Student runs across state for flood recovery
Part of NDSU’s land-grant mission is to find solutions to ever-changing, real-world problems. Embodying that mission is junior Ben Clark, who spent a week in August running across North Dakota to raise flood recovery funds for his hometown of Minot, N.D.
Clark, a computer science and mathematics major, ran 366 miles from Beach to Fargo. He has been a runner since his senior year of high school after being inspired by a Navy Seal who came to his school to talk about his experience in the Badwater Ultramarathon. Clark was invited to run Badwater this past summer.
An ultramarathon is any running event longer than a marathon, which is about 26 miles. Badwater is a famous ultramarathon that begins in Death Valley and ends 135 miles later on Mt. Whitney, Calif. Clark finished the run in 41 hours, 14 minutes and 30 seconds.
Clark had wanted to run across North Dakota, and was out fishing with friends and talking about a fundraiser to help with the flood recovery in Minot. Two weeks later, he started running. He ran on back roads across the state parallel to Interstate 94 with the help of a three-person crew that traded off the duty of keeping a vehicle close.
Clark ran all day to make his 50-mile pace with several 30-minute breaks and an hour-and-a-half of sleep each night. Music would help during the low points of the run, which is mostly a mental game, Clark said.
“I try to get into a mental zone. Runners talk about the zone, a meditative state where they are not thinking – a stillness of the mind. Just enjoy the moment,” he said.
Running isn’t about the runner’s high for Clark, but the test. He feels it makes him stronger to know he can accomplish such tasks. He learns patience and being calm in adversity.
“It makes you a better person,” he said. “It’s a character thing. I wouldn’t say I like doing it. I like what it gives me.”
Clark’s family home in Minot wasn’t affected by the flood, but he saw the devastation still evident in the trash on the streets, the smell of mold and mildew in the air. “It’s sad to see this town I’ve grown up in just destroyed,” he said. “It will never be the same. It’s still a war zone.”
Clark raised more than $1,200 on his fundraising website, but is not aware of how much was sent directly to the Minot Area Community Foundation Flood Recovery Fund on his behalf. He hopes to continue to raise donations after the run, since he didn’t have much time beforehand to get the word out.
After graduation, Clark hopes to work in cryptology. He enjoys the puzzle aspect of encrypting and decrypting information. His next running goal is to start being competitive. One dream is to run the Marathon Des Sables a six-day, 156-mile ultramarathon in the Sahara desert.
Donations can still be made in Clark’s name at www.active.com/donate/floodrecoveryfund or by mail to the Minot Area Community Foundation, Wells Fargo Center, 15 2nd Avenue SW, Suite 102, Minot, ND, 58701. Please put Ben Clark in the memo line of the check for tracking purposes.