Utah based endurance athlete Ben Light will run 500-miles across the Pyrenees Mountain Range with the goal of obtaining two World Records.
On Sept 1st 2019, Ben Light plans to run the 470-mile “Haute Randonnee Pyreneenne” (HRP) route across the Pyrenees Mountain Range located on the borders of France, Spain and through Andorra with the goal to set two new World Records. First being the fastest self-supported crossing of the HRP route and second being the fastest human crossing of the Pyrenees Mountains. In order for Ben to become the fastest human to cross the Pyrenees Mountains, he will need to navigate an average of 59-miles per day with over 42,500-ft of vertical change over extremely rugged mountains and complete his crossing in under 8 days and 7 hours. To add even more difficulty to this journey, Ben plans to run this remarkable distance completely “Self-Supported” without any assistance from a dedicated crew.
Ben is honored to share his passion for life while raising money to assist individuals who physically cannot run. For the second year, Ben is partnering with the Utah based nonprofit organization Neuroworx. An organization that focuses on neurological rehabilitation of individuals experiencing paralysis from spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, stroke, and other neurological conditions. Neuroworx provides care and treatment for patients regardless of their ability to pay. This year Ben’s goal is to help raise $75,000 in donations in order to assist Neuroworx in purchasing an Anti-Gravity Treadmill called an Alter G. This specialized piece of equipment will assist with the rehabilitation of patients and help to improve their quality of life.
Teaming up with Ben for his Pyrenees Project is Utah Valley University. Students from the UVU Digital Media Department will be documenting Ben’s monumental run across the Pyrenees. They will be utilizing the footage for a feature length documentary. In addition, students from UVU’s Exercise Science Department will be collecting physiological data for research on endurance athletes.
Ben is grateful for the support and generosity of his partnering brands for the 2019 Pyrenees Project. Without them, the Pyrenees Project would not be possible.
Ben Light: The Pyrenees Project
You might know Ben Light from throwing down at 200-mile races; he completed the Triple Crown in 2017 and has paced, volunteered, or ran each one every year since their debut in the ultra-running scene six years ago. You might have heard about Ben tackling the Spine race, a brutal 268-mile winter ultra in the UK with a notoriously low finisher rate. He was one of the first Americans to take on the race, and when the event bested him at his first attempt, he returned the following year during the worst winter storm the country has seen in 30 years. He crossed the finish line after 153 hours of exposure through over 150-miles of blizzard conditions. Or, you might have followed Ben last year during his Wasatch Tahoe Project: 305-mile back-to-back ultramarathons that started the same day but were located in different parts of the United States. He successfully completed both in 119 hours.
You might not know that Ben is about to hop on a plane to shatter a world record crossing the Pyrenees mountains: the fastest known self-supported time of the HRP.
The HRP (Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne, or “High Pyrenean Route”) is the gnarliest thread of peaks and ridges that you can string between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. It is more of a concept than a designated trail traversing the aggressive and relatively young range. Ben will self-navigate the most rugged, demanding route against both the clock and the elements. He will run through Spain, Andorra, and France. He will average 59 miles and 21,250’ of vertical gain each day. For eight days.
Another world record that could potentially fall, depending when he reaches the Atlantic coast: the fastest human in history to cross the entire range.
Though he will have a film crew following to document his progress, he will carry all of his supplies and attend to all of his needs autonomously and without assistance. For Ben, the style in which you run is just as important as the distance. Self-supported means exactly that: no one will fill his pack or prepare a meal; no one will lance his blisters or mule his gear. The prestige of the route and the record is only captured by integrity.
To complete an ultra—especially an undertaking of this caliber—requires a fuel that burns longer and slower than simple carbs and caffeine; a true endurance athlete feeds their drive with their values. Ben’s fire burns for his family, his faith and the empathy for others. A Reno native originally, Ben attended the inaugural Tahoe 200-mile ultramarathon. Not to race. At the time, he was a gym rat tiptoeing around the outskirts of the ultra-running community in northern Utah. His running resume consisted of a single trail half marathon and a Ragnar relay event. When he offered to help pace a friend for a section or two, he had never run beyond the 32-mile distance. By the end, he paced 93 miles.
By supporting someone else,
I was able to achieve something I never thought possible for myself.
- Ben Light
The miles ticked by easily. The distance became invigorating. Ben’s inner strength stems from his compassion for others; he would not have run a hundred miles for himself, but when the prerogative shifted off himself the fear of distance fell. His mental limits turned to dust.
Ben is still running for others, and the foundation for his Pyrenees concept is inspired by empathy for those who are struggling to take just a few steps. Neuroworx is a local non-profit organization that offers free rehabilitation for people experiencing paralysis. Whether individuals suffer from a spinal cord or brain injury, stroke, or a neurological condition, anyone who hopes to improve their quality of life and who is willing to put in the effort can receive support from professionals.
Neuroworx shines where a shadow has been cast. Individuals who could not take a single step have managed to re-learn how to walk on their own. The program also offers a specific pediatric therapy for children with neurological conditions. Lives that were immobile have re-discovered functionality and purpose. Personal limits are pulverized day by day.
The trail is not easy, nor direct. These individuals, too, need to fuel themselves fully with the same grit and determination to complete their path of rehabilitation. Ben will suffer willingly knowing that there are many neighbors, colleagues, and families surrounding him that are suffering powerlessly. His mission is to help bring financial means and awareness to the organization so they may continue to offer free services. This is the second year Ben has teamed up with Neuroworx, but this year he will be pushing both himself and his fundraising campaign further than ever before.
The Pyrenees Project contains 340,000’ of change and spans 470 miles between coasts. The weather is formidable and unpredictable at an average altitude of 9,800’. He will have no refuge, no assistance, and no true rest until he is seated on the beach of the Atlantic. His company will be the cols, glaciers, granite and the occasional village day hiker. He will bivouac when he needs to recharge, alone on the trail.
To complete a feat this monumental, a runner must be willing to sacrifice comfort and embrace the moments of misery, of loneliness, of pain. No one attempts a fastest known time record without a deep willingness to suffer. The battle pits runner against terrain: heart against earth. Every minute counts.
When pitting yourself against a route of this magnitude, each step is about progress. “I look at the barriers and start breaking them down,” Ben strategizes. “If you want something badly enough, you have to be willing to break it down and take it step by step.” Whether it is the first or the millionth, as in Ben’s case, every footstep draws the goal closer.
Of course, the route endeavor to break him down, too, little by little. The layers will peel away until only the raw core remains. Running ultra-strips away the masks and defenses to reveal the contents of soul. The question he will answer is whether the course or the core runs out first. That is the battle of the ultrarunner.
As the distance and wilderness chip away at Ben’s body and mind, he will need to manage all of the factors that contribute to completing this mission with mental dexterity and emotional steeliness. Every aspect of his training will be examined under the microscope as the miles accumulate: training, nutrition, gear and lighting, managing sleep deprivation, navigation, hydration, everything.
Ben has learned the lesson, many times through running, that life is about honing the skill to be able to adjust. It is about putting in the work to train or regain something that was lost, adapting to solve each situation and meet every need. This can only be accomplished through constant self-evaluation and correction.
The secret: do not allow yourself to be overwhelmed and do not overreact. Continue to adapt and grow as different challenges test you. In a place of isolation and the unknown, allow your core values to propel you through to the other side.
Empathy for others taught Ben that he could achieve incredible distances because his footsteps changed the lives of someone else. When the obstacle of the unknown fades and the fire ignited within is sustained, the desire to push the limits becomes engulfed by purpose. Running for others inspires him, even to the other side of the globe.
Written by: Julie Moulton
“Every rock life throws at you,
use as a stepping stone
towards achieving your goal.”
Wasatch Tahoe 300 Project
This past September 2018, Endurance Athlete Ben Light completed a remarkable 300+ mile endurance challenge by running (2) back-to-back ultra-marathon races that started the same day but located in different parts of the U.S. These two races consisted of the Wasatch Front 100 being held in the Wasatch Mountain Range of northern Utah and the Tahoe 200 that circumnavigates the entire Lake Tahoe split between Northern California and Northern Nevada in the Sierra mountains. Both these races started the same morning of Friday Sept. 7th.
Ben was able to accomplish this unique challenge by first completing the Wasatch Front 100 and immediately catching a chartered flight from Heber City, UT to Truckee, CA where he was then shuttled to Homewood, CA, to start the Tahoe 200. Starting roughly 31 hours behind the original race start of the Tahoe 200, Ben had to run the 200-mile race distance without course markings or the use of the original aid stations. He had to utilize GPS navigation to stay on track and rely on his supportive crew to aid him where aid stations where previously held. The combine races totaled 305 miles with over 127,000 feet of vertical change. Ben successfully completed both races within a total of under 120hr time frame. His finish times for each race ranked him in the top 20%. (The Wasatch Front 100 in 30:38 and the Tahoe 200 in 83:42.)
Combined with Ben’s 300-mile remarkable challenge, he was honored to share his passion for life while raising money to assist individuals who physically cannot run. He partnered with the Utah based nonprofit organization Neuroworx that focuses on neurological rehabilitation for individuals experiencing paralysis from spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, stroke, and other neurological conditions. Ben recognized the correlation between his running hundreds of miles with the similar grit, determination and dedication each individual affected by a neurological injury will need to demonstrate as they endure their rehabilitation treatment to improve their quality of life. He was grateful for the support of his local community and friends worldwide that help support his journey and helped him raise close to $8,000 for the Neuroworx organization.
Ben has been competing as an endurance athlete for the past 6 years. He has completed one full Ironman and dozens of ultra-marathon distances that range from 50k to now 300+ miles. Prior to racing ultra-marathons, Ben has a 20-year history within the fitness industry which includes him being a strength & conditioning coach and private personal trainer. He now supplements his endurance training with structured strength training exercises.
Along with him completing his 300-mile challenge this past calendar year, Ben Light has completed two additional extreme challenges.
In October 2017 Ben completed and placed 3rd in the Triple Crown of 200s. Made up of three 200+ mile endurance races ran within 60 days equaling 645miles, the Triple Crown of 200s is labeled the hardest endurance race series in the United States.
In January 2018 Ben completed the 268-mile Montane Spine Race held in the extreme winter conditions of the U.K. This race is labeled as one of the five hardest races in the world above the 300k distance. On top of this, the 2018 race was held during the worst storm Britain has seen in over 30 years.
Ben is passionate about sharing his remarkable journeys with corporations, students and organizations. From topics covering “health & nutrition” to “Living A Balanced Goal Driven Life”, Ben outlines the “Process” he utilizes in order to successfully complete these extraordinary distances. Ben recognizes the growth process that transforms us as we work towards achieving our personal goals. He has found the way he has approached challenges and controlled his reaction, has been instrumental to successfully readjusting to overcome each hurdle. Ben contrasts these struggles with issues each of us might face as we strive to achieve our career, family and personal goals. Ben expresses that the process he went through striving to achieve his goals enabled him to grow physically and mentally and had more personal value to his overall potential then actually achieving the goal.
Facebook: Ben Light
As an influential and respected endurance athlete, Ben has strategically aligned partnerships with a wide range of respectable brands. Each of these brands share the same values Ben continues to demonstrate by motivating and inspiring others to put aside their fears and fuel their passion to achieve their goals. He is grateful for their generosity and support.
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