Member: Benjamin Nieto
Name: Ben Nieto
Hometown: Erdenheim, PA
High School: Springfield (Montco), PA
College: Penn State
Occupation: Process Engineer
10 mile – 56:45 (2018)
Half Marathon - 1:15:44 (2019)
Marathon – 2:48:47 (2017)
Career Highlights: See below
By: Kevin Brandon (10/31/17)
Ben, thanks for taking time to speak with us. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you end up in Philadelphia and running with PRTC?
I grew up in the suburbs so I’ve been in the area almost my whole life. Went to school at PSU and after I graduated I got a job in the city. I eventually got involved with PRTC after Mike Vido suggested I join some of the workouts and have been going since summer 2017.
When did you first become a runner? Did a specific event compel you to take on the sport?
I joined my middle school track team in 7th grade and actually hated it at first. I didn’t have any friends on the team, was out of shape, and found going home after school to watch Pokemon much more enjoyable. However, I felt kind of guilty about quitting, so I told myself I’d give it a second chance in 8th grade. The second time went much better and I’ve been running ever since.
Once you began running, how did your career develop? Take us through day one to today.
As I said, things didn’t go so smoothly at first. I was really out of shape, but eventually just started running a little bit more and got better over time. In high school, I was mostly mid-distance and didn’t even do XC (played soccer instead), but had a pretty successful career in track.
Eventually, I went to PSU and joined the Club XC team where I ran XC for the first time. At the end of college, some friends from Bucknell convinced me to try to run from Penn State to Bucknell with them (I think it’s like 57 miles). I quit after about 40 miles or so when I was so dehydrated that I had some internal bleeding (a friend in med school explained it wasn’t as horrible as I thought at first – something about my kidneys, blah blah blah), but considering I had never run much more than maybe 15 miles before that in one go, that was pretty good for me and I decided to start focusing on longer distances. Now I typically run marathons instead of 800s.
You’ve run with or otherwise have a long history with a few current PRTC members. We have to ask – any good stores about pre-PRTC MIke V or Sean C?
Vido and I went to high school together and have been friends ever since. Our 4×800 relay came in 2nd in PA for AA in 2006 along with a lot of other successes. I even lived with him and some of his Penn track friends for a semester in college when I had an internship and needed a place in Philly to live. Basically, we’ve been hanging out a lot over the last 12 or so years, so if anyone wants any good Vido stories, I have plenty, but he has plenty about me too, so I might need to be careful about what I say.
I know Sean Clark from college. He also ran Club XC at Penn State and lived with me for a semester. One good story with Sean was when we had a meet at Michigan. He had a friend who was in school there and we were somehow allowed to stay at his frat house instead of with the team at the hotel. The friend had a party and I think I stayed up a little too late partying. Needless to say, I did not run a good time the following day, but I did get a great picture as I swan-dove across the finish line and was told I smelled like tequila, to which I replied “thank you” to a very confused woman.
Sean also introduced me to the beer mile which might be the only race I can get an age-graded 80% or better right now. I swear we do other things than drink, but those stories aren’t as much fun.
Can you tell us about a favorite running accomplishment or moment?
I’d say my greatest accomplishments in the last few years have been running a 5:48 beer mile, a 2:50:09 marathon (with some pacing help from Mike and Margaret Vido – thanks guys!), running a 5 mile fun run dressed in SCUBA gear, and finishing the 2016 Boston Marathon with a BAC around 0.12.
How about a not-so-great moment?
While the 2:50:09 marathon is my current PR, I also hurt my knee pretty badly in the process and couldn’t run for a few months after, had to do PT, etc. Luckily, I’ve been able to come back and am hoping to improve upon that time soon. Also, considering that everyone gets injured at one point or another, I feel lucky that this is the only major setback I’ve had in a long time.
Regarding your running future, what are your near and long-term goals?
I have the Philly Marathon in a few weeks and hope to run a new PR there. Ideally something in the mid or low 2:40s. I’d also like to run sub-58 at Broad Street next year.
Can you tell us a bit about your professional non-running life?
I have a chemical engineering degree and work at an engineering firm in Old City. We do consulting work for pharmaceutical and bioprocessing companies. The easiest way to describe it is we work on systems that store stuff, pump it from place to place, heat it up, cool it down, and sometimes filter it. Hopefully the system eventually spits out a quality product, like flu vaccines, contact lenses, or anesthetic gases.
Any non-running related hobbies, hidden skills, or talents we may enjoy hearing of?
I enjoy playing soccer and getting outdoors a lot, especially camping somewhere scenic. In the last year, I’ve camped and hiked in Patagonia and Zion National Park, which were both amazing. I also have a thirst for trivial knowledge and will find myself reading a lot of articles of the day and things like that on Wikipedia. However, it being trivial knowledge by definition, I always forget it as soon as it would be useful to know during quizzo. The only time I think I knew something at the perfect moment was when the tie-breaker for first place was who could guess the population of Moscow. I had just been reading about Moscow for some reason and knew the population was a little over 12 million.