< Back

Greg Benning Still Refusing to Act his Age

By Eamonn Ryan
Posted on October 20, 2023
Greg Benning Still Refusing to Act his Age

Greg Benning a few strokes into his 11th straight win Friday morning.

Greg Benning passed the Eliot Bridge on Friday morning with a commanding lead in the Grand Master/Veteran Singles race, and as he approached the finish line, looking for his 11th straight singles victory, he was only thinking in terms of strokes.

“It’s 40 strokes to go and you need to start counting. You get to the end of the trees, it’s 15 strokes to go,” Benning said. “There’s a fatigue thing called teleoanticipation. So like when a horse smells the barn, you know where the finish line is, and you just hone in on it.”

Benning not only dominated his age group in the 60-plus Veteran’s race. His time of 18:46.71 bested everyone in the 50-plus field of Grand Master rowers in the combined race Friday morning.

Benning was followed to the line by Grand Masters David Deschenes of Bellingham Washington, 15 seconds behind, and Russ Cone of Boston, another four seconds back. Tom Borher was the closest Veteran, crossing the line in sixth overall, 45 seconds behind Benning, who won his 15th singles championship and 24th title overall.

“The first goal every year is ‘Can I figure out some way to not slow down?’” Benning said. “Every year, as you go from 50 to 55 to 60, that’s really aggressive and a little bit arrogant … you really just have to row better, you have to execute better and at some point, as you’re pushing into those last few percents, it’s hard, it’s really hard to do.”

Benning’s first singles win at the Head of the Charles came in 1994, when he was 32. The stopwatch shows he’s only gotten better with age.

“Back in 1994 I dropped an 18:30. Earlier this year I did an 18:26,” Benning said. “The goal next year is just going to be, ‘Try not to slow down.’ I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but it’s a good challenge.”

Benning rowed in University of Pennsylvania colors on Friday. The Penn singlet was a gift from fellow Quaker alum Dick Kendall, himself a 13-time singles winner at the Head of the Charles.

Benning (L) and Dick Kendell in 2019

“So when I look at [Kendall], or I look at [12-time singles winner] Carlo Zezza, who’s 86, I look at him at 60 and say, if I can make it to 85 or make it 90, those are my role models,” Benning said.

There’s an argument to be made that Benning has already passed some of his role models in terms of success at the Regatta, but that isn’t enough for him. Every year, he faces his renewed challenge of not slowing down, and will make it his goal to get even faster. Ten years ago, after his second straight win in the Grand Master’s division, Row2K asked Benning if he thought he could win three in a row. He was a little hesitant to say yes. Today, after 11 consecutive wins over three divisions, it’s a different story.

“At this point, am I motivated to beat the 50-year-olds next year?” Benning asked himself. “Yeah.”


By Eamonn Ryan
Posted on October 20, 2023