Carter Benge is sitting inside the campus Chick-Fil-A, where several students acknowledge him with a wave or a quick “Hey man” on their way out the door. He greets each one by name as if they are old friends he hasn’t seen in years.
The Master of Divinity student gets back to his story about running cross country for Mars Hill University, and how his first Instagram photo was inspired by the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon. The photo is one of his college teammates after a training run holding a sign that says “#RunForBoston.”
It was after that tragic incident that Benge set his sights on Boston. He called up his high school coach, the late Al Munoz, and made a plan to train for his first marathon, knowing that he would have to qualify to be able to run the world’s oldest marathon.
Benge credits Munoz with encouraging him to put in the work to run in college. Munoz signed on to run alongside Benge during the All American Marathon and Half-Marathon in Fayetteville in April 2014. Sadly, the coach died unexpectedly four days before the race.
Benge completed his first marathon in memory of his late coach with a time of 2 hours, 58 minutes and 35 seconds. He graduated Mars Hill the next month.
Running through campus
He still had his eyes on Boston when he selected Buies Creek to continue his education in Church Music at the Campbell Divinity School. Signing on as the resident chaplain for Campbell’s Kitchin Hall, he enlisted the support of the students living in that dorm.
“They all knew about the marathon, specifically how much training I was doing,” he said, mentioning that he would write the distance of his training run every day on the whiteboard on his door in the dormitory.
After some joking around about it, he along with the residents of Kitchin, the Kitchin Ninjas as they were called, created the Kitchin Marathon.
The Kitchin Marathon consisted of 131 laps around the Academic Circle on Campbell’s main campus with Benge running all of the laps and his residents running relay-style for one mile each.
The Kitchin Marathon was his longest training run for Boston, and Benge saw it as an opportunity to raise money for a local charity NC Kids Run by asking people to donate per mile he completed. In total, the Kitchin Marathon raised over $1,000.
Benge crossed the famous finishing line at 3 hours, 57 seconds, the fastest time of any Cape Fear region competitor according to the Fayetteville Observer. Reflecting on the race a year later, he says there are three things that stick out the most about that experience.
The first being the moment he heard his friend’s name announced as he neared the finish line. His friend had started nearly 2,000 runners ahead of him, and Benge nearly caught him.
The second is running through the “Girls of Wellesley” scream tunnel, arguably the loudest section of the course. Students from Wellesley College line roughly a quarter of a mile of the course that runs through the campus. Benge happened to know one of the girls in the crowd, so his run through the scream tunnel was deafening and customized as the girls yelled his name and bib number.
The third is hearing one of his professors from Campbell cheering him own from the crowd on the infamous “Heartbreak Hill” near the end of the race.
Now, he spends his days studying for divinity school, hosting pancake nights for the residents of Kitchin Hall and planning out his next race.
He also finds ways to give back to the running community and help others achieve their goals. Most recently, he coached his friend Gavin Spell as he trained for the Tobacco Road Marathon earlier this spring. With Benge’s help, Spell is heading to Boston in 2018 to run the 122nd Boston Marathon.