I want to tell you guys a story. A story about running. A story that explains what made me the person I am today. A story about what everyone seems to know me by at this point. A story that will continue until my running career is over. But for now, this is my sub-4 story.
It all started in third grade. Every year at my elementary school, there was an annual race called the Turkey Trot. The point of the race was to raise money for struggling families.
The course, in short, was a lap around a field and then a lap around the track. That was it. The Turkey Trot was my first ever real race, and I ended up winning the thing.
Well, I actually tied for first place. I had to dive at the line. At the time it seemed pretty intense, but looking back, I’m sure only a handful of the kids actually tried.
I ended up winning the race all three years I ran it, and I soon became known as the “runner kid with long hair.” Around this time, I joined a club called the Wilton Running Club. I was always one of the smaller kids, but I loved having that long hair. I remember thinking that I looked so cool when I would put on my headband.
I loved having long hair because I knew my dad had long hair back in the day when he used to run at Michigan.
He was — and still is — who I strive to be like every day.
Keith Brown — also known as the old man — was a big runner back in the day.
He ran 4:15 in the mile and 9:13 in the 2 mile in high school, which was good enough to get him recruited to run at the University of Michigan. At Michigan, he was part of a team that won the Big 10 Championships in cross country. He was the captain of his team, and would eventually place 45th at the NCAA Championships in XC.
After college, he eventually got into marathon running.
His big claim to fame was when he finished 13th at the Marathon World Cup in Montreal in 1979. He ended up taking down Bill Rodgers, taking the spot of the third American finisher in the field. After that race, he felt that he had a legitimate chance to qualify for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, but unfortunately the US had to boycott because of the Cold War.
But that’s enough about my dad. All you need to know is that he was a good runner and was definitely the reason I got into the sport.
Let’s flash forward to 6th grade. At this point I was running cross country in the fall and playing soccer and baseball in the spring. I was definitely one of the younger kids on the club cross country team, but I was still able to keep up with the older kids. My friend Clint and I thought we were so good because we would always finish first for our age group. Looking back, I highly doubt there were any other 6th graders competing besides us.
Despite my history with racing and cross country, I never actually ran a mile race until my 6th grade gym class. Back in middle school, everyone went hard in gym class.
So, I obviously had no choice but to run all out as well.
I ended up running 5:52, finishing first for my class. Because that was the only time I remember running a mile in 6th grade, that 5:52 is the true starting point for me, and now we move on to 7th grade.
At the beginning of cross country season in 7th grade, we were told that a new kid would be joining our team. Our coach told us this kid was ridiculously talented but we didn’t think much of it. Well, It turns out, that kid was Alex Ostberg. Ostberg, who eventually went to Stanford University to run, was off the rails talented.
He came in, and to be frank, absolutely embarrassed the field in every single race. No one could keep up with him. I was incredibly humbled. I wasn’t even the fastest person on my local club team anymore.
But aside from the running, Alex turned out to be one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He became an amazing friend and helped push me to levels I never thought I could get to.
In the following spring I got braces, and on the same day I decided to cut my hair. It was a huge deal for the school when I cut my hair. I remember kids coming into my classroom freaking out about it.
I definitely remember cutting my hair and getting braces as a point in my life in which I got much more serious at running. My dad started giving me workouts a few times a week when I was not practicing with the Wilton Running Club.
Before 7th grade I would just run a few times a week and not have a real schedule with it. The more involved my dad got with my running, the more intense the training got.
I had gym as the last period of the day and for some crazy reason I was given permission by the school to get picked up from school early by my mom so she could drive me to the YMCA for my workout on the treadmill. That year I dropped my mile time down to 5:18. Once again, I can only recall running the mile one time that year. I remember it was a race hosted by the Wilton Running Club, and that I only raced one other boy. The rest of the race was girls. I was still playing soccer at the time, so spring races just didn’t happen for me.
But then came 8th grade, the year I got serious about running. I wasn’t having as much fun with soccer as I used to, and I knew that running was going to be my future. I ran cross country and played soccer in the fall at the same time because it worked well with my schedule.
One day, the timing of my soccer practice got changed to the same time as my cross country practice so I chose to run that day. All of the fields and areas to run in my town are really close together, so I just so happened to run past my soccer practice and team. I tried my best to hide in the pack of runners — I even put my hoodie up — but everyone saw me.
Most importantly, the coach saw me. I never started a game again and would usually get subbed in for 5-10 minutes a game after that. It didn’t matter that I was the fastest on the team and left-footed — or that I was the starting left midfielder already — my coach wouldn’t play me.
That made the decision easy.
Soccer was done forever, and it was time to get serious about running.
SPENCER BROWN — GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
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