Quality time with his children — that’s what 37-year-old Lehi resident, Ben Hooley, wanted for his birthday.
So, after 37 miles, 3,071 feet of elevation gain and 7 hours, 14 minutes, 55 seconds, he got what he was looking for and a little more.
Hooley loves to run and he loves his children. When his 37th birthday approached, he decided he wanted to run 37 miles to commemorate the milestone. When his two youngest kids, Gehrig, 5, and Emma, 3, expressed a desire to join him, Hooley said he just couldn’t say no.
“I’ve taken my kids on long runs in the stroller for a long time, now, and they love it,” Hooley said. “When my planned birthday run came close, the weather was looking good, and I felt really good, so I figured bringing the kids along would make it better.”
This particular run that took Hooley, his kids and his trusty BOB stroller on the 37-mile distance was actually not the first ultramarathon-distance adventure the trio had taken. In fact, according to Hooley, since the start of the year, he’d planned to run a marathon a month with his kids in tow, and this was just one of those adventures.
“I decided at the end of last year that I wanted to take my kids on a marathon a month throughout 2019,” Hooley said. “Someday, they won’t want to spend all this time with me. Until that day, I’ll spend as much time with them as I can.”
In January, Hooley and his kids set out for their first marathon starting west of the LDS Jordan River Temple, and then to Draper and back. After looking at the route on Strava, a popular running app, Hooley said it looked like the shape of a dog. So, the next month being February, Hooley mapped out a course that looked like a heart, and in March he attempted to create a clover, but said it didn’t quite work out. In April, they did a marathon in Salt Lake City, but he missed taking his kids in May because he ran the Ogden Marathon solo. He made up for it, however, in June when he took them out for a 41-mile run in the mountains, and the trend continued.
According to Hooley, his kids enjoy it as much as he does.
“My kids get so excited to get out in the stroller for an adventure,” Hooley said. “They’re actually really good in the stroller. They don’t have tablets or toys to play with, just the outdoors to look at and Dad to talk to and listen to. I take time to let them get out and play at parks if we pass them. We stop and have picnics. I’ll let them out to run for a bit with me. We talk about what we see when we’re out there.”
Unlike many kids their age, Gherig and Emma have seen a lot of wildlife, like mountain goats on the Timpooneke trail, bighorn sheep and coyotes — but no moose, yet.
Hooley understands there are inherent dangers taking his kids on mountain terrain in a running stroller — things like a broken axle and flat tire. Even so, he takes it all in stride as part of being a dad who knows a little bit about fixing things.
As a bus mechanic for the Utah Transit Authority, Hooley knows a thing or two about repairing things on wheels, which he said has come in handy a few times while out on the run. His job has also allowed him to spend the time he wants to with his kids.
“I got a shift working until 1:30 in the afternoon so I can get home and spend time with my kids,” Hooley said. “My wife works some crazy hours, so it’s good to be able to be home at a decent time. I live right around the corner from an entrance to the Jordan River Parkway Trail, so I’ll pick my son up from preschool and then go for a short run, or I’ll take them on hikes, and we’ll do a longer run on the weekends.”
While the year will soon be coming to a close, Hooley and his stroller duo aren’t showing signs of slowing down. In fact, on Nov. 7, Hooley is looking forward to racing the Santa Run 5K in Provo.
“For the race, I’m going to dress up as Santa and decorate my stroller to look like Santa’s sleigh and put horns on my dog to look like a reindeer,” Hooley said. “I have a weather cover to keep the kids warm inside, and it should be a great time filled with more memories.”
As for next year’s long distance running plans, Hooley says he plans on going the distance as long as his kids will have him.