How Austinite Ben Duong became a basketball-dribbling, world record-breaking runner

“It doesn’t feel real,” according to Duong, who broke the world record for fastest person ever to run a half marathon while dribbling a basketball at the Austin Marathon

Ben Duong wearing a black tank top, blue shorts, and a white headband, dribbling the ball while running, and being filmed by a man on a bike behind him. There are several runners surrounding him.

Ben Duong was filmed by a Guinness Book of World Records representative on a bike the entire time.

Photo by Scott Flathouse via Ben Duong

Lifelong Austinite Ben Duong has always been a runner, but as of last weekend, he’s a Guinness World Record-holding runner.

The 24-year-old local became the fastest person ever to finish a half marathon while dribbling a basketball at the Austin Marathon this past weekend. Duong finished the race in one hour, 21 minutes, and 38 seconds — the previous record was one hour and 25 minutes.

We sat down with Duong to ask how he achieved this win (which was sponsored by the San Antonio Spurs) but to get there, we have to start at the beginning.

Duong said he has always loved playing sports — especially soccer, basketball, and running track — and what he lacked in ball skills and hand-eye coordination, he made up for in speed.

“Always, the observation that my family had, that my coaches had was, ‘This Ben kid, he’s pretty fast compared to everybody else,’” Duong said. “I’ve always loved sports, always been running. I got really serious about it (in) the last nine years.”

Getting sponsored by the San Antonio Spurs

Ben Duong running past a crowd of people in a white T-shirt.

Duong said he has been serious about running ever since he was a junior in high school.

Photo by Bryan Deibel via Ben Duong

So Duong kept running while studying in high school (McNeil, by the way), college, and grad school. In fact, when the San Antonio Spurs reached out to his running group, RAW Running, for help finding someone to break the world record, Duong made the shortlist.

It wasn’t his first time running, or even placing, in a race. Previously, he placed third in the Turkey Trot and seventh in the 3M Half Marathon, but it would be his first time running the race with a basketball.

Duong found out he was the top pick in January — three weeks before the big race — and immediately began training by running while dribbling the ball around his neighborhood.

“I knew that the Austin half marathon course was pretty hilly, so I explicitly was also kind of seeking out hilly segments of the neighborhood,” Duong said. “It generated quite a few questionable looks from pedestrians and walkers and kids and cars driving by.”

The big race

Ben Duong from the side, wearing a black tank top and the basketball in front of him while his friends celebrate in the background.

Duong said breaking the record still feels like a dream.

Photo by Ricardo Brazziell via Ben Duong

The pressure was on, not because Duong is a Spurs fan or because he didn’t believe in himself, but because he woke up late on race day.

Flanked by his GoPro camera-wielding friends — Kobe Yepez and Elijah McWilliams — and a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records, Duong got to the starting line about two minutes before the ran began.

For the next 13 miles, Duong ran and dribbled, while the representative watched to make sure he didn’t drop or travel with the ball. The Spurs’ mascot, Coyote, was there to meet Duong at the finish line and celebrate his newly broken record.

“It’s a feeling I’ll remember forever,” Duong said. “Coyote came running in to hug me. It’s been a few days since it happened but it still feels unreal. It still feels like a dream, like a simulation, like I’m gonna wake up and none of it really happened.”

Duong said he’s still processing his win, but pretty soon he’s going to hit the ground running again at Run the Alamo on Sunday, March 3 in San Antonio and the Statesman Cap 10K on Sunday. April 7.

“While it is my name going in the record book, there really should be several names going next to mine,” Duong said. “Truthfully, I feel like I didn’t break a world record, I feel like ‘we,’ collectively, ‘we’ broke a world record.”

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