Benaiah Powers is 10 years old, but he has already achieved something most adults will never attempt. This March, when he was still 9, he successfully ran his first half marathon.
No one made the youngster rise before dawn and run 13.1 miles through the streets of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Benaiah decided on his own that he wanted to pursue distance running after a rather unexpected achievement when he was 7.
“I ran my first 5K with my dad,” says Benaiah, “and I saw that I was faster than him.”
CHASING A DREAM
If Benaiah’s pursuits seem extraordinary to some, they’re simply in keeping with his parents’ educational philosophy.
David Powers, a military veteran, author, motivational speaker and self-described adventurer, says he and his wife Korrene decided from the beginning that they would homeschool in order to give their children the greatest scope to follow their interests.
In terms of formal instruction, David says they focus on what he considers functional skills which can be applied to everyday life. Many of their individual and group activities involve moving about in the great outdoors, which is ideal for a family of four sons and one daughter.
David says he encourages his boys “to follow their wildness in a civilized area. They’re kind of tamed wild kids.”
The family usually hikes together every week. The Powers’ 12-year-old boy is heavily into team sports. As for their 6-year-old, says David, “as long as he’s active and moving, he’s happy.”
Benaiah, meanwhile, remains dedicated to running harder and faster.
He’s aided by the presence of a well-developed homeschool track and cross country program in their area. The Chattanooga Patriots consist of several teams that compete on all grade levels.
Benaiah has participated for the past two years, focusing on sprints and the running long jump.
David says the team is a testimony to the maturation of the homeschooling movement, and provides opportunities that weren’t always available in years past.
“Our track team has gotten quite a reputation,” he adds. “They compete against public school teams. Two years in a row, Benaiah’s cross country team has gone to the state championship.”
During track and cross country season, Benaiah says, he practices with teammates twice a week. Their regimen varies from simply running a lot to more fun (but exhausting) exercises, such as playing capture the flag.
“At one place there’s a giant hill and we do bear climbs,” Benaiah adds.
Training for the half marathon, of course, required Benaiah to push himself even further. In the 18 weeks leading up to the race, he stretched his runs from three miles to 12.
THE MAIN EVENT
It all paid off on March 4. He finished the Myrtle Beach course in 2 hours and 21 minutes, 696th in a field of 3,500 runners. From what he saw, that total included about 10 kids his own age.
“I felt a lot older,” said Benaiah, noting that he received numerous comments and compliments from adult runners.
David admits he viewed things a little differently.
“I was nervous about the start,” he says. “He was kind of small in the middle of all those people.”
Still, David says he tried to foster Benaiah’s sense of independence by giving him space to compete. During the race he would cycle ahead of Benaiah, sometimes to discreetly observe, and other times to cheer on his son as the proud dad snapping photographs.
It was a struggle trying to maintain a similar balance while Benaiah trained for the race, David recalls. He wanted his son to be free to test his own physical limits, but not to push so hard that he hurt himself. David says he consulted friends who could advise him on how a young and growing boy could engage in serious athletics without overdoing it.
As it turned out, there was little reason to worry.
Though Benaiah insisted in his blog account that the race left him feeling “oh so sore,” the healing powers of youth quickly kicked in.
“Later that day,” says David, “Benaiah was out riding bikes with his cousin.”
By Dave Dentel,
HSLDA Web Content Manager
Photo Credit: All images courtesy of the Powers Family.