Road To The Olympic Games

Canadian Brannen posts best time of season in 1,500m

Nathan Brannen of Cambridge, Ont. finished second in the 1,500 metres at the Boston High Performance Meet Saturday night in an unofficial time of three minutes, 37.72 seconds — his fastest time of the season.

Nathan Brannen of Cambridge, Ont. finished second in the 1,500 metres at the Boston High Performance Meet Saturday night in an unofficial time of three minutes, 37.72 seconds — his fastest time of the season.

The race was won by Chris Lukezic of the U.S. in 3:37.50 with Mark Fountain of Australia third.

The 2006 Commonwealth Games silver medalist has been chasing the Olympic A+ 1,500m standard of 3:36.60 despite having had surgery to repair a ruptured disc in his spine November 29, 2007.

Kevin Sullivan is the only Canadian to have achieved the mark this season. He ran 3:35.78 at the Adidas Track Classic in Carson, Calif. on May 18.

A pacemaker took the leaders through 800 metres in 1:54 and 1,200 in 2:52 so the time was in reach but Brannen said the high humidity was a factor as they raced the last lap.

"It's hard to blame it on the weather but it was just super humid tonight," he said. "I honestly think that played a big role on the last lap. My legs just weren't under me. If it wasn’t for that I am pretty confident we would have got it."

After the injury was diagnosed, a surgeon told Brannen he might never run again. With the help of Ron Warhurst, his coach from the University of Michigan, and friends and family, he says he was determined not to quit. Using a variety of aerobic cross-training methods, he recovered from the surgery quickly and set his sights on making the Olympic standard.

When he ran 3:38.41 in his first race in Hillsdale, Mich. on Apr. 25 he was as surprised as anyone.

"That was honestly a shock to me," he recalled. "I finished the race and broke down crying on the backstretch because I didn’t know I would ever be back."

Brannen’s personal best time of 3:34.88 was achieved in 2006 at a meet in Athens, Greece.

Upbeat mood

He was in an upbeat mood afterward Saturday's race, and said he has not run out of opportunities to achieve the elusive standard. He will discuss his plans with Warhurst this week before deciding whether to run a meet in Indianapolis next Saturday. On June 21, he will run in Vancouver’s Harry Jerome meet.

His former Michigan teammate, Nick Willis of New Zealand, who defeated him in the Commonwealth Games two years ago, has agreed to go out to Vancouver to pace him through the event.

"If that doesn’t work Kevin Sullivan and I have already talked and he said he would help me at Canadian nationals," he reveals.

Brannen, 25, knows he has at least another four years of running in him and would be at his peak for the London 2012 Olympics. But he feels confident of making it to Beijing.

"It would be a big disappointment if I don’t make the Olympics," he says, "But training is going well, We haven’t backed of at all, and I am confident one of these races I will get it."