The American will run two 10Ks in under three days this week.
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When Aaron Braun lines up for Thursday’s 10,000m at the USA Championships in Des Moines, he’ll be putting everything on the line to try to make his first-ever USA team for an IAAF World Championships. He was fifth at last year’s Olympic Trials in Eugene, has a 27:41.54 personal best, and definitely has a shot of making the team with other favorites like Galen Rupp, Dathan Ritzenhein and Chris Derrick.
“My big goal for the whole season is to do USA’s, just like in the Trials last year,” Braun told Race Results Weekly in a telephone interview last Sunday. “All season long I’ve tried to peak for Des Moines, to try and be at my best on that day.”
But no matter what the outcome on Thursday, Braun has to take every step possible to aid in his recovery immediately following the race. That’s because two and a half days later, he’ll be running another 10K over 1,300 miles away in Boston. At that race, Sunday’s B.A.A. 10K, Braun will be competing against a strong group of Africans, including Boston Marathon champion Lelisa Desisa. The event is the second stage of the three-race B.A.A. Distance Medley, which will award the top man and woman with a $100,000 prize at the end of the series in October, a payday Braun described as potentially “life-changing” for him and his family.
In most track races, Braun would be focused on time in order to hit a world championships or Olympic Games qualifying mark. But at the race in Des Moines, the former NCAA Division II national champion for Adams State is only focused on his finish position. Although he only has the IAAF “B” standard (sub-28:05.00), that should be good enough to make the national team as long as he finishes in the top-3 because the team can be made up of two “A” athletes and one “B.”
“I don’t care how fast or slow we go on the track,” Braun explained. “I just want to place top-3.” He continued: “The only way it can backfire if I’m beaten by another B. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen.”
In Boston, the situation is reversed. The Distance Medley is scored on total time, and after last April’s B.A.A. 5K Braun is the leader at 13:40. Other series contenders, including last year’s winner Allan Kiprono of Kenya, are only a few seconds behind (Desisa is not entered in the Medley). Braun is just looking to keep his rivals close so he can have a chance to beat them in the final race, the B.A.A. Half-Marathon, where it would be possible to make up more time.
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“I’m in the lead,” Braun observed. “In Boston my goal is going to be staying as close to those guys as I can.”
While Braun, 26, has never done a 10K double like this one, he did do multiple races over short time periods in college. For instance, as a fifth year senior in 2010, he ran four races over a period of two days at the NCAA Division II Indoor Championships in Albuquerque. On the first day, he helped his team to a facility record in the distance medley relay and took second in the heats of the mile. On the second and final day he won the mile and came second in the 5000m.
“I haven’t done it for a while, but mentally I think I can,” Braun said. He added: “Then I’ll go into complete recovery mode, get as many ice baths and rub downs as I can. I’m sure at some points during the Boston race I’ll curse myself.”
After the race in Boston, Braun, his wife Annika, and daughter Makenzie will move from their home in Flagstaff, Ariz., to Littleton, Colo. Annika has a new job in the Denver area as a weight loss consultant. Despite the move, Braun said he still plans to be coached by Flagstaff-based Greg McMillan, at least for the time being.
“Obviously, he’s capable of doing that,” Braun said, referring to McMillan’s ability to coach him remotely. “That will be something after the season to decide if things are continuing to go well. For now on, I’m enjoying his training and his guidance.”