By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer, Video by Nate Smith | Broadcast Reporter
Finishing a marathon is a challenging task for anyone. Running 26.2 miles takes a tremendous amount of determination, preparation and willpower. But for Baylor sophomore Ricardo Benitez, who ran a marathon on Sunday, it was an even more incredible accomplishment.
Benitez was born without both of his femurs.
He said that people have always tried to put him “in a cage” by telling him what he can and cannot be, what he can and cannot do. Benitez let out a massive yell once he crossed the finish line, which he said was directed at his doubters.
“When I crossed that finish line and I yelled, it was me telling all those people that ‘You lied. Everything you said about me was a lie,” Benitez said. “You said I couldn’t play football. I played football. You said I couldn’t run a marathon. I ran a marathon. You said I couldn’t go to college. I’m at Baylor University right now.’
It was freedom. It was freedom, crossing that finish line.”
As for the marathon itself, which took over 14 hours, Benitez said that it was definitely very challenging, both physically and mentally. He said that miles 16 through 19 were especially taxing mentally because he was exhausted, but there was still a long way to go.
Yet, Benitez said there was never a doubt in his mind that he would finish the race.
“The mentality I had when I started was ‘I’m either going to finish this race, or I’m going to die,’” Benitez said. “I’m not giving in, I’m not giving up. I’m going to finish this race no matter what.”
Benitez ran the marathon alongside several of his friends as well as Nancy Goodnight, a marathon runner from Waco who organized the course.
Goodnight said that Magnolia’s public relations staff asked her to help organize a marathon for Benitez, and she decided to join him on the run. She said it was a great experience, even better than what she had expected.
“You talk about a motivated group of kids, they were never going to quit, no matter what,” Goodnight said. “They had a really strong bond. That was one thing that I have to say was so impressive and so impactful for me, how tight they were with each other. They were never going to leave each other.”
Benitez said it meant so much to him that his friends, some from high school, some from middle school and some from college, ran the marathon with him.
“The fact that they were out there for that long too,” Benitez said. “They were tired too. Just seeing their faces, wanting to cross the finish line, wanting to see me succeed, was everything. I could not have crossed the finish line without them and Nancy.”
Goodnight said she hopes Benitez’s story can spark inspiration in others to fulfill their goals.
“You can overcome [the things around us] by having a strong spirit and a strong mental capacity,” Goodnight said. “And he does. It’s contagious. Look at this power that is in this kid’s heart and his mind. It’s really empowering for other people who see it.”
Benitez said that while there was a time when he did not think of himself as an inspiration, he now takes pride in being able to inspire hope in others by simply living his life.
“As I get older, I’m starting to understand the power, the motivation that someone can see from myself and my story,” Benitez said.
Benitez has already started thinking about the next chapter in his story.
“I think I want to go try an ironman,” Benitez said. “An ironman is a 2 mile swim, 120 mile bike ride and a marathon, all in one day. I think my friends and I are going to start training for that, because I think that’s something we can accomplish, no doubt in my mind.”