by Carrie Adams
Lately, Spartan Race has featured some amazing videos on our blog created by fancyboyproductions on YouTube. Fancy Boy has a name – Chris Bennett. Bennett, a teacher and coach in New Jersey, has a vast knowledge of track and road racing and a passion for bringing the stories and the talent to the masses. I recently asked Chris to tell me about his background, the stories behind his videos, and what he hopes they inspire.
Bennett ran in high school for Christian Brothers Academy in NJ, a US Top 10 Cross Country team. From 1994 – 1999 he ran for North Carolina, where he was captain of the Tar Heels cross country and track teams. In 1999 after college, he moved to Palo Alto, CA, where he ran for the Nike Farm Team until 2004. He no longer races but he trains with the high school team he’s coaching. “It is very tough to be on that line for years and then step off it and get back on.”
He credits his coaching success with learning from his own mistakes and the amazing list of coaches he was lucky enough to have himself, including legends like Tom Heath, the most successful boys coach ever on the East Coast, with no losses since 1973. Bennett was also coahced by Olympian Joan Nesbit-Mabe at Carolina and premier distance coach Jerry Schumacher, who still finds time to answer Bennett’s questions to this day. “It was a dream team of coaches,” Bennett says. “Everything I say I have stolen from them.”
He credits his wife with a lot of his success as well. “The last and most important part of the puzzle is my wife Tammie. We met at Carolina. We were both on the team. She made me. I was lazy. I lacked confidence. She changed that. Any success I have had or will have I owe to her.” Together, he and Tammie run the Bennett Running Camps and host cross country and track races. They have open workouts and special events.
Bennett’s knowledge of cross country and track history is obvious and his influences vast. He’s always thought the sport had the potential to be popular if showcased properly. His videos are organic and focus on the running. “I wanted to show the passion and emotion, the triumph and tribulations. I wanted to show some respect for the overwhelming efforts and stories that athletes have given us,” he says. His videos showcase poignant moments in sports history with appropriate background music, which was an easy addition. “I also love music. And I’m cheesy as hell. Put all that together and you have some videos.”
Bennett is still surprised how well his videos have done on YouTube–they’ve gotten one million views, though Bennet has never marketed them. “People write me and tell me they had no idea about Joan Benoit or Seb Coe or the story of Ryan Shay or Heather Dorniden…. our sport needs fans. Baseball players have Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. Basketball has Michael Jordan. Track has Alberto Salazar and Henry Rono and Haile Gebrsellasie and Paula Radcliffe. If I can get kids (or adults) to discover these heroes then that’s a good thing.”
When pressed to pick his favorite video, he can’t easily decide. “I love The First Gold. That was my first real memory of watching running. She is such a beast too. What a badass.” One of most popular videos is Bennett’s latest, and my personal favorite. It’s called “The Race” and it highlights the story of Heather Dorniden’s heroic rise after a devastating fall during the Big 10 Championships. “That effort is so monumental.” Ultimately, it comes down to one question: “Why do you run?”
As a man used to inspiring, he’s inspired by seeing others improve, especially when they see it for themselves. As a coach his priority is to instill a love of the sport. He believes that runners can’t achieve their potential without loving what they do. When it hurts, the love makes you do what it takes to get through it. He also wants his runners to get rid of the barrier and the limitations.
“I remember the moment I became better after I moved West to run for Nike. I realized that they were all normal guys. There was no magic that I was missing that they mysteriously had. That’s not to say that they didn’t have magic. They did. But they simply trained their asses off to become magicians. I was willing to do the work. The work itself no longer scared me. I was on my way.”
Running, according to Bennet, is “about betterment and challenge. It’s about competition with others. It’s about competition with yourself. When the book closes on me, if more people hit the trails or stand up and cheer when they see a great effort then I’ll be a happy guy.”
Bennett keeps busy with his coaching and running camp and he can be followed on Twitter and Facebook. He’s website is www.bennettrunning.com. Keep the videos coming FancyBoyProductions. We are eagerly waiting to see what you’ll come up with next…