Brandon McBride excels off track, buys grocery cards for 8 families in need

With sports on pause, Olympic runner Brandon McBride wanted to give back to the community after hearing about people's struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic, so he and his girlfriend bought grocery cards for families in his hometown of Windsor, Ont.

'It was a responsibility of mine to give back to others,' Canadian Olympian says

Middle-distance runner Brandon McBride and his girlfriend recently purchased grocery cards from FreshCo in his hometown of Windsor, Ont., and delivered them to eight families in need during the coronavirus pandemic. (Submitted by Brandon McBride)

Between long training runs, lifting weights and a heavy workload of online college courses, Brandon McBride finished The Go-Giver: A Little Story about a Powerful Business Idea.

In the book about a young professional striving for success, authors Bob Burg and John David Mann stress that one should make giving rather than getting their top priority in business and life, and success will follow.

"It talks about the cycle of giving and receiving … and different things to live by," said McBride, whose girlfriend wondered in a recent conversation how she could help people in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The story really inspired me and I took it as a sign. I knew in my heart and after what my girlfriend said that I had to do something and we went from there."

McBride, 25, reached out to a social worker in his hometown of Windsor, Ont., who suggested they purchase grocery cards and sent addresses for eight families.

The middle-distance runner and his girlfriend visited a local FreshCo and spent between $100 and $200 for each card depending on the size of family.

"You hear about people laid off from work, their bills are piling up and their rent and car payments are still due. I just wanted to try to make a difference," said McBride, who continues to run five days a week with an eye on the Tokyo Olympics, which was rescheduled to next July. "I wanted to keep everyone safe and myself safe, so we put the cards in mailboxes [on May 1].

Working in the community

"It came from the heart so I wasn't going to sign my name to them but my mom and girlfriend convinced me to do it.

"It was a good afternoon for me and my family. We were happy," added the Canadian-record holder in the men's 800 metres. "I felt in my spirit it was more a responsibility of mine to give back to others. It was the right time."

WATCH | McBride gives back to his hometown during pandemic:

Olympian Brandon McBride gives back to his community

3 years ago
Duration 0:47
Windsor, Ont., native and middle-distance runner Brandon McBride purchased grocery cards for eight families in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

McBride, who said he'll look into buying grocery cards for other families in the future, previously distinguished himself in the community speaking to students at different schools, at a conference for at-risk children and recently finished a video for the Catholic school board to raise spirits and provide hope.

"I also did volunteering earlier this year with my girlfriend getting kids ready for spelling competitions," he said.

The 2016 Olympian often reminds himself what it meant for him as a child to see someone who was positive and in the spotlight, so to speak, give their time to uplift youth.

"It's what motivates me the most," said the four-time Canadian champion. "I like to work a lot with children. I think about what I had as a child and maybe what I didn't have most of the time. I didn't have that person that was positive or a mentor-type when I was in high school. I try to give them that positive image."

Recruited by Mississippi State University, McBride won two NCAA 800 titles as a sophomore in 2014 and also represented Canada at the Commonwealth Games that year.

His rookie professional season in 2017 was filled with big expectations, stress and success but a mentally and emotionally exhausted McBride was unable to compete for a Diamond League Trophy late in the summer.

Staying fit during pandemic

In July 2018, McBride ran 1:43.20 to break Gary Reed's Canadian mark but a year later failed to advance to the 800 final at the world championships. However, he ran 1:45.04 to open his 2019 outdoor season to meet the 1:45.20 Olympic qualifying standard for Tokyo.

 "A lot of people think in order to achieve something great or big you have to be truly special," McBride said. "They believe you're born with it or you'll never succeed. I like to share my story and show them it's through hard work and persistence that people achieve some of these things.

WATCH | Brandon McBride breaks Canadian 800-metre record:

Brandon McBride sets new Canadian record in 800m

5 years ago
Duration 3:41
McBride finishes with a time of 1:43.20, places 2nd at Diamond League event in Monaco.

"People who achieve … just do the regular things in sport and life a little bit better consistently every day. It comes down to your everyday habits and how you conduct yourself."

These days, McBride runs 40-50 miles a week (compared to 55-60 pre-pandemic), cross-trains one day — from biking to skipping — and abdominal work and plank exercises to build core stability.

"I also bought a MMA bag so I'll do boxing, kickboxing and martial arts to relieve some stress," he said. "It's very tiring to hit a bag constantly for a few minutes."

In the afternoon, McBride is focused on his four online business courses. He received his undergraduate degree from Mississippi State and is working on his master's in business from Wayne State University in Detroit.

"For the longest time I wanted to specialize in accounting, but after reading a couple of different books I'm up in the air," said McBride, who is planning to graduate next spring.

"Whether I'm working for a corporation or something of that nature, I definitely want to have something like a non-profit because I want to help people on the side. Whatever I do, it's going to have to be to benefit others."


Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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