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t that hard!”
But, he adds, “Don’t think you have to be like me, or like anyone else. Just enjoy what you are doing.”
Benton certainly does. He knows how incredibly lucky he is to live where he lives, rides where he rides and spend the amount of riding that he does. He’s also grateful for his support team: “My dog, Honey, is always excited to hear me ’swoosh’ by the front of our house, bolts out the back door, and is waiting on the other side of the gate for me to come through. My wife is incredibly supportive. Even Ghia, our male cat, and his buddy Alf-Man, the neighbor’s cat, come toward me when they hear or see me finishing a ride.”
Reflecting on it all, Benton concludes: “Life is good!!!”
Benton, your achievements and your attitude are indeed inspirational! Congratulations on your many accomplishments. Thank you for inspiring ElliptiGO riders to GO further, encourage one another and enjoy the ride. We wish you all the best as you continue to enjoy the ride!
You can contact ElliptiGO with nominations to Rider of the Month or share your own story. It may just be the next feature!