Most recently, Balenger broke the record for the most laps around Central Park in New York City in one day.
“I lived in Austin, Texas, and was really part of the food and bar scene. It comes with a lot of parties and late nights,” he told CNN.
“You work hard and then you blow off. I still lived that kind of lifestyle and quickly realized it wasn’t going to add up.
“This whole party wasn’t really going to make me a very good leader or someone who could perform my daily job duties the way I wanted.”
Then his fiancée invited him to run. Short jogging sparked something at Balenger, who quickly saw the benefits of exercise as a way to cope with the stress of his job and to come up with new ideas for his restaurant.
Balenger gradually took on longer and more difficult challenges; a half marathon; a full marathon; then found himself at the start line of a grueling ultra-marathon.
“It has definitely replaced that party lifestyle,” he adds. “[It was] much healthier, but there was still something in there that looked like something. It’s kind of a raw feeling. “
Running through the United States
Balenger eventually moved away from the bar scene. He flirted with the idea of charity or solar energy work and he also loved the idea of being a wildland firefighter. But he always came back to the race.
Then, after a chance encounter with another man who had run across the United States, Balenger began to prepare for the biggest challenge of his life: transcontinental racing.
“I finished it in 75 days, which averages 43 miles a day. So I was doing an ultra[-marathon] every day, ”he says with a smile.
The main driver of the project was to raise awareness of better food choices. Balenger says his vegan diet was his “superpower” for running and insists that was one of the reasons he was able to complete it.
“Here in the United States in particular, we have a really big problem with obesity and people are really unhealthy,” he says.
“I think I hit him at a time when people were ready to recognize and accept that there was a problem, and therefore they were open to conversations because they were seeing people around them. who were in poor health and fell ill.
“My thought was, ‘I’m just going to show that I can do it on a plant-based diet,’ and along the way, I quickly realized that not only could I do it, but that was the reason for it. which I was able to do. ”
Central Park Record
After completing his epic run, the self-proclaimed “herbal alternative endurance athlete” got a taste for more.
In March 2021, he set a new record for the Central Park Loop Challenge, where he had to complete as many 6.1-mile park laps as possible during its opening hours.
From 6:05 am to 12:55 am the next morning, Balenger completed 16 laps – just under 100 miles – shattering the previous record of 11 laps.
“It was just super attractive for me to come out of the depths of Covid. I felt like it was a cool thing to do,” he says.
“It was the first day of spring and then it really resonated with me because that’s where I ended my run across the United States, in Central Park.
“[I was] really excited to have done it and then your legs seize up and you get really stiff and then you get really tired, and luckily you can pass out right after that. ”
Balenger travels 10 miles every day to prepare for big challenges. Rain or shine, he puts on his sneakers and goes out. Consistency, he says, is the key.
While the thought of running on a frosty morning might turn off many, Balenger always found a way to overcome the doubts in his mind.
This is because running is more than just a physical challenge. It is his sanctuary. This is where he feels most at peace.
“Running is the most spiritual part of my life,” he says. “This is where I’m going to be with myself and explore who I am and the energies around me and who I want to be.
“There is something very beautiful about the discomfort of this […] feeling what some would call pain – I guess it’s like a dull, dull ache.
“But what comes out of it, you feel very alive. You feel every ounce of your being. With every step you feel your feet, you feel your legs, you feel your toes and there is something beautiful about it. . “
Balenger’s father died when he was very young, and although he enjoyed his childhood, he says he never had that male role model that so many take for granted.
While searching for a sense of himself, Balenger set out in pursuit of a party lifestyle.
“I expressed it in a lot of ways and a lot of them were probably not very healthy. Like being a guy who went out and drank a lot,” he says.
“Partying like that kind of embodied what I thought it meant to be a man. It was hard living and that was kind of where that masculinity showed up.”
He says running has helped him redefine masculinity, especially after seeing athletes compete in the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run, one of America’s toughest races.
“I was like: there’s another version of a man who’s just brutal and has all these qualities that I think I was trying to get from that bar scene,” he says.
“It’s a way that’s the healthiest version of it. And so after seeing that, I wanted to embody that. And so that started that exploration and that’s something that’s still going on.
“I’m 36, I’m still trying to figure out what it is, and I do it through my run. It helps me create a healthy identity for myself, and I think she embodies a lot of what it means to be a man. ”
Balenger is currently tackling another gigantic challenge, in what he has dubbed the “Colorado Crush”.
It’s about running a marathon in June, a 50 mile run in July, and a 100 mile run in August.
Between these, he will also propose to complete the Colorado Trail – which stretches for 500 miles – and the summit of 58 peaks over 14,000 feet.
During the challenge, he will use neuroscience technology to see how she can optimize her sleep and help her recover.
“I think the more we run, the more we move our body, we push ourselves, the clearer and higher our frequency becomes,” he says.
“I think encouraging others to do this will only make us better, our communities better, and the world better.
“I know I’m the best version of myself when I have a goal, when I move my body, when I take care of myself and eat healthy. I want this for everyone.”
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