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January 5, 2022

Ben Blankenship Returns At USATF Cross Country Championships

One name that stood out on the entries for the USATF Cross Country Championships on Saturday (streamed via RunnerSpace+) is Ben Blankenship. The 2016 Olympic 1500m finalist has also run 28:08 for 10k, making him a serious contender for the win, but we haven’t heard much from him recently… that is, until now! Let’s find out where he’s been:

We haven’t seen you since the Olympic Trials when you made the 1500 semi-finals off just eight days of running. What have you been up to since then?

I spent this fall in Arizona getting healthy, which was my only goal. Could I string together enough weeks to be in reasonable enough shape to stand on the start line and feel confident again? It’s been a big block since October of regular runs and sessions. I like to workout every 48 hours — I’m always getting ready for another session. It’s consistent but nothing ever brilliant. There was a lot of disappointment last spring where I’d feel okay, but then get a mile into a run and know it was garbage — it sucked.

The Trials took a lot out of me. I was willing to put myself in that situation for the opportunity to make my second Olympic team, but I don’t think I realized how impactful it’d be on my body. It killed me. Afterward, it was like, “what can I accomplish this summer?” There was no rush so why would I press? I went to Greece for a month to float in the sea every day.

You won the Club XC Championships in 2018 and you’re stepping back onto the grass this weekend once again. Do you have any expectations coming in?

My expectation is to put myself in a position to be competitive and I don’t know where that ends. Do I get through 10k? Or do I get to 9k and blow up? I run to be competitive. So I’ll stand on the line and say let’s do it and see what happens.

Are you still a 1500 guy? You’ve run 28:08 for 10,000m — that would suggest you could be quite competitive in the 5k. Any plans to shift focus?

It’s difficult to string two long seasons together. When I was younger, I’d thrash through indoors and then get a world standard before taking 10 days off from sessions and get right back to it. Now I have to be more methodical about how I target stuff. It is so easy to get super excited about different opportunities. I love racing and running and I can be talked into things.

I’m naturally a 1500 guy, although I’ve tried to fight that. But when you hear the 10,000m champs will be held separately this year, I am like ‘wow, that makes me think!” But I haven’t changed my training. Maybe I’d be on the track earlier, but it’s still over-distance work of 10-12k, the long tempos, and quality runs. My mindset hasn’t changed, but in time my body will decide where we go.

I hate to say this, but you’ve become one of my favorite people on social media. You use it sparingly, but every post seems meaningful when you share. This goes against the Ben I know.

To say it doesn’t matter is not living in the real world. It’s all a marketing campaign and that can be tough. It’s hard to show up to workouts and have to think about content. I’m in the position often where I am all by myself and who holds that camera when I am alone? It’s a struggle to think about having extra people at a session with a camera. Plus an ugly guy like me — there aren’t many good pictures to choose from.

I loathe Instagram when a friend DMs me instead of texting, but I enjoy speaking with random people I have never met. All of a sudden they’re part of this training block too and it’s like, ‘come along with me.’

What’s your current coaching situation? I see you working out with lots of people.

I am still coached by Mark [Rowland], but he has given me an incredible tether which I couldn’t live without. We collaborate, chat, and have great conversations. I am sure on his side it’s frustrating because I get these crazy ideas that I go off on. He’s allowed me the freedom to explore and that’s allowed me to stay in the sport for so long. I love jumping in sessions with other people to hear other people’s thoughts and talk training. I can work out with Sara Hall once in a while when it overlaps and it’s super fun to get that perspective.

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