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March 31, 2012

April 2012 Pro's Perspective - Ben Bruce

Written by Dena Evans

imgresBen Bruce comes into 2012 with the momentum of a career best mark of 8:19 in the 3000m steeplechase, which earned him a spot on Team USA for the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.  With top five finishes in the USATF Indoor 3000m and road 15K championships already in 2012, Bruce is again demonstrating the kind of range that has allowed him to represent the US internationally in a variety of disciplines and distances.

Now training with the adidas sponsored McMillan Elite / Team USA Arizona in Flagstaff, AZ, this Cal Poly San Luis Obispo grad is preparing for the US Olympic Team Trials this June.  Bruce’s journey to London can be tracked by following him on Twitter at @bbjamin.

FNF: Although probably best known as a steeplechaser, you have represented the US internationally in a wide variety of events - from the track to cross country, to the roads.  Last month, you finished fourth in the US 15K Championships in Jacksonville.  What is your favorite event among all these and why?

BB: I like them all. I really enjoy running a variety of different distances and surfaces. It adds variety and keeps things fresh. When I race the same distance over and over again, I sometimes feel like I am simply going through the motions. So to pick a favorite would be tough for me. I guess the best part is going to new cities and countries and the people I meet along the way. A race can be run on any road, track, or grass field in the world. The people involved in the race are what set it apart.


FNF: You have worked your way through community college, to Division 1 athletics, to a couple different settings as you have progressed as a pro athlete.  Throughout all these changes in coaches and environments, what have been the constants and central strengths for you as an athlete and competitor?


BB: I think the most important thing an athlete needs to develop is finding out what works for them. Even the best coaches in the world can only do so much for an athlete. The large part of the responsibly falls on the athlete. Every coach has different things that they like but if you break it down it can all look very similar. So as long as I am doing a variety of workouts to target all the training systems every few weeks then I believe my training will work. Every couple of weeks I look at the training I have done and ask myself if I have neglected any areas. If so, I talk with my coach and make sure we put that area into the next couple weeks. I like to stick to the basics and not over-complicate things.


FNF: On the other hand, what are some things crucial to your development that you have learned along the way?  Are there individuals who have been significant in their influence on your development?


BB: At each step of the way I have had people that have made big impacts on my life both in and outside of running. My junior college coach Manny Bautista had a huge influence on me. He coached and mentored me at a pivotal point in my career (18-19 yrs old) and gave me the tools for running and life. As for my personal development as a runner I have always had a consistent mindset. Chipping away at times over the years has been the way that I have got to where I am as a runner today. As a freshman in college I ran 4:04 for 1500m, 9:21 in the steeple, and 15:11 for 5000m, not the times most people at my level were running at 18 years old. I told myself then that if I could run a little faster each year I will eventually get to a really high level. Now 11 years later I have run 8:19 in the steeple and 13:31 for 5000m. Not any one workout will make you a super star, but a bunch of solid ones will make you super strong and ready to race.


FNF: You are engaged to our February 2011 Pro's Perspective athlete, Stephanie Rothstein.  She is a 2:29 marathoner and a highly accomplished athlete in her own right. What is it like to share the pursuit of world-class athletics together?


BB: What's not to like about spending lots of time with a great looking, in shape women. She has been through a lot of tough times in her career and has always come back at a higher level. That kind of drive makes it easy for me to get out the door to do my training. We clearly know and understand what each other are trying to accomplish and we try to have a lot of fun in the process. We have seen many parts of the world together through running and try to always remind ourselves to enjoy the experience. The best part is when one of us does something great and we get to share that joy together. When Steph ran 2:29 I was with her during much of the training and to see the end result was amazing.


FNF: In an Olympic Year, the track tends to take center stage as the world outside of running begins to pay attention.  How is your approach different coming into 2012 - or is it?


BB: My approach is almost exactly the same. What many people don't realize is that to many track athletes the Olympic Trials is the same as any other years USA Championships on the track. My preparation will be the same, the difference will be that more people are watching. There is a lot of pressure in trying to make an Olympic team but I have learned the more pressure I put on myself the worse I perform. So I will be trying to stay relaxed and take it like any other year, the only difference being the prize at the end being bigger.


FNF: Along with Rothstein and former Pro's Perspective athletes Lauren Fleshman and Jesse Thomas, you are heavily involved in the rapidly growing Picky Bars company (a gluten free energy bar created from natural, “real food” ingredients).  Obviously, you are in the thick of your professional running career, while working on this project as well.  Has that work gotten you thinking about pursuits you hope to enjoy and work on in your next chapter and has running a small business helped your in your approach to athletics?


BB: I don't want to take much credit for Picky Bars. Steph, Lauren, and Jesse are the main forces behind it all. I try to do what I can to help Steph out when she gets busy. I also try to bring up Picky Bars if an opportunity arises, like if I am talking to someone who runs a shoe store or some place that Picky Bars would be a good fit. The company gets me thinking about life after running.  Running can only last so long at a high level and eventually I'll have to move onto something else. It is fun to be a small part of it and see first hand if new ideas work or not. Bottom line is the bars taste great, people are liking them, and we are growing. So I am hoping for Steph, Lauren, Jesse, and everyone else that has helped to get the business going that it continues to grow.


Last modified on May 09, 2012
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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