You can click to play the interview below and also you can click the “Download” button to download the MP3 file.
Ken: Hello everybody, we’ve got Brad Anderson on the line and we’re really excited to interview him. He’s one of our first interviews for this year and we were trying to look for a story about a runner in Utah that would inspire you and motivate you as you look forward to 2012 and setting your goals and working toward those goals in 2012. We feel that Brad is a great story and it’s inspiring to us. We hope that you will be inspired as well. Brad, thanks for doing the interview with us.
Brad: Good to be here.
Ken: Maybe to start out, could you give the utahrunning.com community a bit of background about how you started with running, and maybe some of the highlights from your high school career?
Brad: My dad was a runner and really as long as I can remember I wanted to be a runner. I thought it was cool. We’d go to some of his races and I was just kind of faster than a lot of kids my age. I’m drawn to it.
My first race was either a quarter-mile or half-mile road race in Liberty, Utah. I won it and I was hooked from then on. Growing up, I was never pushed to train. I’d do some 5Ks here and there and kind of kept winning my age group. I thought that was cool.
Then when I got into high school a funny thing happened. All the other kids catch up to you but I was regional champ my freshman year and placed in state. I was a 2A runner. Working through that I won some more regional titles. Kind of a highlight for me was my first state title my junior year. It had been a goal for such a long time so I actually won my first state title. That was probably one of my biggest highlight because of the hard work and all my goals had paid off. That’s a brief rundown of my running career when I was younger.
Ken: Which event did you win the state title?
Brad: I won the half mile and the mile. My first was the mile. My second was two miles. I should have won that one too but you know how it goes.
Ken: You started out having some great experiences with running, some fun experiences in high school and won a couple of state titles it sounds like, mile and you were in an accident. Would you mind sharing about that experience with us?
Brad: I was coming into my senior year. Over the summer I’d gotten faster than I’d ever been. One of my main goals was to take state in cross country. My two previous seasons I was sick at state and didn’t finish very well. My goal was to take state. I was faster than ever and really excited.
About a week into school my senior year there was a football game. After it they had movies at the seminary building so I was hanging out there. Some people hit me up about going down to Ogden to a Taco Maker. I wasn’t going to go but a girl — girls in general had a hold on me, if you will. I go down and get me a taco, so I said sure. I went to get in one car but there wasn’t enough room to buckle so I got into a different car.
Next thing I remember I woke up in the hospital but essentially going down Weaver Canyon we overcorrected right by the power station. The car rolled and kind of rolled down the driveway there at the power station. They said my head hit the road at 75 miles an hour and also hit a pole.
Things weren’t that great. They didn’t think I would be alive for my parents to make it to the hospital. That first night I wasn’t supposed to live through the night. The next few days they didn’t think I was going to live after that. Who knows maybe a coma.
All the news my parents got was not good. I’d never be able to live on my own again, things like that. Then after a week or so in there things kind of turned around for me. Instead of nothing happening, things started to go in the right direction.
My injuries were traumatic brain injury, which there is no cure for a brain injury. You just deal with it and your brain will learn how to do things again. After a few weeks I woke up from the coma. All the muscle in my left side had lost its memory so I couldn’t talk, couldn’t eat, couldn’t walk, and couldn’t move my left arm at all.
At that time I was moved to the University of Utah where I had to learn to walk again. My biggest question every day to therapist was will I run again. They’d say we don’t know. At the time I didn’t realize how serious my injuries were. I remember first thinking I’ll be out in time for state cross country, I’ll take state. I was like I’ll take state and set state records in track.
As time went on I sort of learned that maybe I wasn’t going to be out in time because it was more serious. But my goal was to run again. The longer things went on the more I realized I might not run again. I was optimistic but I made up my mind that if I wasn’t going to run again it was not because of anything I did, like I didn’t work hard enough in physical therapy or didn’t try again. I was realistic about it. I knew the injuries I had but I decided I wanted to run again and was going to do anything I could to do it.
Ken: You were pretty determined. At what point did the doctors start to give you a bit of hope that the road back to running again was a possibility?
Brad: It was always we don’t know. Every day I’d ask my therapist and one day she said probably not. That was when it kind of sunk in to me that this is pretty bad. Other than the optimistic hope of you do what you can, but I never from my recollection never had “you know, you may run again.” In my medical records too, it was talking to the family that I needed to kind of understand that I may not run again.
Ken: Describe that road back to running and tell us about some of the challenges you had both physically being able to do it again, and some of the challenges you had facing that huge obstacle to overcome.
Brad: When muscle loses memory, both legs don’t work together like normal. I didn’t have the lift in my leg and also the muscle tone was really high. My legs tired and would shake and turn to the outside. When I got out of the hospital I went through times where I said I wasn’t going to run again. That didn’t last long.
After a few months of being home I was so out of shape. I remember I was in physical therapy — when I was in the hospital there were times I couldn’t sit up straight. I had no energy to do that. Or I would walk my wheelchair down to physical therapy and be too exhausted to do anything. I’d go back to my room. I was so out of shape.
I remember the first time running on the sidewalk, it was maybe fifty meters. It was so hard to do that. It was little by little. I remember one night thinking I would go down to the track and run a mile. I went down there at 11 at night and ran a proud 100 meters just running. My leg wasn’t lifting, almost tripping. I was so frustrated. I bent over every garbage can to throw up. There were several experiences like that thinking I was going to come back and it was going to be easy; all I have to do is dig in and run.
I realized this is really going to be an obstacle for me. When it really turned around was when I started dating Amber, my future wife. For me it was embarrassing for me to run. Before I had a great stride. I was known as the runner. I was embarrassed about what people were thinking.
When I started dating Amber she came to physical therapy with me. It was that time when she said people aren’t saying, “whoa look at him run,” they’re saying, “wow, look at him run!” She kind of helped me see it for what it is. That’s when I had another one of those moments where I decided I love to run, and I want to run again. I don’t care what other people think and I’m not going to let what they think keep me from doing what I want to do.
Ken: That’s great. I think that’s one thing I’ve noticed and learned from your experience, is that you can overcome that fear or concern about what other people think or what other people might say. You can do it for yourself.
Brad: Right, and the other thing I learned is people don’t care about you as much as you think. They’re more worried about their stride and if they look dumb when they run. Once I realized that it made it easier. People are worried about if they look dumb, not as much if I look dumb.
Ken: I think that’s a great lesson we can all learn, that we can do it for the love of the sport, for the love of running. Also, I think one thing I take away from that is that people, other people can help us to be inspired, to progress, to work hard, and to overcome challenges.
Ken: What other advice would you give aspiring runners or maybe somebody who is worried about that; they fear what other runners may think of them, or they are afraid of setting a goal because they might not achieve it. What advice would you give to the, perhaps some lessons learned from your experience?
Brad: One thing I’ve always liked about running is how it’s competitive on any level. I used to run to win races. Now I run because I love to run. I’m still trying to get faster. I still do intervals. I want to be the fastest I can be. Really with anyone starting running it’s the fear of what other people are going to think. What people are going to think most the time is wow, they’re running.
It inspires other people when they see someone running because running is not easy. It’s not a game. It’s hard to do. You get a lot of respect from people when you run and put your heart and time into something that’s not easy. I’ve never regretted it. As hard as it’s been to get back running again, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done.
Even when I was faster, running means more to me now because it doesn’t come easy like it did. Running always came easy to me. Coming back now I’m not doing it because I’m the fastest. I’m running because I love to run. When I was younger I thought I ran because I was fast and because I won. It wasn’t until I couldn’t run anymore that I realized why I ran; I love to run. Winning was an extra perk to it but I love it. It’s just as much fun to me now as it was when I won.
Running is kind of a metaphor of life, if you will; what you put into it with running, as opposed to other sports, hard work always pays off in every sport but running is more of a direct correlation of what I put into it I get back. I love that aspect of it and that’s why I plan to always run.
Ken: That’s great. I think we can all learn a bit from your experience and I hope that it’s inspiring to all of you out there that are part of the utahrunning.com community. We hope you will share that love of running with others like Brad has. One thing Brad does to help share his love of running here in Utah is he has the Gerald Anderson Memorial Run. He mentioned his dad earlier in the interview. They do a race in his memory. Brad, do you want to mention anything about that race, or anything else you’d like to close out with?
Brad: The race is done for my dad the second weekend in June. We’ve done it every year and it’s been a lot of fun to do that. Everyone out there, get out there running. The running community is a great community. If you see a runner on the road and don’t even know him, it’s another runner, you have to say hi to another runner. It’s a great community. I encourage anyone who has been thinking of running or who has been doing little, get into it. It’s a great sport and a great community.
Ken: Thanks Brad, we appreciate it.
Brad: Thank you.