RAF MILDENHALL, England -- To those who know him, Lt. Col. Chris Bennett, the former 100th Operations Support Squadron commander, isn't just a runner - he's a running machine.
Not only has the Airlift and Tanker Requirements chief at Headquarters Air Force Reservist Directorate, Air Staff, Pentagon, run every single day for the last three years, he recently completed his goal of running 20 “13s" in 2013.
During his 2013 challenge, Bennett decided to run 20 half marathons before the end of the year. On Dec. 8, he achieved his goal. He completed 13 of those "13s" (or, 13.1 miles, to be more specific) while he was at RAF Mildenhall.
While most people's bodies would still be recovering for days after completing such races, Bennett just threw on his running shoes and hit the ground, each and every day.
In high school is where Bennett really took to running, transitioning from "riding the pine" (slang for sitting on the bench for most of the game) while on the school soccer team, to running track and cross country. Bennett ran his first marathon in 1993, and his second in 1998, when he qualified for the Boston Marathon.
"I continued to run the occasional marathon, and balance that with job, family and church," Bennett said. "Running was and is one of many pillars in my life, but by no means the sole one."
During 2006 to 2007, while at intermediate developmental education in Norfolk, Va., he took advantage of school life and ran his first and second sub-three-hour marathons; he completed the Boston Marathon in 2:57. Soon after, he moved to Germany, where he began sharing his passion for running with others.
"The highlight in Germany was a group of approximately 10 from European Command Headquarters that travelled to Athens, Greece, to run the Athens Marathon, where it all began," he said. "I also ran my marathon (personal best) while in Germany, at the Koln Marathon, in 2:53."
After moving to RAF Mildenhall in England, Bennett continued to run heavily. He competed in the 57 mile-long London-to-Brighton ultra-marathon.
"I recognized that I wasn't intimidated by the marathon -- I was confident that I could show up at the starting line and was going to finish," he said. "That's what encouraged me to consider going longer.”
Bennett placed seventh out of 196 runners, in a time of 10:50. Only 88 runners finished the ultra-marathon in the required time limit of 13 hours.
"That was my first attempt at really pushing into unknown territory, and I'll admit I didn't really know what I was doing, or how my body would react as I hit 40 or 50 miles," he said. "But, I liked the idea of entering a race not knowing if I had the ability to finish, and to find out how mentally and physically tough I was. It's mostly mental -- just the ability to keep moving forward."
So, does this seemingly super-human runner ever break a sweat?
"Well, I'm usually pretty wiped after a half-marathon, but it depends a little on how hard I ran it," Bennett said. "Yes, I break a sweat; definitely when the weather is hot…but even in cold temperatures, you still sweat. Over the course of the year, I was able to recover better from a half-marathon effort. With one or two easy days afterwards, I'd be back to 100 percent."
To date, Bennett has amassed a veritable list of running achievements - 27 marathons, at least 35 half-marathons and four ultra-marathons.
Bennett's running streak hasn't been broken. He's logged 6,153 miles, run more than 831 hours and burned more than 611,000 calories, and he's still running every day.
"If you do the math, since (Jan. 1, 2011), I run approximately 5.5 miles each day," Bennett said. "Of course, some days it's more, some days it's less. My threshold is at least 30 minutes a day. In addition to the 20 '13s' in 2013, I set a goal to run 2013 miles, and passed that in mid-December. I did the same in 2012, and finished that year running 2119 miles."
Having such a dedicated runner for a dad and husband has certainly encouraged his family to get their running shoes on.
"But I don't force them!" Bennett said, delightedly sharing their achievements. "Molly (his wife) is a veteran of two half-marathons, and she'll be toeing the line at this spring's 'Rock and Roll' half-marathon in D.C., along with my 15-year-old daughter, Katie Reed (her first half-marathon). Katie Reed was also a team member of our Ragner Relay last fall, a track and cross-country letterman in her freshman year at Lakenheath High School, and most recently a third-place overall female at the Blue and Gray 5 km (23:25) in Fredericksburg, Va.”
"My 11-year-old son, Eli, has a natural gift to be a runner as well, “he said. “He currently runs about a 6.50 minute-mile and doesn't do much training. Both Katie Reed and Eli ran the Cheddar Gorge 5 km, and his tenacity enabled him to edge Katie Reed at the finish line. We have healthy competition in the family!"