Friday, December 07, 2012

Ben Blankenship is on the Comeback Trail

Photo by Donald Gruener.
of OTC Elite
When Ben Blankenship looks out the window of the "house on the hill" in Eugene, that he shares with Hassan Mead, he sees "the cathedral," Hayward Field at the University of Oregon.  It has become one of the training sites Blankenship will use to launch his comeback into the track world after an extended absence.

Blankenship had a breakout year in 2011 on the US and European track circuit.  He dropped his PR in his main event, the 1,500 meters to 3:37.23, and seemed on the verge of breaking into the upper echelon of the rapidly rising US middle distance corps.  But then he started to slide down the other side of the "roller coaster" that is one's fortunes as a distance runner.  A pain in his hip that he had been ignoring did not go away, so he had to have an operation to "clean out" the joint in September of 2011. It was not a hip replacement, as has been reported elsewhere, but rather an outpatient laparoscopic surgery that repaired the pain-inducing, minor damage to the joint.

In a rush to get back for his final indoor and outdoor seasons of eligibility at the University of Minnesota, he tried to do too much, too soon.  That resulted in stress fractures in his leg and wiped out his remaining track season.  "After that I took a step back," said Blankenship.  Having graduated, but with no athletic outlet, Ben said, he found himself "hanging out, just to hang out."

Moving to Oregon, signing up with the Oregon Track Club elite squad, and continuing his athletic development had "always been part of the plan."  He had contemplated doing it his senior year, but stayed on to finish his final seasons in cross country(2011) and the aborted 2012 indoor and outdoor seasons. The string of physical setbacks caused him to "resort my plans."  He moved to Colorado for awhile to work for his uncle.  He wasn't running regularly, but his body was healing.

He spent some time in Washington, DC and began to run more regularly.  It felt good.  No more aches and pains.  He started doing rehab exercises and running more.  There was some unfinished business in the running world, he concluded, and it was time to see if he could get back to where he was in 2011, back on track for the elite running circuit. The offer from OTC was still available, and Mead was heading there as well, so the pair moved to the house on the hill.

Both had been through physical setbacks.  Mead with an Achilles tendon injury, then a collapsed lung.  Blankenship with his hip injury and stress fractures.  The friendship they had developed at the University made the decision easier.  They both had ridden the injury roller coaster and now were on the way back up. "It's good to have somebody to talk to who understands," said Blankenship.  "Someone to bounce ideas off of."  For both of them the transition has been working.  Mead, says Blankenship, is doing well, looking fit and enjoying the environment.

Blankenship's recovery has been progressing well, but he's not sure what the intermediate goals are or what event he will eventually focus upon.  He and Mead are both being coached by Mark Rowland, though Hassan will be focusing on the 5K this year, he said, with a possible step up to 10K.  Blankenship may stick with the 1,500 or move up in distance.  "I really don't know right now," he says."The plan is to get my name back out there.  Get a couple of solid races."  The ultimate goal being the US Outdoor championships and World Championship qualifier races this summer.

"The training has been going well for the last three months," said Blankenship.  "I'm excited to get out there, see where I'm at."

No comments: