Friday, January 25, 2008

Brandon Gleason to Return to Racing Saturday

At the end of a week when we all could use an uplifting story, we have one.

Brandon Gleason, the Hamline University distance star who was struck by a truck last February and had both of his legs run over in the incident will return to competition for the first time tomorrow in the 3000 meters at the Iowa State Open in Ames. After less than a year, Gleason has recovered from the broken right tibia that protruded from his right leg, the medial collateral ligament damage that his right knee incurred, and the overall impact and ordeal of the incident.

Gleason (pictured) had originally intended to return to competition in the fall of 2008 and race one, full, final school year for the Pipers. He chose to return early for several reasons, he told DtB via e-mail.

"I began becoming disconnected from Hamline," Gleason said. "Even though I was working on campus and was attending team practices roughly 3 to 4 days a week, and traveling with the team, it wasn't the same. This was all really hard for me because for three years, the team is the only thing that I knew was a solid for me or a sure thing."

Gleason said his coaches -- Paul Schmaedeke and Lynden Reder -- showed so much excitement and his progress last fall their that it prompted him to consider returning in time for the 2008 indoor season.

"[Coach Schmaedeke and I] then started talking about if I was going to use all of my seasons of eligibility for track or not," Gleason explained, "but after an emotional talk with him, I decided that I owed it to Schmed as well as myself to use the 2008 season of indoor as a jump start to a true comeback and to give it one last push -- making sure to have no regrets.

Finally, Gleason credits is current and former teammates for his ahead-of-schedule return.

"Those guys have done long runs with me, morning runs, and have never put doubt into my head that my goals of becoming an All-American in track/XC were out of reach," he said. "By them getting out the door with me in the cold, even though they didn't have to, made me realize that they support me because they know what I can become."

Despite maintaining the same ultimate competitive goals for himself as he had before the accident -- when he was the #6-ranked 5000 meter runner in NCAA Division III -- Gleason is maintaining a patient attitude about the beginning of his comeback.

"My goals for indoors are very make it to the start line of each race healthy and with a smile on my face," he said. "I also want to qualify for conference in two events (either the mile, 3k, or 5k) and that's about it. I just want to use indoors to get my legs back under me, get use to racing again, and just evaluate where I am. But the biggest goal has to be to stay healthy."

For the outdoor season, though, Gleason plans to be setting his sights a little higher.

"My goals for outdoors are also very simple.... make it to OSHKOSH in May (NCAA National Meet) in either the 5k or 10k," he states. "I really feel that if I do not have any setbacks and I can train how I know I can and race how I used to and stay focused that this is not out of reach. I really do not care about making noise at the meet, I just want to make it which will help me realize that I can compete again and do it well -- this will be a good boost for the upcoming seasons."

At the end of the 2008 track season, Gleason will still have a season each of eligibility in cross country, indoor, and outdoor track.

Gleason's training of late suggests his 2008 track goals and his ultimate hopes for his racing next school year aren't unrealistic. In the last twelve weeks, Gleason has logged just shy of 1000 miles of training including weeks of 105, 110, and 100 miles the past three weeks.

"These mile weeks are right around what I ran last year," he said. "So as far as training, I am almost back to where I was. This just means that I can handle running training runs between 6 minute and 7 minute pace, I can handle long hilly runs of 18 miles, and I can handle doubling runs 6 days a week. This has been a huge confidence boost because where I am at currently and what I hope to accomplish, I cannot afford to get hurt and i do not think i will anymore."

Still, Gleason does endure persistent pain in his knee since the injury.

"From day one until now, my knee has been and will be the only thing that holds me back from accomplishing what I want to accomplish," he said. "It just feels like I have arthritis and at times, it severely hurts to get a good stride when I run -- I find it hard to bring my knee up to high or even bend it to much -- and I think that by living in Minnesota doesn't help to much. This is because I still have the rod and screws in my leg and as a result my knee and leg I think are effected more with the cold due to the hardware. Otherwise, I feel like my shins are holding up, my hips and back are okay and my lungs have gotten used to running again."

The gun is schedule to fire for the Iowa State 3000 meters -- and the beginning of the rest of Gleason racing career -- Saturday at 4:55 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Hamline University.

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