Williamstown’s Benson runs for sense of accomplishment
PARKERSBURG — After crossing the finish line in two hours, 56 minutes and 27 seconds at last year’s Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon, Celeste Benson was visibly emotional.
“I was crying my eyes out,” the Williamstown resident recalled.
Someone unfamiliar with running a half marathon may be inclined to ask something like, ‘Why do that to yourself?’ For Benson, the answer is simple.
“The sense of accomplishment,” she said. “That’s why I keep doing it.
“Afterwards, it makes you feel really good that you accomplished it.”
Last year was Benson’s 10th time running the local half marathon, and she now is preparing for No. 11.
“This is my 11th one. I should’ve quit at 10!” she laughed.
“I was just saying since I’ve hit 10 and kept going, now I have to get to 20. So that will be my goal. I have to get to 20 now.”
Benson, born and raised in Pittsburgh, said the people involved with the race make coming back every year much easier.
“I know all the people and they do such a great job,” she said.
Some of those same people helped Benson get through last year’s race when she thought she may be unable to finish.
“The volunteers got me through,” Benson said. “There’s people who go through on bikes, and one of them literally got me through the last mile. I was crying and he was cheering me on, and I finished.
“Many years I’ve thought, ‘I’m not going to get through this one.’ Some years I’ve felt good afterwards, and other years I’ve been crying my eyes out.”
The payoff is worth it, though, for Benson. Along with feeling accomplished, running has led to special opportunities she otherwise may not have received.
“Gotten to know many people,” she said. “Now we travel together and do halves all over the place.
“I’ve been to London, England (for a 10K). As far as halves go, we’ve been everywhere. I can’t name them all, I’ve got a mental block. Pittsburgh, Columbus, Athens … we’re going to one in Myrtle Beach (S.C.) in October. We’ve been to Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, we’ve been around.”
London and Oklahoma City are two places which really stood out for Benson.
“(London) was awesome,” she said. “It ran by all the historic sites. Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, it was awesome.
“We did the one in Oklahoma City a few months ago. I would have never been to Oklahoma City, and it was an awesome town. Now I want to go back.”
Still, Parkersburg remains the only race Benson participates in on a yearly basis.
“As far as it’s run, it is awesome, but it’s one of the hardest ones to do,” she said. “I know people think that’s crazy, but I guess because it’s in August, it’s always hot and humid. It’s got its share of hills. It kicks my butt every year. Every year, I say I’m not going to do it again, and then every year, here I am doing it again.”
At her best, Benson can run a half marathon in about 2 1/2 hours. This year, she’s hoping to be somewhere in between there and three hours.
“I’m slow,” she laughed.
“People say, ‘Are you a runner?’ I say, ‘No, I’m a walker. I walk and jog.'”
Benson got a late start running-wise, beginning when she was “close to 40. I just saw a local race, I think it was the Shamrock Classic in Marietta, ran it and liked it immediately. It just kind of started from there.”
She’s come a long way, from starting out with local 5Ks to competing in her first marathon in Oklahoma City recently.
“I was terrified that it would be undoable,” Benson said of running her first full marathon. “It felt awesome. I don’t know why, but the last two miles I was just like so pumped up and ready to go. I can’t wait to do another.”
Benson owns the Best Western in Marietta with her husband. They have two kids, one a graduate of Marshall University and the other currently attending.