Congratulations to Ben Drezek, USATF New England's October Athlete of the Month. Ben, a member of Tracksmith, was victorious in both the Brown Bear Invitational and the Wayland Cross Country Festival, both on the USATF NE XC Grand Prix.
Congratulations to Ben Drezek, USATF New England's October Athlete of the Month. Ben, a member of Tracksmith, was victorious in both the Brown Bear Invitational and the Wayland Cross Country Festival, both on the USATF NE XC Grand Prix. Along with his triumphs at the USATF NE XC Championship and Rachel’s Run in November, he completed a 5-race sweep in the Grand Prix, never trailing in any of the races. Mr Drezek won the Open competition in the USATF NE XC GP with a perfect score! We had a chance to chat with Ben, a true Renaissance man and top runner in the New England Association.
Tell us a little bit about your world, Ben Drezek. We hear you are one of a triplet.
Yes I am a triplet, I am the "stereotypical" middle child. I currently go to school with my sister Abby, we are both in the DPT program at UMass Lowell and my brother is currently in the Pharmacy program at URI, so when all 3 of us are done there will be 3 Dr. Drezek's out there in the world!
You were a standout at UMass Lowell, running XC and track, with steeple of special interest. What is your running focus now, after college, and is XC the best part of it?
I loved my time at UML, however I felt I still hadn't reached my potential so wanted to continue training at a high level and competing to the best of my ability. I've always had mixed feelings about XC, it's kind of a love-hate relationship. My current running focus is more geared towards the track, I want to break 4 in the mile and 8 in the 3k to set myself up nicely in the spring to attempt to qualify for US Champs in the steeple and hopefully hit an Olympic Trials qualifier. XC is a great way to keep the mileage high and build some strength that will last throughout the spring season!
Would you be more comfortable with XC if a steeple like jump and water hazard were a part of more courses?
If XC had some more barriers and obstacles it would for sure play in my favor. I have no problem getting down and dirty so running through some mud or water is no problem for me. I don't have the best leg speed so slowing a XC race down plays in my favor for the most part, plus it adds an extra element of fun.
You're a top runner at Tracksmith Hare AC Boston. How has the club enabled your training and participation at racing events?
Tracksmith was the best option for me in my current situation. Although I no longer have any NCAA eligibility, I still have 2 years of school, and Tracksmith offered me the opportunity to be able to be a part of a great running community, while also having some individualization in my training and racing schedule. Since I am in school, it's tough to get to Boston, or anywhere else for group workouts/runs, so being able to train on my own and then line up on the line with a great group of guys has been amazing! Eventually, I would like to transition to the marathon, and there is no better New England based team for that distance than Tracksmith!
If you weren't racing XC in the Fall, what sport or activity would take up your time?
If I didn't run XC, I would probably go hiking a lot. During COVID my best friend Kayla and I went hiking at least once or twice a week and I have always found enjoyment in exploring the outdoors and visiting new locations. Obviously being an aerobic athlete, the long distance and elevation of climbing a mountain is no problem so it's a great way to get some extra exercise.
What's a typical day of running for Ben Drezek? How many miles a week do you target? Any odd race prep customs or superstitions?
A typical day for running is usually a double, normally it's an early morning 5 with an afternoon 10. Obviously workout days or long runs change it up a bit but I usually aim for anywhere from 15-20 miles a day when I am in the full swing of things. When I am in training mode and not focused on racing, I am hitting a minimum of 90-100 miles a week, and really just maintaining that until it's time to taper for important races. In terms of superstitions, before I get on the line I always say a prayer asking my family members who have passed for some guidance, and then I recite some lines from the movie Cars. Yes I understand it’s an animated movie for kids but I don't care because I have to tell myself "I am speed"
Favorite recovery meal?
I wouldn't say I have a specific recovery meal, however after a tough race I always crave those "unhealthy" options so I normally have pizza, a burger and fries, or some random fast food because I am going to treat myself and not put limitations on my diet. One thing I do everyday is, after a run, I have a Propel everyday. My motto, for a long time, is "a Propel a day keeps the dehydration away". I like it better than Gatorade or other sports drinks because it isn't loaded with sugar and the flavors aren't overpowering.
Care to share your biggest accomplishments of 2022 and your goals for 2023?
I would say my biggest accomplishments of 2022 / 2023 would be helping UML win the America East indoor track team championship, winning the individual America East steeple chase title, being a part of the 5k crew at the outdoor America East championship that swept 1-8 for the first time in conference history, winning and setting a new course record at the Blessing of the Fleet during the summer, and obviously winning the USATF NE XC Grand Prix going 5/5. As previously mentioned, my main goals are to grind out some PRs on the track and hopefully qualify for US Champs and Olympic Trials along the way, steeple being my main focus.
Name your top two running idols and, since you are an avid fan of the beautiful game, your top two soccer players.
My top 2 running idols are Evan Jager and Ezekiel Kemboi, obviously admiring the both of them for being top steeplechases through their careers. I actually got the opportunity to meet Jager in California my freshman year of college at the Mt Sac relays which was an awesome opportunity. In terms of soccer idols, everybody on planet earth knows I am the biggest Manchester City fan in the US, so my main soccer idols of course are Yaya Toure and Bernardo Silva. Yaya Toure was one of the biggest reasons I became a City fan back in my soccer playing days, and Bernardo Silva is my current favorite player in the world. You can also just insert any Man City roster players as my soccer idols!
At what point do you bring out the headband? Does it have powers?
The headband was very much a superstition for me. All through college I used to wear a headband and armsleeve for superstitious purposes, and they never failed me. I always ran my best when I needed to. That being said I have retired the arm sleeve and I haven't really worn the headband since finishing college so who knows if I will bring it back out again. Perhaps I will in the spring when I need those powers for the steeple. I also wear a nose strip during every race. What once was also slightly a superstition is now a necessity because I broke my nose last fall in a XC race at Paul Short, and I haven't had the time to get the surgery to fix it, so I can currently only breathe through my left nostril. For those who don't believe XC is a contact sport, I DNF’d that race walking away with 7 stitches in the back of my head, a broken nose, and a dislocated jaw, so just my luck. Honestly, the headband was probably the reason I didn't get a concussion so once again the magic was there.
What's your next step in your career?
The next step in my career is to just finish school and stay consistent with my training and racing. If I remain confident and focused the PRs will come, and the opportunities will present themselves. Obviously school comes first so if I miss out on an opportunity, it is what it is because that is life. That being said, my eyes are still on the prize so expect some big things to come on the track. I already achieved my first goal of going sub 14 in the 5k, which I basically did as a solo effort so I am excited for what's to come!
Thanks for the time, Ben. Best wishes in your pursuits. And thanks for being a part of USATF New England. Catch you (figuratively) on the roads, track, and trails.