This professional runner has his eyes set on the 2016 Olympic Trials. After being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease in 2007 and going through the ups and downs of treatment, Brandon recently had the race of his life (to date) and ran a sub 4 minute mile.
Photography by Austen Mauney @austenmauney
So, a mile in under four minutes? Pretty amazing.
Yes! I ran the my first sub-four minute mile of my life this past August, at a race in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Definitely need to hear how you made that happen. First things first—tell us a little bit about yourself…
I live in the mountains of North Carolina. I'm a professional runner, currently training for the Olympic Trials next summer. I also work at a resort here in Blowing Rock, in guest services and as a personal trainer.
Tell us about the race you ran the sub-4 minute mile.
The race is called the Sir Walter Miler—it’s was amazing that it happened in Raleigh. That was my second home during college. It was a night race with over 2,000 fans, which is a huge crowd for distance running, including my friends, parents, coach, and girlfriend. I'll cherish the memory for the rest of my life—it could've very easily happened across the country, away from my support.
You also have a very rare autoimmune disease, that you’ve been living with since 2007?
I have a super rare condition called Wegener’s Granulomatosis, which attacks small blood vessels in a person’s body. It’s so rare that doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me for six months. If left untreated, it can get to a point where the body’s organs stop working. Eventually I received treatment and went into remission, but it took me away from running for two years, and I’ve had two relapses that affected my training.
Sounds brutal. How did you get back up and… running?
They joke that running is 50% physical and 90% mental. Being sick really changed everything. I had to re-train myself and adjust how I approached the sport. When I was in high school and early college I was really feisty. But that actually works to my disadvantage now. I have to learn how to relax or I'll wear myself out.
So, what’s your routine? Any lucky socks?
Runners can get obsessive compulsive during the final 48 hours before a race. Sleep, flight delays, not having exactly the right thing to eat—the smallest things become such big deals. Now I take things in stride... Trying to be my normal, goofy self.
Change of control?
When you get sick like I did, you can let it define you or you can choose to fight. It's been difficult. Rounds of chemotherapy aren't easy on a person. There've been a lot of dark and slow times. But I've come out on the other side of it. Definitely worth it.
What’s the best advice you remember?
That old Rocky quote? About how life isn’t about who can hit the hardest, it’s about who can get hit again and again and keep getting back up. It's not always gonna be glamorous and easy—you just have to put one foot in front of the other.
So what’s the next goal?
The Olympic Trials.
How are you training?
I took a few weeks off after the racing season ended in September, but now I’m back training again full bore. Indoor races happen in January and February as part of a build up to the trials, in June and July.
So what’s a typical week like for you?
I run 70-90 miles a week. I get to that number by doing two runs a day, five days a week—one at 11am, then I lift weights, work from 2-10 p.m. I go for another 4 or 5 miles when I get off work. On the weekends I’ll do a longer run of 15-18 miles.
That’s a lot of time on the road. What do you listen to out there?
I love podcasts. Always listening to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio. If I need to laugh, I love Joe Rogan.
Food? Any crazy athlete food that you eat?
I try to eat really clean, shopping “on the outside of the grocery store”, you know. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, chicken, red meat once a week. And yes, I eat calf liver sometimes. For the iron. It’s disgusting.
Pizza. I will probably die from eating pizza one day. Pizza and beer.
Star Wars books. (I broke the internet trying to get tickets to the new one coming out this Christmas and I did get ‘em.) And in general, I love science books. I've read all of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist. And I love Pema Chodron. She writes about learning to be OK with the shitstorm of life and trying to find your center, which has been helpful for me. When doctors look at you and say they don't know what to do to help you, that can cause a lot of pretty major anxiety and I’ve worked through a lot of stuff since that happened. I’m working on being OK with the chaos of it all.
What did you think of the W&P shirts?
I wore the gray oxford button-down shirt. Been wearing it to work every week. My job requires me to be very active at times and this shirt is up to the challenge every step of the way. It moves well and is super comfortable. It also fits my runner build well, which is not easy to find.
Brandon is 5'11", 140 lbs, and wears a size S button-down.
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