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E-mailing with Emily Brown
Interview by Ann Gaffigan
Conducted on March 31, 2008
Posted on March 31, 2008

Photo by Sean Hartnett
Emily Brown, a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota and current member of Team USA Minnesota, hit the ground running in her first year of running professionally. She set indoor mile (4:37.58) and 300m (9:10.60) PR's this indoor season, placed 3rd at the USA Cross-Country Championships in February, and placed 18th overall and 1st for the USA at the World Cross-Country Championships in Edinburgh on Sunday.

What's even more amazing is that Brown has made all of this progress while balancing her training with a 40-hour-a-week dietetics internship that will last until June. Read about her grueling schedule in her NYRR blog. But Brown doesn't seem to be complaining and instead goes about her day kicking you-know-what and taking names. It got this fellow steeplechaser wondering if as professional athletes we really need all the things we think we need in order to succeed? Or is it more about heart, hope, patience, and a little bit of luck? Let's see what she says!

Were you surprised at how well you ran in Edinburgh? Or had you been feeling pretty good leading up to the race?

I actually got sick with the flu two weekends ago the night before I was going to do a tune-up race. I ended up not running for 2-3 days and struggling back another 2-3 days and then started to feel pretty good before leaving for Edinburgh. I was worried that I didn't get to do any significant workouts leading into the race but I think it is a break from training that I really needed it and probably wouldn't have taken if I didn't get sick. I was pretty surprised about where in the race I finished but I think I ran smart for my ability and it worked out in my favor to be able to work my way back up to my teammates and finish the race strong with their help.

Did you feel like the travel affected you at all? Had you done much international traveling before?

My only other international travel was to France about 4 years ago for a leisure trip and that travel didn't go well at all. This trip was significantly better and I didn't have much trouble at all adjusting to the time change and the long flights. I don't think it affected me at all and I think I was actually able to get more sleep/rest than usual, which was really nice.

What was your strategy coming into this race? Did you and other members of the US team plan on running together? Did your strategy go as planned once the gun went off?

I think we did kind of plan on running together but we also respected the fact that everyone has a little different strategy that works for them. I am new to these longer distance races so I tend to start off more conservative and gauge my energy throughout the race. This may have hurt us a little because I may have been too far back at the start to make up enough ground on the other teams but I think all in all our team strategy worked out. We wanted to have a better team score at the end of the race than at the middle, which we did, and we wanted to break 100 for our team score, which we did. Just came up a little shy for the medal stand, which was unfortunate.

You have excelled under a pretty rough schedule, with your internship and everything. I read that your coach was a little "iffy" on whether your situation would work out very well, but obviously it has. Not everyone can put their life on hold and focus on being just a professional runner. Do you think you would have even more success if you could focus only on your running and not have other obligations? Or are you someone who needs to have more of a balanced life? Do you think as runners we can convince ourselves that we HAVE to have certain things, like altitude training (which the Team USA Minnesota runners don't use), frequent massage and other physio treatment, 10 hours of sleep at night plus naps, a strict diet and supplement regime, a group of other professionals or even a personal training partner to run every workout with, etc---essentially attempting to live in a bubble that is perfectly designed to help us run faster? Are some of those things maybe unnecessary when you get right down to it? What do you think the essentials are?

I think running is such a mental game that we have to do whatever it takes to stay mentally sane. For me that means needing a balanced life--I don't think I have the mental capacity to be "just a runner" right now. I can hardly remember to take a multi-vitamin every day (I am lucky to get one in a week), so I think I would get very frustrated trying to do all the little things each day. I think they do have their place in a successful runner's regime as long as they can follow that regime without going insane. No matter how much work you put in, if you are mentally exhausted when you get to the line there is no way you can race your best. At times I wish I could do more of the little things and take care of myself better, but as long as I feel healthy and am injury-free, I am content in keeping things the way they are. When it comes down to it, I think the essentials are heart, a positive outlook, an internal drive for competition and accomplishment, and probably most importantly a carefree and often forgetful mind! Those are the necessities to be a great runner. To be among the best, however, I think genetics along with some of the training accompaniments you mentioned above definitely come into play.

Thank you for your time, Emily! Good luck with the upcoming outdoor season and beyond.
Emily Brown Stat Sheet:
Born:July 6, 1984 (West Allis, WI)
Coach:Dennis Barker
Affiliation:Team USA Minnesota
High School:Nathan Hale High School (WI), Class of 2002
College:University of Minnesota, Class of 2007
3000m Steeple PR:9:56.62 (2006)
Indoor Mile PR:4:37.58 (2008)
Indoor 3000m PR:9:10.60 (2008)
Accolades:18th Place (1st USA) at 2008 World Cross-Country Championships
3rd place at 2008 USA Cross-Country Championships
4-time NCAA All-American (2 in Cross-Country, 2 in Track & Field)
University of Minnesota School Record Holder in Indoor 3000m and Outdoor 3000m Steeplechase
Big Ten Sportsmanship Award Recipient
Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient

Sources:
http://gophersports.com
http://teamusaminnesota.org/

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