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May 31, 2011

Russell Brown

Written by Dena Evans
Russell_croppedRussell Brown
Pro's Perspective - June 2011

Russell Brown grew up in Hanover New Hampshire, before traveling west to study and compete at Stanford.  Graduating in 2008 with his undergraduate degree in Political Science and Master's degree in Sociology, Brown took his talents (and his nine All-American awards) to Eugene to train with the Oregon Track Club.  The second New Hampshire resident ever to break 4:00 in the mile, Brown has made multiple international teams for the US and now trains with fellow New Englander Andrew Wheating under Coach Vin Lananna.  Brown has been firing on all cylinders this spring and promises to be a factor in any World Championships and Olympic Team discussions over the next 15 months.  Read more about this 1500 meter standout below....

Coach: At what point in your development as an athlete, did you feel like you were going to be able to compete at a professional/ world class level? Was it one particular performance or a gut feeling that built over time?

RB: I was third place in the 2007 NCAA Championships and ran 3:37.56. I never considered myself eligible for a professional career before that day. The threshold I felt needed to be crossed to consider a career was having a shot at making a team, and I felt for the first time that day that I had one.

Coach: Who or what have been some of your most crucial influences coming through the ranks, both on the track and off? Why?

RB: Everyone of my coaches taught me different, valuable pieces to my puzzle. My first college coach, Andy Gerard, taught me how to put the work in consistently. Peter Tegen taught me how to win. Mark Rowland taught me how to be a professional. Vin Lananna is teaching me all kinds of things now, but principally I am learning how I can be my best.

Undoubtedly, my biggest influences are my parents. They are the most supportive, understanding and loving parents I can even imagine. For everyone with great parents, there really is no explanation needed here.

I feel obligated to mention my 10th grade History teacher, Mr. Smith, also. He made me start really thinking, and it scares me to think who I would have been without his influence.

Coach: Like many runners, you began your athletic career playing a variety of other sports. Do you think this preparation has helped your running career either mentally or physically?

RB: Four years ago I would have said yes. But, I have come to believe that training for track does not necessarily have to take a toll on your body which can build up and break you down over time. I believed that I was made into a more dynamic athlete by my participation in other sports for a long time before I committed entirely to track, but I think had I been training correctly those years strictly for running I would have been just as good and had just as little injury accumulation now. The reason to participate in a lot of different activities should not be too make you a better single sport athlete, at least not directly. Kids should participate broadly because it is fun, and if you are having fun playing your sport you will be your best. That said, there are a whole lot of young kids not training right out there. Their early commitment may end their career early. That is another discussion though.

Coach: A couple of years ago, you had a tough patch with injuries. What kept you focused and optimistic about your eventual return to fitness and championship form?

RB: I was not optimistic. I was pretty sure my career was over. I could not figure out what was happening to me for two years. I kept trying to isolate the variables, and I couldn't determine what I had to do to stay healthy. I have some fairly helpful perspective now, but had you asked me this a year ago, I would have told you that sometimes you have to read the writing on the wall. However, I believe that your talent does not disappear. I had some decent races in the middle of my injuries, and it was almost like I was teasing myself just enough to stay in the sport. It was probably those few races that kept me committed to the sport, but focused and optimistic are not the right words to describe my attitude then.

Coach: This year, you broke long-time US mile record holder Steve Scott’s stadium 1500m mark at the Mt. Sac Relays. How does it feel to be mentioned alongside of one of America’s most storied distance athletes and what would you like us to remember you for as an athlete when you your professional career has concluded?

RB: It is really an honor. I was told that my name will be on a plaque at the stadium. To be engraved at a place like that is about as great as it gets. I hope that my legacy as a track athlete is full of records and titles. To be honest though, the real memories of sports are unlikely victories. That, frankly, is what sports lore is for. We want to believe that the insurmountable objects in our lives can be overcome, and look to instances of this to help us believe. My life will be better and less stressful if my career is a steady, slow progression to the top. But my legacy will be best if I go out in flames winning something I have no business winning in a fashion burned in everyones' minds. I think that is what I really want.

Coach: This month, we are talking to our members about training in the heat of the summer months. While Eugene is typically not known for hot weather, you often compete in places that are quite hot and humid during the summer months. What are some things you do to prepare for a different (warmer) climate than your usual training environment?

RB: I do not do anything in particular to prepare for hot climates. Vin is very intent on making sure we are warm enough to train adequately. I have worn tights for 98% of the running I have done this year because he is so serious about keeping my legs warm. I think that dressing appropriately for the climate you are in is a large part of the battle.

My secret weapon in warm climates though is a story my dad told me from a bus trip he took in Jamaica. He was on a slow moving bus through the countryside and it was stifling. He was sitting next to a big woman carrying a million things with her. My dad said he was freaking out: fanning himself, sticking his head out of the window, etc. Every time he looked at her, she was sitting quietly, not moving, staying calm. I think of her when I'm hot. I have a very vivid image of her in my mind. She calms me down every time. I don't fear the heat. You just have to drink a lot of water, and not let it bother you.

Coach: If you could choose any running partner (alive or historical) and any locale for an easy, chatty run, who and where would you choose?

RB: I would run with Herb Elliot in New Zealand. Elliott never lost a 1500m or a Mile during his career. I just think that the confidence he must exude from that record would be really contagious, and I would let him cough all over me. The New Zealand choice is just because I have always wanted to take the Lord of the Rings tour, so it is kind of crossing off two items from the bucket list at once.
Last modified on September 23, 2011
Dena Evans

Dena Evans

Dena Evans joined runcoach in July, 2008 and has a wide range of experience working with athletes of all stripes- from youth to veteran division competitors, novice to international caliber athletes.

From 1999-2005, she served on the Stanford Track & Field/ Cross Country staff. Dena earned NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors in 2003 as Stanford won the NCAA Division I Championship. She was named Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003-04, and West Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

From 2006-08, she worked with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, helping to expand the after school fitness programs for elementary school aged girls to Mountain View, East Menlo Park, and Redwood City. She has also served both the Stanford Center on Ethics and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession as a program coordinator.

Dena graduated from Stanford in 1996.

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