Running with purpose

  • Photo courtesy of Jim Benkert

    Kaua‘i’s Jim Benkert continues to push his physical limitations by running ultra-marathons that are 50-to-100-mile races. Above, Benkert powers through Resurrection Pass Ultra Race in Alaska.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    Kaua‘i runner Sally Cravens, left, approaches the finish line during a previous Kaua‘i Marathon.

  • Courtesy of Sally Cravens

    Kaua‘i runner Sally Cravens crosses the finish line at the Skagit Flats Marathon and Half Marathon in 2018. Cravens will be one of the contestants to compete in the 2020 Kaua‘i virtual marathon Sept. 1 to 6.

Kaua‘i runner-power walker Sally Cravens remained undaunted by the psychological distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

The absence of the physical-distance marathons during this period didn’t prevent Cravens from tapping into the multiple layers that fuel intrinsic motivation to partake in the sport.

Cravens was involved with The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee during the pandemic, a 635-mile virtual race she began May 1 and ended Aug. 31.

Cravens, who was one of 19,000 racers to participate in the virtual worldwide event, completed the challenge in the 53 days.

A runner since 2008, Cravens said she is motivated to do this for her health, her family and in honor of her late son Forrester David Cravens, for who she established a memorial foundation in 2011.

The foundation awards a scholarship to an aspiring young artist in music, art and sports, all of her sons’ passions.

Cravens also participated in another virtual challenge this summer, competing in the Camino de Santiago trail, a 480-mile race, and she isn’t finished.

Virtual insanity

Continuing to run with purpose, the advertising executive for The Garden Island newspaper is ready to tackle the local marathon circuit and participate in the 12th annual Kaua’i Marathon Sept. 1 to 6.

This year, like many marathons in Hawai‘i and on the mainland, it will be a virtual marathon, where race participants can complete the marathon or half-marathon mileage continuously, on the same day and on the route and time of their choosing, according to the marathon website.

Director of Marketing for the Kaua‘i Marathon Robin Jumper admitted in a previous interview with TGI that overcoming obstacles to put on marathons is still a challenge, but the running community embraced it.

“It’s been an interesting time for the running industry,” Jumper said. “It is cool to see how in such a short period, the running community is coming together to find short-term and long-term solutions.”

“I think, like any other business, everyone is going to have to make changes,” Jumper said. “We will see shifts in running events, such as managing safety precautions in a different way than we have in the past. There are going to be different protocols that will have to be in place to ensure that we can be safe and healthy.”

Vicarious inspiration

Another motivating factor for Cravens is the many challenges other runners overcome.

“I think about the runners who are doing it with prosthetic legs,” Cravens said. “They truly inspire me when I feel tired and helpless out there. I just think of all of the physically-challenged runners who overcome adversity, and that is enough to shut me up.”

Without limits

Part-time Kaua‘i and Alaska resident Jim Benkert is always ready for a new challenge.

Benkart never thought of letting the pandemic slow him down.

Finishing third overall in the Resurrection Pass Ultra Race in Alaska and clocking in with a time of 26:06:24, Benkart continues to push himself to do more.

Benkart, a runner since his late 30s, is following what he believes is the motto of any runner at any level — pushing yourself to the brink of your limitations.

Overcoming the wildlife dangers of running in the dark in Alaska with several animals lurking, including grizzly bears, Benkart just teamed up with a running partner to make the night portion of his trip less dangerous.

Looking at the other runners who placed ahead of him, Benkart feels he put himself in a position to win the race.

In the Alaska race, runner Jacob Konrath placed first overall in the event with a time of 23:40:11, and Laura McDonough finished with a time of 25:16:32 for a second-overall place.

Despite the time lapses, Benkart still feels he can win this upcoming race with his running coach from Peak Center Alaska, LLC, Rebecca McKee, and with the support of his wife, Lori Benkart, who works for Waioli Properties on Kaua‘i.

“I looked at the times (in Alaska), and I thought ‘I could win this,’” Benkart said. “I was behind two hours, but there are many places (during a race) that I could go faster, wear faster shoes and take everything with us.”

The challenge of finding ways to push himself continues to motivate him.

“When you finish the race it is so empowering, and you say to yourself, ‘I did something that not many people do,’” Benkart said. “It is an incredible feeling. There are so many things that go through my mind, like ‘this sucks. I want it to be over,’ but you cross the finish line and you say ‘that is the best experience of my life.’”


Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or

  1. Hunter Mckown May 26, 2021 10:16 am Reply

    It was one of your friends wedding, two kids a girl and a boy and me my twin and Forrester. Forrester told all of us not to step on ants because We Are All gods creatures. His memory is a blessing. Well done Sally!

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