Saturday, October 04, 2008

2002 Champ Dan Browne Returns to TCM

In 2002, as Dan Browne prepared to make his marathon debut at the Twin Cities Marathon, American long distance running was still reeling from the cruel facts of the 2000 Sydney Olympic.

Only a single American male and female marathoner were able to qualify for those Games, thanks to stiff Olympic qualifying standards, hot weather at both Olympic Trials marathons, and sagging performance levels among the country's top athletes. Stake-holders in U.S. distance running -- not the least elite athletes themselves -- were eager to change the trajectory.

Browne (pictured, right, with Jackson Kipngok, #78, and Joshua Kipkemboi) came to Twin Cities with a confidence uncharacteristic of debut marathoners. He expected to do very well. He brought pacesetters Chad Johnson and Philemon Hanneck with him from Oregon to pace him to a course record. He told TCM's elite recruiter at the time -- yours truly -- that he was fine with TCM giving him bib #1, if they so chose.

Backing it all up, Browne then ran 2:11:33 to win the race. A talented, young American had turned to the marathon and found real success. He became the first U.S. winner of Twin Cities since Olympian Ed Eyestone in 1993. The West Point grad earned the cover of Runner's World magazine for the accomplishment and what it meant for USA distance running.

Browne's success was followed two weeks later by Alan Culpepper's 2:09:41 clocking at Chicago, then the fastest U.S. debut marathon ever. At the New York City Marathon the next month, Meb Keflezighi made his own marathon debut in 2:12:35.

That threesome, of course, would compose the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team in the marathon in Athens -- Keflezighi would earn silver and Culpepper would take 12th, although Browne, himself, would stuggle to a 65th place finish. Coupled with Deena Kastor's bronze medal in the women's race, U.S. marathoning was back in the game.

Now, six years after the Twin Cities win that began to turn the tide of American fortunes in endurance running -- since then Bernard Lagat has won World Championships golds in 1500 meters and 5000 meters, Kara Goucher has won a Worlds bronze at 10,000 meters and Shalane Flanagan has earned bronze in the Olympics -- Browne returns to Twin Cities to run the marathon.

Browne is older, of course. He's got six marathon under his belt, although his PR is still his 2002 TCM mark. Browne has a different coach; he's working with Keflezighi's mentor Bob Larson now, rather than Alberto Salazar who coached him in 2002. He's battled injuries in recent years, but he's confident he is close now to the fitness he had in 2002.

"Training's been going fine -- about as well as can be expected -- I think it will be a good effort," Browne said at yesterday's media conference. "I think the winner is going to be somewhere between 2:11 and 2:13 at the slowest."

Browne has sought to replicate some aspects of his preparation from 2002. He's run the same summer races leading into TCM as he did six years ago. He's also staying with the same family -- Wayzata's Bill and Gale Van Brunt -- that he stayed with in 2002 and last year when he raced in the TC 10 Mile.

But the veteran will face strong, young competition on Sunday as he attempts to win a second USA Marathon title and his 17th USA title overall. Fernando Cabada has run 2:12:27; Justin Young has run 2:13:43. The veteran Simon Sawe has finished 2nd at Twin Cities and sports a 2:13:40 PR. Trent Briney, the runner Browne beat for his Olympic spot in 2004, brings his 2:12:34 credentials to the race.

In a field with 19 sub-2:20 entrants, there's a sense that any that are at least dozen runners could win the race, or think they can. No one is willing to count out, for example, Fazil Bezuneh, Edwardo Torres, Team USA Matt Gabrielson, teammate Chris Lundstrom, Matt Downin, or Brandon Leslie.

Likewise, remembering that Browne himself was a marathon debutante in 2002, one of the newcomers to the event could very well steal the show again. Might Ryan Sheehan, Team USA's Antonio Vega, teammate Josh Moen, or Chris Olinger, debutantes all, become this year's Dan Browne?

It's a fast, deep American field. It's the world of U.S. marathoning that Browne helped make ... and tomorrow must compete against.

Photo by Paul Phillips, Competitive Image.


Chad said...

Charlie, this article, along with the women's 10M preview, are more examples of what makes this the best running website.


Okay, I may be a little biased towards the MN coverage. However, I'd bet you'd be hard-pressed to find similar coverage at Chicago or NYC this fall.

Great job!

Charlie said...


Thanks, Chad. You're very kind.

-- Charlie