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You Made it Weird: Jenna Bensko

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Ellie Pell

By: Ellie Pell

Ellie is an equal opportunity DMer with no shame in a cold call. She ran fast once and will remind you that it was before supershoes. Recently she set the FKT from her kitchen table to the fridge. Record pending drug test results.

Jenna Bensko likes adventure. Whether it’s reading a fantasy smut novel, stalking Strava to find her partner, or winning races across the country, she knows how to have a good time. She’s won the Cayuga Trails 50-kilometer, Quad Rock 25-miler, Never Summer 60-kilometer, and most recently she was the one you wondered about during the Black Canyon 100km, narrowly missing out on a ticket with fourth place finish. The famous wooden medal position. We asked “Who is Jenna? Where did she come from?” and now we’re asking, “What will she do next?” 

Find Jenna on Instagram, Strava & Ultrasignup

Jenna Bensko running near Bumble Bee Ranch during the Black Canyon 100km. PC: Ryan Thrower
Jenna Bensko running near Bumble Bee Ranch during the Black Canyon 100km. PC: Ryan Thrower

Who are you and what do you do?

Howdy! My name is Jenna Bensko and I am a friend, younger sister, daughter, athlete, partner, aspiring-creative person, and bookworm. I work as a Food Business Manager for a farm animal welfare NGO called Compassion in World Farming where I essentially work as a protein supply chain consultant for restaurants. I am based in Boulder, CO but hail from the North East, spending time in Connecticut, upstate NY, and Boston over the past couple of decades. I have a rescue dog named Porter and try to spend most of my free time playing around in the outdoors or hosting pizza night with friends.

Do any of your group chats have names? If so, what are you willing to share? How did they get that name? What is a major topic of discussion in them?

As someone who gets incredibly distracted, group chats high-key stress me out, hah, but I do have a couple of group chats. One is ‘Swing Dance Club’ and another is ‘nilbogs’. I have a not-so-secret infatuation with jazz music and took some swing dance classes in college, hence where the name ‘swing dance club’ comes from. This chat literally just exists so people can send songs to each other on Fridays, or rather, “New Music Fridays”. ‘nilbogs’ is goblins spelled backwards and consists of my go-to trail running goblin pals and our shenanigans.

If you could change one thing about your favorite social media platform, what would it be?

Strava is the GOAT of social media. I probably would have said adding a DM feature in the past, but they read my mind and did that already so now it’s perfect just the way it is. I met my now boyfriend of almost 5 years through strava and I had to venture over to Facebook to actually start a conversation with him at that time, so a DM feature would have been clutch back then.

What is a book of fiction that you really enjoyed, for no other reason than you liked it?

I’m a huge Sarah J Maas fan….particularly her Throne of Glass series. Think faeries and smut ha.

What is one song you’ve been listening to on repeat recently?

Midnight Hour by Jamestown Revival, I’ve been trying to recover from a 2 month Lizzy McAlpine bender I went on.

What is one trend that started in 2020 that you love?

More remote work flexibility! My current job is my first ever remote job and I am currently taking full advantage of working from my bed.

What is one trend that started in 2020 that you hate?

I know I literally just said remote work is nice, BUT, some of the remote team building meetings I’ve been subjected to are heinous. Susan, you are a great coworker, but I would actually rather just log off than chit chat over afternoon tea.

What are the last three emojis you used?

🫶🏻💛🔥

What is the last thing you bought online?

Temporary cowgirl tattoos lol

What is your most controversial food opinion?

Salt belongs on every food item. Chocolate Protein Powder Slop? For sure (protein slop in itself has proven a controversial thing in my household). Oatmeal? Yup. Pizza? Definitely shake some extra salt on there.

Jenna Bensko running in Coloraod

What three videos are at the top of your YouTube recommended homepage?

Tour du Month Blanc (6 days of trail running) by Billy Yang

Before Free Solo | Edge of the Unknown with Jimmy Chin by National Geographic 

Lizzy McAlpine: Tiny Desk Concert by NPR

Which Allie is your favorite?

ALLEZ

What argument in mass media do you not understand or think is a worthless issue?

I love when people get really heated about what qualifies as a sandwich. Is a hot dog a sandwich? A taco? A quesadilla? What about closed v.s. open-faced? I say let them be sandwiches people.

When you go home for the holidays, what is the food or tradition that it wouldn’t be the holidays without?

At a certain hour of the night when my oldest brother and I get tired of socializing with family, we peel off into a quiet room and play the card game Egyptian rat-screw for HOURS.

When I say in-seam you say…?

Free the thigh! As long as it’s a split short anything goes.

When has your ego caused you to do something you sort of regret but also would describe as wild and worth it?

Oh boy! I’ve coached two different middle/high school XC/Track teams at this point. I thought, hey, I’m okay at running so maybe I can coach kids and do a good job? Turns out being a good coach is so much more than just being an athlete yourself, but SO rewarding and fun and entirely worth it. Also middle and high schoolers can just be wild.

What was your worst running fuel decision? What was the surprising best?

When I first started trail running I thought I could stomach peanut butter, banana, and fig butter tortilla wraps WHILE running. You can say I’ve learned a lot since then.

Honestly Oreos and gummies (i.e. blue sharks, gummy worms, twin snakes) are fantastic for adventure runs. But when I’m training for races I always opt for a mix of precision hydration and SIS Beta Fuel.

What is your death row meal?

Bimbimbap ❤ with a side of peanut sauce.

Out and back or looped course? Why?

Absolutely looped. You know exactly what you are getting into each loop and you can kind of zone out into race mode knowing that it’s going to be the same thing loop after loop. Plus seeing how close or far behind people are on an out and back is too stressful for me!

Barkley or 24H track race? Why?

Barkley!! The track just seems boring compared to the absolute stew of chaos that happens at Barkley. And I love chaos and adventure.

Jenna Bensko finishes just five minutes away from a Golden Ticket. PC: Ryan Thrower
Jenna Bensko finishes just five minutes away from a Golden Ticket. PC: Ryan Thrower

When I say PTRA you say?

Petri dish?

What is one thing that absolutely scares you? Why?

Being alone. My people are everything to me! I like to think of myself as a tree that has all these different roots (aka people) that keep me standing and without them I would just be a decaying tree trunk on the ground!

What is a time you felt you didn’t measure up? How did you get through that?

Honestly at the start of the Black Canyons 100km this past weekend. I knew I was fit, but I just wasn’t sure how I would measure up to all the other fast and accomplished women also toe-ing the line. Thankfully, I have the best coach in the world, David Roche, who made me feel like I could do some big things out there when I wasn’t so sure of myself, and a support system that does the same.  

I think surrounding yourself with people who truly believe in you is a super power that should not be underestimated.

Who is another runner that flies under the radar that we should all get to know?

Jaycie Thomsen!! She is a boulder-based trail runner who is going to absolutely light the trail running world on fire this year. And she is a gem of a human!

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