Strava Track Club members are engaged in a wide variety of vocational and other pursuits in addition to their running. Find out more about our team in our new weekly feature, Meet the Team. After a short hiatus, we're back with Ben Mears, a software engineer and Amherst grad. Follow his adventures, including Monday's Boston Marathon, on Strava!
Running has been a central part of my life ever since middle school. Through high school in upstate New York, then college and grad school in Western Massachusetts, and now in the working world in Silicon Valley, running has played a core role in each of these periods and made each fun and adventurous.
At Amherst College my freshman year, I was the young and excited runner who sometimes liked to explore a little too much. After the first week, I decided to explore the trails around Amherst by myself. Venturing out on a 10 mile run after spending hours studying the trail maps, I quickly became completely lost. Nearly an hour a half into the run I finally found myself on the main road coming out of Amherst. Not totally sure where I was, I guessed left was the correct direction and picked up the pace. 5+ miles later, I was relieved to finally see campus, having just finished my first (unplanned) 2+ hour run. Throughout the year, I continued to explore the trails and dirt roads around Amherst--even getting an infamous “Ben Mears special” run named after me after dragging one of the older runners on a 15mi run that went directly up the first 7.5 miles, then directly down for 7.5 miles. I have since learned to look at elevation maps before going on a run!
At Amherst, I had a successful freshman season, cracking the top 7 and making the trip with the team to DIII XC Nationals. After a strong start to my sophomore year, I soon got the dreaded injury bug and missed the next 2+ years. While there were many times I considered giving up on running during those two years, with lots of encouragement from my coach I finally made it back for track my senior year.
After undergrad, I made the not-so-long trek over to UMass Amherst for grad school. Since I had eligibility left, I decided to try walking on to the UMass XC team. Despite not having run a cross country race since my sophomore year and now making the jump from Division III to I, I was able to make the team and crack the top 7 by the end of the season.
Although I only raced one season at UMass, I made a lot of great friends and ended up joining the Western Mass Distance Project (WMDP), a club team a group of UMass almuni put together. I continued to race with the team while in grad school and also volunteer assistant coached at Amherst College, while getting in lots of runs with my college coach, and the UMass and Amherst XC teams.
After grad school, I took a job at Google and made the trek out to the West coast. Within my first few days at Google, I scoured the internet for Corporate Challenge results and using Google’s company wide employee data base got in touch with fellow runners at the company. I soon found out there was an informal company team (Google1) and over the next year ran multiple races with the team, including overnight adventures doing Hood to Coast and the Golden Gate relay.
After Google, I’ve since started working at Wealthfront, a startup in Palo Alto and joined Strava track club. Working and training in Palo Alto has been perfect, with great teammates to do workouts and runs with, amazing year-round weather, and easy access to the trails in the foothills. I’m currently training for the Boston marathon--the trip itself will in some regards be a reminder of all the people I’ve met and places I’ve been because of running. I will be going with some of my Strava TC teammates, racing with former co-workers at Google and teammates from WMDP, and making trips back to Amherst and Upstate New York to see former teammates and coaches.
For me, the most important part of running has been always making sure I’m having fun--because if I’m not, there’s nothing else that’s going to get me out the door each day for a run. While this mentality sometimes gets me in trouble (I’m been known to have trouble saying no to joining in on another workout or long run when I should be taking a rest day!), the alternative would likely be a life without running--and that wouldn’t be much fun!