Remembering Ben at the Western States 100 by Mo Livermore on June 27, 2013
 

   On a spectacularly beautiful, clear, bright-blue-sky afternoon, after two days of rain and wind had cleared the skies and dusted the pollen from the wildflowers and trees, Western States remembered Ben at Emigrant Pass. The gathering of sixty or so runners, pacers, crews and volunteers learned of Ben's many gifts, bringing his inspiration into their own hearts:


Remembering BEN

Flag-Raising Ceremony at Emigrant Pass

Western States Endurance Run, Thursday, June 27, 2013

(Mo Livermore)

~ from Annandale, Virginia and, more recently, from San Diego, where he was completing his Ph.D in Economics

~ ran Western States last year – finishing in 22:34

The very next week, Ben traveled to Peru with a climbing buddy, Gil Weiss, to attempt a first ascent of Palcaraju Oeste, a 20,000 ft peak in the northern Andes. On the descent, on July 13, Ben and his friend both lost their lives. Ben was 32.

Ben was the kind of person who inspired those around him through his own example to do better, to be better, to make a positive difference each day - in short, to “Maintain the Light” - believing that such collective good would improve the state of the world.

“The goal of changing things for the better CAN be reached”, he wrote when he was just 20: “The key is to inspire others, to affect other people in little ways, and they in turn will continue to pass it down.”

As a lifelong runner and elite mountain climber, Ben found great spiritual and personal growth through the challenge of the mountains. Running, for him, explained his dad, was a time for him to connect with his inner self: being in the mountains brought him closer to God.

As Ben fought through the frigid, stormy miles of last year’s Western States, he drew on this strength. Recalling Mile 35, in that No Man’s land of mountain ridges, Ben reflected, “It was a lonely, lonely time. Me vs. my own head. Why am I out here? What am I trying to do? Is it worth it?”

The tenacity of his personality pulled him through the tough miles, galvanized by the force of his character and the inspiration he drew from many:

~ Faulkner: “I believe that man will not only endure – he will prevail.”

~ Geoff Roes, 2010 WS winner: “Accept the low points, and move on.”

~ Dostoevsky: “Suffering is the sole origin of consciousness.”

~ Russian climber, Anatoli Boukreev:

“Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve;

They are cathedrals where I practice my religion.”

And – himself: “You can measure your heart rate, but you can’t measure heart.”

Ben’s blazing time of 22-1/2 hours did not meet his armchair expectation of 20 hours, but he wrote: “It wasn’t my best performance ever, but I tried the hardest, and so by that very real metric, it was my very best race. Internally, on that day on that course, I know it was my proudest effort.”

Ben made that positive difference in the lives he touched. The broad reach of his spirit continues to influence and inform the actions and choices of those who knew him.

I never was lucky enough to get to know Ben, but I find myself affected by him too, by the strong values, far-reaching curiosity and many gifts of this extraordinary young man who lived life so fully.

Standing here on the crest of the mountains he loved, may we all honor Ben’s memory, looking forward, with heart, making our own proactive choice to Maintain the Light.