Rich Benyo learned to read at age four by parroting favorite Little Golden Books his mother read to him and his younger brother. He developed a love of books and reading and translated that interest to one in writing and editorial work in the seventh grade when he and his cousin Dave Herman started a school newspaper at St. Joseph’s School in Jim Thorpe, Penna. Unfortunately, it was shut down by the third issue for printing an editorial critical of the policies the CYO basketball coach used in picking his team.
Interest in reading and publishing intensified in high school as Benyo read at least a half-dozen science-fiction books a week, and edited and published several amateur science fiction fanzines, ultimately founding APA45, a national amateur publishing organization for sf fans born on or after 1945. His fanzine, Galactic Outpost, holds the distinction of being the only amateur publication to ever carry an original short story by Philip K. Dick (1964: "War With The Fnools"); professional magazines would not publish the story because its plot involved sexual themes: aliens hiding on Earth doubled in size after having sex; it was eventually published in Galaxy in 1968.
At Bloomsburg State College in Pennsylvania, Benyo majored in English and American Literature in a liberal arts program, while minoring in journalism. He worked on the literary magazine and on the college yearbook in various capacities, including features editor and photo editor. Also worked all four years on the college newspaper, as features editor and columnist the first three years and as editor-in-chief in his senior year. Founded the delta delta chapter of Alpha Phi Gamma, honor fraternity in journalism. Served as president of the Pennsylvania State College Press Association and as that organization’s conference chairman for 1967-68.
Three days after graduation in June 1968, began work as associate editor of The Times-News in Lehighton, Penna., a p.m. daily. Worked in a number of capacities, eventually appointed managing editor. Also served as editor-in-chief of the Saturday features editions, and created Saturday Magazine, a 16-page tabloid. While at The Times-News, also worked as program director of cable TV station PTVC in Palmerton, Penna., which was owned by the same holding company. While at The Times-News, won (in 1971) the first-place award for local newspaper columns presented annually by the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. Also began writing free-lance magazine articles for magazines such as Philadelphia and Stock Car Racing.
Left The Times-News (by then The Times-News & Record, after having acquired several other local papers) in late 1972 to accept the editorship of Stock Car Racing Magazine in Alexandria, Virginia, after writing free-lance for that magazine for two years. While with the magazine, increased the circulation from 80,000 to 115,000. Several times won annual writing awards from the American Auto Racing Writers’ & Broadcasters’ Association in both feature and technical writing. Also edited a sister monthly, Small Cars Magazine, for two years simultaneously with SCR. During a transition period at the office, also served as editor of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated for six months until a suitable editor could be found and broken in.
During tenure at SCR, also worked with Professional Pilot Magazine at Washington National Airport to help the magazine get back on its feet after the fuel crisis of the early 1970s. In addition, headed the one-shot magazine efforts at SCR. Wrote Superspeedway (Mason/Charter), acknowledged as the premier book on NASCAR Grand National stock car racing circuit, which was published in late 1977 and won the annual auto racing book award from AARWBA. (Unfortunately, two weeks after the book was published, Mason/Charter went bankrupt; Benyo claims there was no direct correlation between the two events.)
In 1977 moved to California to accept a position as managing editor of Runner’s World Magazine, which quickly evolved into a multi-faceted position as head of all editorial efforts within the company, including all magazine and book company projects, earning the title of editorial director, and executive editor of Runner’s World. Headed a staff of 24 journalists. Appointed vice-president of the Runner’s World Magazine Company in 1980. While with Runner’s World, wrote and/or co-wrote several books, including Return to Running, The Runner’s World Indoor Exercise Book (with Rhonda Provost), The Sexercise Book (with Playboy Playmate Kym Herrin), The Runner’s World Advanced Indoor Exercise Book (with Rhonda Provost), and Masters Of The Marathon (Atheneum), as well as edited The Complete Woman Runner and The Complete Runner II.
Resigned from Runner’s World in November 1984 to pursue full-time writing career. Since then has collaborated on five books with Elaine LaLanne, Jack’s wife: Elaine LaLanne’s Fitness After 50, Dynastride!, The Fitness After 50 Workout, Eating Right For A New You, and Total Juicing (all for various divisions within the Penguin group). Also wrote Feeling Fit In Your 40s (Atheneum) with Rhonda Provost during this period. Additionally wrote The Exercise Fix (for Leisure Press, 1990) and Making The Marathon Your Event (Random House, 1992).
In 1991 Benyo published a book covering races held on the Death Valley-to-Mt. Whitney course titled The Death Valley 300 (Specific Publications); Benyo and Tom Crawford became the first runners in history to complete the course in both directions (July 1989). After a failed attempt to repeat the feat in 1991 (he crashed with a leg injury after 274 miles), Benyo went back to the course in July 1992 and finished the out&back course again, bettering his 1989 time, becoming the first runner to do the out&back twice, and in the process amassed more competitive miles on the course than anyone else in the world (874 miles), a dubious distinction at best. A film team from National Geographic accompanied him in 1992, and a 90-minute documentary on the run was in the works but has since been scrapped.
Between books, Benyo has done a fair amount of magazine assignments on a variety of subjects. He has written for American Health, Superfit, Sport, Car & Driver, Los Angeles, Running Times, Popular Computing, The New Yorker, Adventure West, Details, and Conde Nast Traveler. He also served as fitness columnist (1985-89) and running columnist (1987-91) for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Benyo is president of the board of directors and co-race director of the Napa Valley Marathon and a former Noble Grand Humbug of E Clampus Vitus, a West Coast historical/fraternal organization. He is also a board member of the Forestville Water District.
In 1997 he started the bimonthly journal, Marathon & Beyond, at Human Kinetics. When HK decided to cancel the publication in 1998, he and then-managing editor Jan Seeley purchased the magazine, formed 42K Press, and have been publishing the magazine since then.
He was awarded the 1998 Jerry Little Memorial Journalism Excellence Award by the Road Runners Club of America and in 2005 he was to the RunningUSA’s Hall of Champions; the previous year he was inducted into the Badwater (Death Valley) Hall of Fame.
He has also written Running Past 50 (Human Kinetics, 1998) and The Running Encyclopedia in collaboration with Joe Henderson. He received the 1999 RRCA award for professional journalist covering running.
In 2008 the University of Scranton Press published Jim Thorpe Never Slept Here, Rich’s childhood memoirs; the following year the press published Leap of Faith, a collection of short stories. In 2010 the university press published The South Street Gang Vs. the Coalcracker Cyclops, a YA novel.
Human Kinetics published his Timeless Running Wisdom in 2010.
Something of a Luddite, Rich writes the first drafts of his fiction and memoirs on a Royal standard typewriter to better feel the book’s evolution.
He and his wife Rhonda (the first woman to have done the Death Valley out&back course) have over the past few years taken up sailing on the San Francisco Bay, but have managed to maintain enough common sense to restrain themselves from actually purchasing a boat.