Upcoming events –

Napa-Sonoma Half Marathon, July 20, 2014
Noble Canyon 50km Trail, September 20, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blue collar marathoner

My new favorite US marathoner showed up in Dalian yesterday. Brian Sell. I had seen him run in 2005 at the World Track & Field Championships in Helsinki and he seemed like a good, hardworking runner. He finished ninth against a bunch of really talented runners. He doesn't really finesse his way through the distance, he plows. He's a work horse. At the 2008 Olympic Trials in NYC, he moved his way through the field with a steady, relentless pace and finished third behind wunderkinder Ryan Hall (25) and Dathan Ritzenhein (24). I like his style. His Harley-Davidson mustache gives him a good tough guy look, too.

2008 US Olympic Marathon Team – Ryan Hall, Dathan Ritzenhein, Brian Sell

Talking to Sell at lunch today after watching him run an 18 miler, I realized that he is a blue collar marathoner. He just flat out runs. He logs between 140-160 miles a week. Most elite marathoners are over 100 miles a week, but 160? That's more than 22 miles a day! No wonder he just keeps going and going. He's not as quick as some of the other marathoners out there, but he's still run a 10km in 28:36. Not too shabby. He also works 20 hours a week as part of the Home Depot Olympic Job Opportunity Program. He had some great stories about working in the lawn and garden area: stolen merchandise, tools stuffed into bags of mulch, etc.

Brian Sell at 2005 World T&F Champs Marathon, 9th place

This morning was my last longish walk before the race. I would have waited until Saturday, but that's the morning of the men's 20km walk and I don't want to miss it. (Go Jefferson! Go Kevin!) Also, I travel tomorrow morning back to Beijing and I don't know how the training venues are set up there for a 20km training walk. I'm glad I didn't wait because today was quite the adventure.

Knowing that I would be walking long, I asked our USATF staff if I could do the first part of the 20km on the roads getting to the horse track. Rather than walk a bunch of 1300mt laps, I figured I could get in 5km before I even got over there. Well, anything different from the ordinary schedule tends to throw the Chinese security into a tizzy. Of course they are concerned about our safety, but I think they just want to avoid an incident on their watch. I've traveled all over the world and done workouts in pretty sketchy places. The people here seem extremely friendly (how often do you get people clapping for you when you go out for a workout in your hometown?) and though there is a lot of traffic, it hasn't been insane. I'm much more nervous walking through a rough neighborhood back in the States, or on a quiet rural road with who knows what kind of loose dogs or drunks driving rusty pickup trucks (nothing against drunks, really, just don't throw your beer cans at me).

So it was a bit of a surprise when the Chinese security agreed to let Brian Sell and me head out from the resort over to the horse track at 8am. It's downhill to get out of here, so I ran with Sell for the first few minutes until it flattened out and was safer for racewalking. When he pulled away from me, so did a police escort car. It trailed right along side him the rest of the way, three miles of blanket security. While Brian was quickly becoming a dot in the distance, I realized I had a black, tinted-window cruiser pacing me, too. For two miles, he followed right along side me as I walked down the right-hand side of the road, under a tunnel and up to the busy intersection where I turned left. I'm used to walking on the left shoulder facing traffic back in the States and I knew that I would be taking another left into the horse track, so I went left on the busy road and settled into the bike lane facing traffic. And so did my escort car! He drove head-on into traffic for five minutes of my walk forcing cars and bikes off to my right so that I had an unimpeded route. I could get used to that!

Once I got to the horse track, I finished up the last 15km without incident. Brian cruised through his 18 miles and we caught a ride back with the others who had come over on the shuttle bus – not nearly as exciting as getting a solo police escort into opposing traffic.


Dora said...


Thanks for all the posts. Are the host country athletes staying in the same buildings as the non-host country athletes?


jenjab said...

Good luck Philip! Love your posts!

Jen Marlborough