Training for the long haul
By Chad Bonham
“Life is like a marathon.”
That simple phrase might border on cliché, but coming from
Olympic long-distance runner Dan Browne, the words are packed with years of
experience-laden wisdom — simple truths he has received during those
miles of solitary training.
“Running is a great time to communicate with God,” Browne
says. “You’re out there alone a lot of times and doing your thing, and it keeps
you grounded. It’s hard to ignore His voice when it’s just you out there.”
Growing up in Portland, Ore., Browne, 33, started out
playing traditional team sports like soccer and basketball before gravitating
towards the unique aspects of cross-country and middle-distance track events as
a high school freshman. He got serious about running as a junior.
But his life as a believer started much earlier, thanks to
the influence of his mother. After high school, Browne attended the U.S.
Military Academy at West Point where he was baptized and became involved in the
Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
“My faith is at the core of who I am,” Browne says. “It
motivates me. Ultimately, we’re here for a short while and our job is to
glorify God with our gifts and to live a life worthy of being a Christian.”
Browne graduated from the academy with a double major in
English and went on to participate in the Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
His desire to shine the light of Christ through a life of excellence has pushed
him to be one of the country’s top long-distance runners. Browne often trains
with a group of runners who pride themselves on working out at high elevations
and performing core exercises in the gym.
“The life we lead is one where you have to keep delaying
gratification,” Browne says. “You have to keep working hard to obtain a high
level of fitness. Just like [the apostle] Paul worked to try and perfect
himself as best he could, we’re trying to do our best to be ready for whatever
comes our way. We have to deny ourselves as best we can. Ultimately Jesus is
the best example of a life well lived.”
Much like the long distances he runs, Browne’s career has
been paced by consistency and a disciplined work ethic. He experienced a
breakthrough in 2002 by winning the U.S.A. Marathon Championships, the U.S.A.
Running Circuit men’s title and the U.S. 20-kilometer road title. The following
year, Browne claimed fifth at the 3,000-meter run at the U.S.A. Indoor
Championships and brought home the bronze medal from the Pan American Games in
the 10-kilometer race.
At the U.S. Olympic trials in 2004, Browne qualified for the
Summer Games by finishing third in the 10,000-meter run. By then, he had
already made the Olympic team by placing third in the Olympic trials marathon.
Once in Athens, Browne finished 12th in the 10,000 meters, the top finish of
“It was the fulfillment of one of the dreams in my life,”
Browne says. “You work so hard for it for such a long time and there are no
guarantees. There are just not enough spots for everyone. I was blessed to
compete in both the 10,000 meters and the marathon. I gave my all for it.”
With less than a week to recover after the 10,000 meters,
Browne ran a challenging marathon that was dotted with numerous hilly portions
of the race. By the midway point he was dehydrated and finished a disappointing
65th, but was happy to finish nonetheless.
“I was praying a ton during that race,” Browne says. “I just
wanted God to give me the race that I was meant to run. Ultimately, my goal was
to finish the race. Obviously winning would have been great, but finishing is,
in my mind, the most important thing and giving your best. In a similar way,
that’s what we’re called to do in our life. We all stumble and fall, but
ultimately God calls us to finish the race and do our best.”
For the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Browne is focusing on the
10,000-meter run where he hopes to qualify for his second appearance at the
Browne keeps the same unwavering attitude as a follower of
Christ as he does in his endurance training — because ultimately it’s all
about preparing for the long haul.
“Our goal as Christians is to be at oneness with God,”
Browne says. “Whether we serve a lifetime here doing it or we accept Christ
right before we die, this life is just a brief whisper and it’s gone. The real
life is afterwards in eternity.”
CHAD BONHAM is a freelance writer based in Tulsa, Okla.
E-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.