© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated
Fiona Benson is a Langley (Greater Vancouver) based middle-distance runner.
She graduated from Trinity Western University in 2015, leaving the school on a high note, as she helped the girls finish second at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Cross Country Championships and second again at the CIS Track and Field Championships. Her running club is the Langley Mustangs.
Until spring of 2015, her 800-metre personal best time was 2:08.54. After a few encouraging workouts, she raced to the Canadian lead time for 2015 with a 2:01.58 performance during the May 30th Christie-Phoenix Insurance Victoria Run Series. She followed up that race with three more personal bests including 2:01.48 at the Harry Jerome Track Classic on June 8th and 2:01.02 at the Victoria International Track Classic, two nights later. She exchanged the Canadian lead time with North Vancouver’s Jessica Smith once, then took it back with an eye-popping performance in Portland, Oregon.
On June 14th, at the Portland Track Festival, she was seeking the 2015 Beijing IAAF World Track and Field Championships qualification time of sub-2:01.00 – she ended up running 1:59.94, to become just the fifth Canadian ever to break the 2:00.00 barrier, while qualifying for the 2015 Toronto Pan Am/Parapan Am Games and the world championships – although she still needs to run top-three at the Canadian national championships in early July in Edmonton.
Her time is under the 2016 Rio Olympic Games standard, as well, which is also 2:01.00.
Christopher Kelsall: Until May 30th, you owned a respectable personal best time in the 800-metre event, which was 2:08.54. That night you ran 2:01.58. Did you have any notion that you would run the fastest time of the year (to date) in Canada? What were your expectations going in?
Fiona Benson: [Laughing] It was my second race of the year. I had one expectation, and that was to be told by a finish line and a clock whether I was going to have a track season. I had a great week of training coming into the race, but other than that it was the same-old same-old, and I needed another race to feel confident that we were doing things right. I’m a university graduate now with lots of plans swimming around in my head, and ‘I ran track in university’ isn’t a very good life plan, so that first 800 was a real confidence booster that I was on the right track, so to speak.
CK: Whether you would have a season? Why? Were you impatient with yourself?
Were you concerned that perhaps you had gotten as fast as you were capable of?
FB: Impatient with life, maybe. If I had unused talent it seemed I was missing the key to it.
CK: What field of study is your degree in?
FB: Political Studies.
CK: Outside of running, what sort of plans do you have?
FB: [Laughing again] Lack of plans more like. None of them seemed to fit quite right.
CK: Perhaps a sign pointing you to seek a career in athletics?
FB: You know what, I’d like that.
CK: Can you describe the feeling of breaking the 2:00.00 barrier? What was swimming through your head at that moment?
FB: “No way.”
Actually, I think my mind stopped with the clock. I’m usually too busy running to look at the clock coming down the backstretch, but I wanted to run under 2:01 so badly that I remembered to look this time. It was 1:57-point-something and the last few yards took forever but I thought, “this might actually happen.”
CK: Do tell. Did you and Coach Mark Bomba shed a little tear?
FB: [laughing] He might kill me if I say! Let’s just say we were glad the camera was so far away.
CK: Well you gave the answer. If it makes it a little less uncomfortable, I had a tear too.
FB: Well tears have a place too I guess. That actually means a lot, Chris.
CK: Does running 1:59.94 drastically change your plans as an athlete?
FB: Yes. Well… ‘plans’ are underway now, but before it was really a game of wait-and-see.
CK: At what age did you discover running? Were you an active child?
FB: I was actually quite a pensive child. But I always liked to be doing something. We lived out of town so I went to soccer and rode horses and played cops-and-robbers in the bush.
CK: Cops and robbers! What an old soul. What about Capture the Flag?
FB: [laughing] yes Capture the Flag too, when we had big get-togethers with other homeschooler families.
CK: Is your family active?
FB: I have a hard-working family. Is that the same thing?
CK: Yes and let me also re-phrase the question; however, I think you inferred the answer already. Is your family athletic, like you?
FB: I’d say we did activities more than competitive sport. My parents really wanted us to be active though. Mom ran (at least until she graduated from high school) and would send us out to run on the roads, and then we’d go to the little local cross-country meets. We were all part of other sports teams and activities, but as far as running goes I have one sister that runs marathons and another that has just been convinced to try high-school track.
CK: What other sports?
FB: We all played soccer and my sister is on a volleyball team now too. My brother joined martial arts.
CK: When did you discover that you might have some talent to make the sport worth pursuing?
FB: I did well at the local cross-country meets and then at high school provincials. From there the university running system took over. At provincials during my Grade 12 year a US coach introduced himself and offered me a scholarship, but I was also in contact with the coach of a nearby community college (Bill Corcoran at GPRC) and decided to stay closer to home my first year. One thing led to another once I was in that environment, and during my time at GPRC I won college nationals (by a hair’s breadth) and made my first national team (Junior cross-country), and got other university offers from there. I’ve always been aware that I was not swimming in the biggest pond.
CK: You are now though. Where do you see your running career going?
FB: I’m not very good at predicting the future! I’m at my best when I just take one day at a time.
Post-race interview at Victoria International Track Classic: