Hanover, NH native Russell Brown was kind enough to sit down with Level Renner after the U.S. Olympic Trials. Although a nagging Achilles injury interrupted his Olympic plans, Russell has had a great run the past year and caught up with us while rehabbing his injury and planning out the rest of his summer. Part of a very solid group of American mid-distance runners, Brown has PR’s of 3:34 for the 1500, 1:45 for the 800 and 3:51 for the mile.
KG: We at Level Renner love your New Hampshire connection. Can you speak a bit about what town you grew up in and how you got into running?
RB: I’m from Hanover, a wonderful town in the middle of the Upper Valley, a
wonderful bunch of towns. The area has a lot of athletes, and a lot of
really great coaches for them. I got into running through a track unit
in gym class, but stayed in it because of all the people that helped
me develop and encouraged me to set my goals higher and higher, among
them my dad who coached me periodically until I left for college.
The winters were hard in New Hampshire, but they made me tough, which I am not
naturally. Also, I live about a mile from Dartmouth’s indoor track. I
could train in there a lot in the winter, which didn’t really allow
for a lot of volume, but I certainly did a lot speed work. Growing up
in New England, you just learn to embrace the weather. By the time I
was ready for college though, I had done enough embracing. That’s why
Stanford was such an easy sell.
KG: There is a strong tradition of good runners from NH; how was your high school program?
RB: New Hampshire does have a good tradition of running, and it is getting
a lot better. My high school team had some really good athletes, but I
think that was a result of the coaching as much as the talent and
commitment of the athletes. It’s easy to work High School kids to
death and they will succeed at some point, but to develop them slowly
and intelligently requires patience and experience, both of which the
Hanover coaches all had.
KG: What was it like running at Stanford where everyone is a complete stud. How did your collegiate career go?
RB: Well, I want to point out, I have improved almost every year I’ve run
since arriving at Stanford. I have always kind of needed to prove to
myself that I’m ready for a breakthrough before I have one, which
maybe makes for slower improvement than is possible otherwise.
That said, Stanford was awesome. I was surrounded by people way, way
better than me. So much so, I actually worked out with the girl’s team
when I first got there. I didn’t make top seven until my senior year, and
I was an All-American. Every year, Stanford gets their pick of the
best guys in the country. You have to be patient. I was just happy to
be there. I probably should have been a little more ambitious, but you
see what your teammates do in training and races and it just seems
impossible, until it’s not anymore.
KG: You really came into your own post -collegiately. Can you bring us through the Boston Indoor Games victory over Olympic Silver Medalist Nick Willis?
RB: Last year was just magical. I started training with Andy (Wheating), and I
changed my training slightly. I really wasn’t sure how I would
respond. Going into Boston, I really had no expectations at all. It
began what was a pretty perfect period in my career. I PR’ed almost
every-time I ran. Sometimes, in this sport, you get into a groove, and
just can’t have a bad race no matter what happens.
KG: How do you like living out on the West Coast? It must be nice to live surrounded by some many great track athletes and a city that is so immersed in running.
RB: Eugene is a really special place. It is not just the world-class
athletes that make it such a great place to train. It is full of
athletes of all levels. Oregon Track Club includes hundreds of
runners, and we consider ourselves to all be doing the same thing even
though our goals might be different. Everyone reinforces the idea that
what we are doing is meaningful, and when you are training so much all
of the time, it is necessary to have that type of reinforcement.
KG: How is it training with Andrew Wheating? You guys obviously have the NE connection. Did you know each other before going to school out west?
RB: Andy and I actually grew up five miles away from each other. We went
to different high schools, so I didn’t actually meet him until the
summer before he left for college. He is one of my best friends now,
and us both understanding how each other grew up is no small part of
that. Training with him is awesome. He is just unbelievably talented,
and it is an inspiration every single day. It is also just really fun.
We have a ball.
To touch on some specifics of your training
KG: How many miles do you train a week. Do you run doubles?
RB: In the fall, I run about eighty. In the spring, I run more like sixty.
I double a couple of times a week mostly on workout days.
KG: What is your favorite workout?
RB: My favorite type of workout is track intervals with pace changes. An
example is 4 x 500, with the first 300 in 45 and the last 200 in 27.
The 1500 requires the ability to respond and stay relaxed to all kinds
of crazy moves. I find training that way prepares me the best.
KG: What are your plans for the rest of the summer? You ran great at the trials, but unfortunately, or fortunately, the U.S. is very strong in the 1500/mile right now. Some great athletes were left off the team. Any big racing plans or meets to take a run at a PR?
RB: The trials were pretty devastating. I was having a pretty fantastic
year. My races were good, but the way I was feeling in workouts was
just exciting. I was really confident and really excited because I
knew I was poised to do something special.
Then around two weeks before the trials started, my left Achilles
tendon got a little inflamed but nothing that I was too concerned
about. At some point during the first round race, I tweaked it, and as
soon as I crossed the finish line I felt everything in my lower leg
tighten up. I did everything I could do over the next twenty-four
hours, but I couldn’t even really warm-up for the semi-final the next
day let alone run well enough to move on.
Since then, I have just been rehabbing and cross training. I have
recovered pretty quickly, but I am not sure if I will be able to get
healthy enough to race. I am in really good shape still, and I would
really like to capitalize on all the work I have done this year, but
it may not be in the cards. I am just trying to do whatever I can
right now to get better.
KG: Favorite Book, Musician,Athlete?
RB: Book- Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Musician- Otis Redding, hands down
Athlete- Jesse Owens