(Photo: Sue Pearsall)
CPTC supplemented its impressive masters middle distance crew this year with the addition of Jersey City’s Peter Brady. With his victory in the M 40 800 at Masters Nationals last week in Kansas, CPTC now has, in Neil Fitzgerald and Peter, both the world champion in the M 40 800, and also the national champion.
Many of us have seen Peter (from the back) in local races, since he has been in the area for many years. He grew up in Ridgefield, CT and has been running in the tri-state area since. He came to the sport after his father suggested running would be a good way to get in shape for Peter’s 9th grade basketball season. “I didn’t even know what cross country was,” said Peter. After some early success with the XC team, Peter didn’t look back to basketball. “It was a pretty easy choice,” he said, especially considering the entire backcourt of his HS b-ball team went on to play D1 ball, so Peter didn’t foresee much playing time.
In high school Peter migrated to the 800, where he eventually ran 1:58 and was top 10 in the state by his senior year. As a self-described ‘good but not great’ middle distance runner, he was not recruited by colleges, but instead introduced himself to the Columbia coach, who “wasn’t impressed.” “I still remember introducing myself to the coach and telling him I was excited to join the team and hopefully contribute on the track and he basically didn’t give me the time of day, which ended up motivating me to beat my more highly recruited teammates,” he said.
Having run against some very fast guys in HS, Peter had the advantage of knowing what the next level was like and how to chase after faster athletes. Peter joined the team and by sophomore year he had run 1:53. By senior year he was a captain of the team and a strong contributor in both individual events and the relays.
After college Peter was not done running. In the 1990s, before Letsrun and the internet’s blowing open the secrets of track and field training, athletes had less information on which to base their training. Post- college, Peter’s competitive fire was fueled by thinking he might have left something on the table in high school and college, so he continued. Through his 20s, Peter ran 20-35 miles per week and raced in NYRR events with some success.
For many of us, including Peter, the turning of a personal decade catalyzes latent dreams. Peter’s older brother had become a marathon runner and was enjoying Bob Glover’s interval sessions with the NYRR. Peter joined in and soon Glover asked him to join Greater New York’s racing team. The team aspect appealed to Peter, as he had been mostly running alone.
In addition to running, after spending a summer in San Diego during B-school, Peter picked up a new sport: beach volleyball. Peter has never been a high mileage runner, so adding a few hours of low-impact aerobic and strength work fit in well. He has continued to play to the present day and enjoys the competition and fun of the game. “Although I love running, it can be a solitary sport at times. I really enjoy the team aspect of beach volleyball and I’ve been able to do a pretty good job balancing the two sports, thanks in no small part to my wife who has always been very supportive of my athletic pursuits.”
Through his mid-thirties, Peter was racing well in the longer events. On the advice of a friend, he signed up for the 2010 Fifth Avenue Mile, at age 38. That turns out to have been a milestone event and the first step on the road to his national championship. Returning to his mid-d roots, and without much specific training, he ran 4:37 and finished fourth in his age group. That got him thinking and working, and he made Fifth Avenue Mile a focus for 2011. That year, with more specific training he got his mile down to 4:30 and was second in the groups.
And there he was, facing 40 and still making huge improvements. He hoped to run near the front in the 2012 Fifth Avenue Mile, but the race was a mild disappointment as a strained calf prevented him from continued improvement. He did run 4:32 despite not running for the six weeks prior to the race. “I was running well and then the next day I was googling how guys stayed in shape while not running,” he says.
In 2012, as a newly minted 40 year old running competitive times, Peter looked around and noticed how our Neil Fitzgerald was tearing up the track in the 800 and was inspired to see what he could do. “Maybe I can’t run as fast as Neil,” he said wistfully, “but maybe I can get close. Either way, it’s inspiring to see what some of the other top masters track athletes can do and I thought it would be a fun challenge to return to my roots in the 800.”
So Peter e-mailed Devon and asked if there might be a place for him on the CPTC roster. Devon invited him to a meeting…with the entire team. It was, of all events, the team relay at the Armory where virtually the entire squad was primed to race hard. No pressure. Peter found himself on the winning team, and the orange die was cast.
Devon immediately saw the concentration of 800 talent in the masters ranks and sent around an e-mail pointing out that if they could get four guys around in 1:58 each, they could set a world record in the 4 x 8. An achievable WR is a motivator, and since that e-mail in the winter, one motivating factor for Peter has getting down to the 1:58-1:59 region so he could be a useful member of a record setting CPTC masters 4 x 8. While due to injury and technical problems the attempt has not yet been made, the chance to be on that team got Peter out to a track at 6 AM many mornings. “As soon as Devon sent that email, trying to run 1:59 or faster on the relay at Club Nationals became my #1 goal for the season. Whether or not we set the record, I felt it would be a unique opportunity to be part of a team that had a legitimate chance at a world record.” Let’s hope the team finds a way to make another attempt soon.
While club nats was his initial target race to break 2, since masters nats were just a few weeks afterwards, it was a no-brainer to attempt to hold fitness for the Kansas meet. Peter knew a couple of his competitors from previous racing, including going 0-3 against one of them. Peter still hadn’t broken 2:00 from a standing start, so besides a good placing, getting below 2:00 was a major goal. In a relay leg he ran 1:59ish, so he was close, but hadn’t sealed the deal yet.
On race day a 58 second first lap put him in the game, and even as late as 200 to go, Peter was in third place. As the last 100 came around, Peter was able to kick past two guys and take the win in 1:59.07.
The race was particularly satisfying because in previous 800s Peter had trouble finishing strong. To get his finish ready for Kansas, Peter took some advice from both Devon and John Zuehlke. He changed up his workouts a bit with some hard 200s with short recovery, and 2 x 600 at race pace, and worked on holding his form through to the end. It all worked, and he was able to meet all goals and expectations. How often do runners get to do that? His time put him at #4 all-time for CPTC 40+.
The 800 was his main goal, but since the 1500 came after and he had already flown 1200 miles, Peter entered and wanted to do well. Rather than any time goal he just wanted to compete. A windy morning kept the race tactical and he settled into fourth or fifth place. With a lap to go the eventual winner got a jump, and while Peter closed with 150 to go, he couldn’t make the pass and settled for second.
Now that track is over, Peter plans to take some relatively easy weeks and then start gearing up for the Fifth Avenue Mile and a fall road season. He will kick off the next phase at Club Champs, where he should help lead the 40+.
Peter has put a lot of thought into his training and has much to say about it. He prefers quality over volume, and spends much time cross training with beach volleyball, elliptical sessions, and weights. He will generally do at least one track workout during the week (early in the morning before his work in financial services) and one long run. He will fill in the rest of the week with recovery runs, elliptical workouts and three days of light lifting. The lifting is mostly for injury prevention rather than pure speed. While he has done a couple marathons and marathon training, he feels a moderately low mileage approach suits his middle distance training and helps prevent injury. Certainly the men he left behind in Kansas won’t argue.